Career Tips & Tricks

What You Need to Know About Interview Preparation

How well do you prepare for an interview?

We have all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”; this is certainly true when it comes to nailing an interview.

So, what can you expect from a first interview anyway?

A typical first interview will be a good blend of ice breaking, situational and behavioural questions. For example, a common ice breaking question could be “Tell us why you are applying for this role?”

This is your opportunity to demonstrate how much research you have completed about the company, including their strategy and values. Your goal is to show that you broadly understand their business and highlight how you can personally add value based on your track record to date.

For example:
Q: “Tell us why you are applying for this role?”
A: “I understand that (use organisation name) has invested heavily in digital retina innovation and now leads the market in laser eye technology. Having specialised in cosmetic medical sales for 10 years with a proven track record of 30% growth within my accounts year on year, I would love the opportunity to apply my demonstrated skills in an area where there is genuine demand and an opportunity to represent a market leading product that makes a difference to people’s lives".

Now that you have shown your interest and lead with your proven capability, you will likely be asked situational and behavioural questions.

When responding to situational or behavioural questions, the biggest mistake that candidates make during an interview is reverting to “I think”, “I believe” and “I feel” statements. When responding to these questions it is crucial to back up your statement with facts. Some common question examples include:

• Tell us about a time when you have exceeded customer expectations?
• Can you tell me about a time when you have experienced conflict with a colleague/client, how did you handle it?

In each of these scenarios, in order to instill proven outputs into your response, the STAR method should be applied.

So, what is the STAR method?

The STAR method is a response approach which seeks for you to show real life demonstrated examples of how you have previously performed against the selection criteria.

S = Situation. Set the scene, when did the example happen/what role were you in?
T = Task. Detail what the goal or target was, when, who was involved?
A = Action. What actions and steps did you take, what skills and behaviour did you demonstrate?
R = Result. What was the positive outcome or result of the steps you took?

Summary of interview tips:
  • Do research the organisation before the interview (company strategy, culture & values);
  • Do review the selection criteria ahead of time and prepare examples of how you have met the criteria (remember to use the STAR method);
  • Try to avoid unsubstantiated “I believe”, “I think”, I feel” statements in an interview;
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you genuinely have a question about the company or the role, ask away;
  • Do relax, have fun, build rapport. Remember your interview panel are simply seeking to build a relationship with you.
By preparing for your interview ahead of time with good demonstrated examples of your ability and a sound understanding of the company you are meeting with, you will not only feel more relaxed and prepared, but will also build credibility with your interviewer by showing how your proven achievements could mean genuine value add to their company.
Good luck!

About the author:
 Kate is Founder & Director of . Drawing from her experience in Senior Executive roles; Kate is passionate about helping candidates of all ages, from all industries to identify, apply for, land and keep the job of their dreams!

5 Ways To Make Networking Count

Recently, a number of clients have asked me how they can build their business networks.

Young professionals are really yearning to meet a mentor or to tap into their next career opportunity through one of those “organic business relationships” they often read about, but are yet to experience themselves.

My advice? The real benefits of networking are seen when there is a genuine alignment between you and the networking event you are attending.

So how do you get the most out of your next networking event?

1: Create a focus. The greatest way of ensuring mutual business or personal outcomes through a networking event is to firstly assess the alignment between you, your business or product and the group. Is there real cross referral opportunity? Can you learn from others in the group? Could you also help others, or position yourself as a subject matter expert within your field? Be clear on what you are hoping to achieve. That’s not to say you should only attend events that reflect your current status quo, it means being discerning enough to identify that if you’re selling gold watches, maybe ditch the speed boat convention.

2: Make it count. Too often people attend an event with a friend or colleague and spend most of their time in a corner talking among themselves. It is great to have a wing man, but do not use them as a social crutch. Make an effort to introduce yourself to people, learn more about them and their business. If you are going to invest the time to attend an event, make it count!

3: Perfect your pitch. Ok, you have 10 seconds - go! It doesn't matter how social and eloquent you are, meeting new people for the first time can feel very intimidating, particularly when asked the inevitable “So Sarah, what do you do?” Be prepared. All you need is 2 quick sentences that sum up who you are, what you do, what’s your unique selling point, what you want to achieve. “I specialise in digital marketing and am passionate about developing online digital strategies for small business. I currently oversee the marketing consulting arm of Xyz Company. My real aim is to start my own consulting business, helping start-ups to define their online presence.” Done. Now, fingers crossed there is an angel investor in the room.

4: Forget the cards, build a connection. I read a quote once that said “1 great conversation outweighs collecting 10 business cards”. I couldn't agree more! Forget about relying on the number of cards you handed out as a measure of the night’s success, no one will remember you through your 400gsm semi-matte finish with logo embossing anyway. Create real connections, find common ground and genuinely seek to understand people’s goals and needs.

5: Follow up. It only takes two minutes to send a thank you email, which could result in a fabulous long term relationship. Earlier this year, I met my now business partner at a networking event for female entrepreneurs. We only spoke for 15 minutes but felt a real connection. The next day we both sent a quick thank you email. Now, we speak to each other a couple of times a week, have referred business to one another and are building a product together. Taking the time to acknowledge the connection you made really does pay off.

Final Tip: The content of your thank you email is particularly important if you are following up with someone who is in a position of influence. Assume they are busy and meet lots of people. Confirm in your email how nice it was to meet them, remind them of where you met and anything specific you discussed. If they ask you to set a meeting or offer to introduce you to someone, make it happen. Following through and setting the appointment is completely up to you.

About the author: Kate is Founder & Director of . Drawing from her experience in Senior Executive roles; Kate is passionate about helping candidates of all ages, from all industries to identify, apply for, land and keep the job of their dreams!

3 Reason's You Won't Get a Promotion & What To Do 

So you know you do a good job, you feel your boss trusts you, and you’re given cool projects to work on, but you want more! You are ready to ‘take the next step’ in your career, but despite positive performance reviews and a good track record you have not achieved any career advancement for a while and are starting to wonder “will I ever get promoted?”

If your spidey senses are saying you are being overlooked, then it’s time to assess whether:

1. You are seen as a technical expert

Being trusted to work on important projects may make you useful; but it does not necessarily mean you are viewed as a ‘leader’. If you have been in the same role for more than three years, delivered some great runs on the board, expressed a desire to take on more responsibility, but have NOT received a promotion; then you have likely been ‘branded’ — and not in a good way for climbing the ladder. You’ve been pigeonholed as a reliable technical expert! All managers require a core group of capable worker bees to get stuff done, and unfortunately you have become one of them.

2. External “talent” have been appointed in internal roles ahead of you

If new management positions have become available in your department or workplace, and before you even knew the position was available some hot shot from a competitor has taken the role; then you have not even been factored into your manager’s decision making. In short, they do not know and / or believe you have the skills to fill the role.

When you are viewed as a leader, and work in a workplace culture that promotes talent from within, then you will be made aware of upcoming opportunities and even asked to apply. If your manager isn’t barracking for you, or you’re not given the information to drive your own opportunities and put your hat in the ring, then it’s time to hit SEEK.

3. You have discussed your goals with your manager, but no action has been taken

If you have discussed your goals with your manager and even mapped out an action plan, but no action has been taken; then either your boss is being polite and doesn’t have the courage to tell you that you’re not seen as a leader; or you work for a crappy company where managers are not motivated to help advance their employees careers. If this is the case; run, and fast. Life is way too short to feel beholden to others, go somewhere that has a track record of transparency, talent development and promoting from within.

All hope is not lost though, if you genuinely want to stay where you are, there are a few things you can do to raise your profile in preparation to get promoted.

Build relationships with senior leaders outside your division. If you want to build influence within your company it is important that you raise your profile by having advocates in multiple parts of the business. Your next big opportunity may be in a different department, so figure out the pain points in other people’s divisions and find out ways to help solve the problem or participate in joint focus groups. It’s time to be your own brand ambassador!

Improve your LinkedIn profile. Similarly, if you want to stand out, your online presence has to be stellar. Being overlooked for an internal role can be as simple as your manager not being aware of your previous achievements. Build an online profile that boast your leadership skills and proven track record, then link with key people in your company including your manager, recruitment team and HR. It’s time to get brazen and put what you have achieved out there!

Simply ask! For the brave hearted who have less appetite to play a long game, you can set aside time to formally meet with your manager and proactively ask how you are perceived. Be prepared for honest answers, and to make positive improvements if you are given feedback. On the flip side, if your manager smooths over the question or doesn’t participate in an open conversation, then I repeat; run, and fast.

About the author: Kate is Founder & Director of . Drawing from her experience in Senior Executive roles; Kate is passionate about helping candidates of all ages, from all industries to identify, apply for, land and keep the job of their dreams!