Whether you are in a happy place in your career, or looking for a new start – knowing how to interview well is always a good skill to have. In recent months, we have been interviewing up to 10 candidates a week – and whilst every conversation is different, there are definitely some key themes that separate strong candidates from the rest…
Do your Research:
I honestly can’t tell you how frustrating it is to give up an hour of time to someone who has come to a final stage interview without properly researching the company. You might be able to tell me why I should hire you, but if you can’t tell me what you think we do well compared to our competitors, or trends in the UK rental fashion market then this shows me you are here for the wrong reasons. You are here because you want to move jobs, not because you believe rental is the future of fashion. Next.
I realise this is broad advice, so here are some key areas to focus your research on:
- The market – size and key trends impacting the space
- Competitors – who makes up the market
- The business, our milestones, our press, our history
What’s more, if you have done research but the topic doesn’t naturally come up in discussion, try and find ways to bring it up e.g. by asking a question. This is a chance to stand out from other candidates. In one recent conversation, we were asked why we outsource our Logistics operations, and whether we felt this led to a loss of control for the business and what the implications of this were. Not only does this show someone has done their research, but also that they would be the type of hire who would question and build on current practices.
Prepare sensible questions and ask them
On average one third of your life is spent at work. 33% of your precious time could be spent at Hirestreet going forwards and this is the first time we have met. If you haven’t got any questions for me then it’s probably not a good sign. Usually a lack of questions signals a lack of preparation.
Questions are an important stage of an interview – they give you the opportunity to shift the power balance and put us on the spot. We have all been there, in a pressurised situation when asked if you have anything to say and your mind just goes blank. I can entirely relate to this, but the prepared candidate has brought their questions with them.
Firstly, this level of preparation is what I would expect for meetings and therefore it’s a strong sign that you are doing it in your interview. Secondly, it shows me that you have spent time thinking about planing what you would like to get out of the conversation, which again is a work trait highly encouraged within the business. Thirdly, it shows me that you aren’t just asking questions for the sake of it.
So what constitutes a good question?
- Avoid asking things that you could have found out online/yourself – this suggests a lack of research
- If you are in a final round, avoid package/holiday based questions – keep the mood in the room about why you would be great for the job
- Try to think about questions that would be relevant for you/the role e.g. What does your day typically look like, how would the transition/handover work? What training/support is available? what do you like most about your job etc.
- Culture and fit is also hugely important for a future role, so questions around the team dynamics also make sense: how many people are in the team? Is there room for progression? What is the office community like? What is the vision for the future of the business?
Arrive early… but not too early!
This has become a bit of a running joke in the Hirestreet office. We have had candidates arrive everything from 45 minutes early, to 25 minutes late. So is there a “right time”? Well in the office we have a rule that you’ve nailed the first “test” if you are between 5 – 10 minutes early.
How can you be “too early”? Well the honest answer to this is that we have busy days, which are carefully planned and filled with tasks. Arriving 45 minutes early puts pressure on the team to try and rush through their work, so as to not leave you waiting for too long. It also signals an element of poor planning, there is probably plenty of productive tasks you could have done in that 45 minutes, as opposed to sitting and getting progressively more nervous in an interview room.
Honestly, if you have been uber prepared and arrived in the area of the interview early (something I totally understand doing as transport can be unreliable), then my advice would be to have a walk – go over your questions and your prep but don’t buzz the buzzer until there’s 10 minutes to go!
If you arrive late then you have some serious ground to make up over the course of your interview and you have to work incredibly hard to overcome that first very negative impression.
Dress for the job you want not the one you’ve got…
As someone who fluctuates between coming into the office in gym gear or a dress I am the first to admit we have a relaxed dress code. However, in an interview, I expect you to want to present a leading version of yourself. I make an effort on the days I am interviewing candidates, and therefore expect the same in reverse.
I will always remember interviewing one of our developers, despite working together now for almost a year – it was the only time I have seen him in a suit. The suit in question was oversized because he had lost a considerable amount of weight between that date and when he had bought it. However he owned the meeting, he had clearly made an effort, he cared about the impression he was making and he addressed the size head on – jokingly apologising for looking like he was wearing his dads suit, explaining his weight loss journey and the fact that he still wanted to look smart. He also tied in the fact that he thought we would support his environmentally conscious decision not to go and purchase a new suit for the purpose of the meeting. 2 jokes, one well dressed candidate, one very good first impression.
Always send a follow up email
I have never hired anyone who didn’t send a follow up email. Perhaps that is strange, but as a rule it has served us well. An interview is a two way conversation, yes we are trying to find out whether you would be suitable for the role, but you should also be using it as an opportunity to meet your potential future team and to find out more about the way we do business.
In the last 5 minutes of every interview, I will give an overview of the culture of Hirestreet and what it is like to work here, the purpose of this is to hopefully excite the candidate and make them realise how much they want the job. If you walk out of the room feeling anything but motivated then you are not the right person for the role. The best candidates will get in touch, usually within 24 hours, just to say something along the lines of “thank you for taking the time to meet, talking yesterday really reaffirmed to me how much I would love the role”. Simple yet effective.