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We reveal THE top thing employers are checking for in an interview…

Following on from his articles on hacking your CV and how to write Cover Letters, Specialist Recruiter James Liddell tackles the final piece of the application puzzle… interviews.

There’s a big debate at the moment about how effective interviews are, but for the moment they are still the key way in which you are assessed for your suitability for a new role. When you’re preparing for your next interview, take a minute and consider this… What do you think an interview is for?

Maybe it’s to check your suitability for the role, or test your technical skills. Maybe it’s to check you’re really interested in the position. Maybe… but I think interviews are about one thing, and one thing only: fit. Will you fit in at the organisation, in the team, and with the manager? You might be tested on some technical skills, but they’ve already seen what experience and knowledge you have from your CV. They might check you’re interested in the role, but this should have come through in your covering letter already. If you’ve got to the interview stage, they’re already reasonably sure that you can do the job. So, even if the interviewers aren’t aware of it, what they’re really checking is whether they can work with you.

This blog won’t be about how to find out what an organisation does, what questions to ask at the end of the interview, or how to use the STAR method – that’s another post for another time. Instead, we’ll look at how you can work out whether or not you will fit into an organisation … and if you will, how to get it across.

The first step begins way before you are invited for interview. When you first find out about the role, do your research about the organisation. Look at their website, news sites, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and anywhere else you can think about. When you’re looking, remember not just to look at what is being said, but also how it is being said. Look at the language they use about what it’s like to work there and what their values are. Do those values align with your own? If they’re talking about sustainability and making a positive impact in the world, and you think those are silly ideas and all you really want to do is make money, then this probably isn’t the organisation for you. Likewise if there’s no mention of their values, and all they are talking about is their last quarterly profit, but you want to make a difference to the world, this probably won’t be your cup of tea. You should get excited by what you’re reading.

Make a note of what excites you, and make sure you reflect some of this back in your interview. Drop a couple of their buzzwords in – the words they use to describe their organisation and their values. The chances are, their values will be up on a poster in their canteen or will be at the bottom of internal e-mails. Whether consciously or subconsciously, interviewers will be looking for people who have their organisation’s values, so try to signal that you share them. This isn’t about trying to be something you’re not. This is about reflecting what it is about the organisation that resonates with you.

As well as doing this for the organisation, you can do this for the interview panel. If you’ve been told who the panel will be, great! If you haven’t been told, try to figure it out. It’s likely to be your line manager, then maybe someone from HR and possibly a senior member of staff. Pop onto LinkedIn and have a look at the profiles of the panel, or who you think they might be. Again, pay attention to how things are said as well as the details of what is being said. Look at the recommendations they’ve given and received at the bottom of the page. Received recommendations are great, because you can see what other people think of them. Given recommendations are even better – you can see what they value in other people enough to praise them on a public forum. Do you fit in with what they like? If they praise someone’s “bubbly and fun personality” but you’re more measured and stoic, think about trying to show off your lively side more in the interview. On the other hand if you don’t have a lively side, don’t suddenly try to grow one – if you have to do anything false then it’s a good sign you might not fit.

If you haven’t interviewed in a while, remember that interviews are a bit like pancakes – it can take a couple of tries before you start to get it right. Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t successful. Take a look at what happened in the interview, what your answers were like and how you came across. What could you do better? Make a note of it and work on it for next time.

Finally, bear in mind that everyone feels like they screwed it up at some point – even the people who end up with the job. Just the other week I spoke to a candidate who said “It went OK, but they asked me about this part of the role I haven’t done before. I think I managed to fumble an answer by telling them about other similar stuff I’ve done in the past but it wasn’t great”. The client was calling to offer her the role within an hour.

For more information about the kind of roles we recruit for, take a look at our jobs page.

I am recruiting provides an unrivalled recruitment service for candidates and clients within professional associations, membership organisations and the wider non-profit sector. Please phone us on (020) 7148 6749 or email us for a confidential chat about any recruitment needs.

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