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Researching Yourself Before Each Interview

Understanding Your Strengths and How to Answer Every Common Interview Questions

Interviews are simply a sales meeting - it is an opportunity for you to sell yourself.

The employer has a need, their vacancy and you are the solution!  An interview is simply a way for the interviewer to obtain information about yourself so that they can make a balanced business judgement as to whether you are right for the role.  

Remember, most interviewers are not experienced interviewers.  Very few managers go on interview training courses and many interviewers will have read the 'How to conduct an Interview' just the night before.  

They are probably as nervous as you about the meeting and undertaking the following exercises will allow you to feel confident and prepared for any interview, allowing your personality and skills to come through.  In essence the following exercises will help you 'WOW at interview'

Preparation you must do on yourself prior to an interview:

By undertaking the following exercise you will be able to answer half to two thirds of all common interview questions.  You will be asked the following questions in every interview in a roundabout way - prepare for them!

1. Why do you want the job?

Think of, write down at least 3 solid reasons.

2. Why are you looking to leave your existing employer?  

Have the story planned and pre-prepared.  If you were made redundant, what was going on in the company to force them to make that decision, how many others were made redundant, i.e. "my position was made redundant together with three of my colleagues last Wednesday as our major client went bust owing us £500K".  This is better than "I was made redundant". Other good points to make are needing a new challenge/taken the company as far as I can/want to develop my career and I've sat down with my boss and they're allowing me to attend interviews.

3. Why do you want to work for the company?

Think of, write down and remember at least 3 solid reasons.  You will be asked these questions more than once each in a typical interview - prepare more than the one answer.

4. What are your strengths?

Ultimately this is what the company are hiring!  You would be amazed at how many senior sales professionals struggle to detail more than about four or five strengths - they've never analysed themselves in this way.  

Basic sales - Features & Benefits: Sales is about features, examples and benefits.  What is good about the product, how does it work, what's in it for me and how will it improve my life! 

Everyone without fail at interview is hard working, committed and a great timekeeper!  All salespeople are continuously over their targets and the highest performers in their sector.  All accountants have saved more money and improved processes.  These are all words - features without examples or benefits - so how do you differentiate yourself? Quite simply sell yourself as a product.

On a sheet of paper write down in column one all of your strengths - both work related and non-work related.  Involve your partner, good friend (a parent is great!) as they will detail strengths that you didn't even realise you possessed!  

In column two give examples of when you've used this strength and in column three the benefits that this strength enabled.  For example:

Feature: Hard Working

Example: After a hard days work I helped Fred load up the lorry to deliver the kit which ensured that my client's production line continued to schedule I won a further contract worth £5,000 from the company.

Benefit: I will be as hard working when I join your company.

Feature: Committed

Example: Even though the company relocated I stayed a further 3 months to ensure a smooth handover.

Benefit: My northern replacement was fully trained and is now becoming a tremendous asset to my previous employer.  I will bring my 100% commitment when I join your business.

This exercise is invaluable if you have a formal job specification that details all of the required attributes as you can simply tailor your examples to these.

This exercise is particularly valuable in competency based interviews. Especially if you have been provided with the list of required competencies prior to the interview (which is not the norm). A competency based interview in its most basic form is 'give an example of when...' rather that 'what would you do if..' type questions.  The interviewer then grades your answers against a sheet and 'scores' you accordingly.  

By undertaking this very basic exercise you will be able to answer 65% of all common interview questions.  This exercise will make you feel more confident, as a consequence you'll relax and your personality will shine. And, ultimately whether you are an accountant, a lawyer or a sales person if your skills are equal to a competing candidate and your personality comes across better at interview you WILL succeed.

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Date published: 3rd March 2024

Lucy Burrows, Aaron Wallis Sales Recruitment

About the author

Lucy Burrows

Lucy is a diligent and stealthily competitive recruiter passionate about delivering clients’ expectations and helping candidates perform their best in interviews.  She thrives on ensuring that the role is suitable for every candidate and hearing about the successes of her placements.  Her content is straightforward, easy-to-read advice focused on first interview tips.

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