How to succeed at job interviews, Part 1
In a competitive job market, getting an interview is an achievement in itself. Now that you’ve got the employer’s attention, how can you ensure that you make the best impression in person? In part one of a three-part series, Matt Moody looks at interview preparation
Prepare for success
Preparation is the key to success for job interviews. Proper research will calm your nerves, help you answer questions confidently and enable you to impress the interviewer with pertinent questions.
For planners, both preparation and research are aspects of the job itself, so it’s even more important to demonstrate them at interview. How should you go about it?
“Interviewers are impressed when candidates come armed with knowledge about the company,” says Lauren Edwards, planning management consultant with recruiter Oyster Partnership.
“Very rarely will they expect you to memorise facts like when the company was founded, but it’s still good to know this information.”
For Greg Dowden, associate director at Indigo Planning, you need to go the extra mile to stand out. “Just memorising the website won’t impress us,” he stresses.
“You’ll stand out for more if you’ve researched using secondary or tertiary sources – it shows a genuine interest in both planning and working for us.”
Knowing the company’s staff and what they do can give you an edge. “Planning is a small world. It’s worth scouring LinkedIn for either your interviewers or people on the team you’re hoping to join,” says Edwards.
“There’s a good chance you’ll have been on the same university course as someone at the company. If you trust them, sending them a message might reveal some inside information – but don’t get caught up in office politics.”
It’s important too to know what you’re applying for and why you want it. “For some local authority contracting roles, it could be as basic as a 10-minute ‘chat’ to make sure you’re the right fit for the team,” adds Edwards.
But other interviews might involve competency exercises, or more commonly you could be asked to talk the interviewer through your CV.
“At junior level, employers might ask about university modules or why you want to get into town planning. For more senior consultancy positions you’ll be expected to talk specifically about things like fees, targets and business generation. If it’s a local authority position you’ll need to know the area. Know the role and what is expected of you.”
At some larger companies, interviews are designed to focus primarily on personal qualities. “Our initial interview days involve activities with role playing, teamwork and thinking on your feet,” Dowden explains.
“We’re looking for leadership skills, your ability to interact with others, calmness under pressure and your sense of humour. These can’t be practised or prepared, so it’s important to get yourself into a positive ‘can do’ frame of mind beforehand.”
Easier said than done, perhaps. But, says Edwards: “Remember, you’ve been invited to interview for a reason.”
On a purely practical level, she says a timely arrival is important. “Try to enter the office around 10 minutes before your allotted time. Getting there an hour early won’t impress anyone, but absolutely do not be late!”
- Search Google News for the latest information on your potential employer.
- Leave examples of your work with the interviewer – but make sure they’re not confidential.
Lauren Edwards is a planning management consultant at Oyster Partnership.
Greg Dowden is an associate director at Indigo Planning.