The phrase ‘improving your interview technique’ makes it seem as though I am about to give you the recruiter’s secret formula for guaranteed interview success. I should admit that this sadly does not exist! Nonetheless, throughout my many years of helping planners from graduates through to directors secure their ideal roles, I have picked up a few useful tips to share that can apply to everyone, regardless of your experience and the company or local authority you are due to sit down with.
This isn’t going to be a piece that wastes time on the obvious interview do’s and don’ts – namely, turn up on time (in fact, slightly early), ensure you are dressed smartly and greet your interviewers with a firm handshake and an enthusiastic smile and applying the STAR (situation, task, action, result) technique to relevant questions! In fact, the best manta to live by when it comes to interviews is… prepare or prepare to fail!
My first tip is to undertake plenty of research into the employer – the first visit should be to their company website and the relevant pages for the team you would join. Admittedly, some businesses are better than others for including examples of their recent work but it’s also worthwhile finding a couple of project examples that catch your eye as they are excellent talking points during an interview. Aside from the company website you have a variety of focussed news websites where more details can be found – Planning Resource is an obvious example, as are Estates Gazette and Property Week. Finding out more about a business not only helps you to prepare for a great interview performance but also informs your decision making later in the process.
Aside from your research into the business or authority, I would always suggest taking a look at those you will be meeting. In particular, LinkedIn is a great tool for finding out more about the team(s) you will be working in and their backgrounds allowing you to continue increasing your knowledge and the number of talking points. Consider questions for your interviewers on this information… ‘what encouraged you to join the team here?’ or ‘what is your favourite thing about working here compared to your previous employer?’
Another useful tip ahead of attending an interview is to review your own CV. It could be months since you pulled it together and it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself which work examples you included or which projects you would like to focus on to best demonstrate your experience and strengths. An easy starting point for an interviewer is to run through your CV and those who can use their CV to create talking points find their conversations become more fluid and conversational and they can therefore better demonstrate their knowledge, personality and employability!
Lastly, and most importantly, be yourself! Yes, it sounds cliché but interviews are a two-way process and you will be spending the majority of your time with your employer and the wider team so there’s no need to avoid letting your personality shine. Interviews are a two-way process and whilst you might feel the ultimate decision lies with the employer, I would remind you to never forget that unless you feel comfortable with those on the other side of the table then you also have a crucial decision to make that can impact your future. Good luck!
Jason Moore is associate consultant at Kingsley Recruitment