Interview Preparation

A thought occurred to me as I watched ‘The Apprentice’ last night on BBC 1 – why has no one properly prepared for these interviews? The Apprentice in this format has been running for years now and I’m no expert on the show but every year there is an interview stage where some incredibly senior business figureheads in Lord Sugar’s inner circle, interview the potential candidates.

So why, knowing this will come up, not be better prepared and know your stuff inside out? You are after all, talking about yourself for a large portion of the interview, not knowing facts presented on your own CV is inexcusable but happens all too often!

While watching I noted several mistakes the candidates made which quite frankly they shouldn’t have and perhaps we can take this as a lesson, in how to better prepare for high pressure interviews:

Fix your tie!  

One of the first up was Gary, ‘Mr Corporate’ as he has been nicknamed, a man tipped by his colleagues as someone with a phenomenal amount of professionalism and corporate training - so why has he not learned how to tie a tie? His tie was terrible, the knot wasn’t anywhere near his shirt and it drooped as though his mum had forgotten to do it up. In interview situations, it’s inexcusable not to be immaculate. While this might seem like snobbishness on my part, do you want to be instantly on the back foot with the interviewer because they are focused on the height of your tie or skirt and not on your CV. A quick once over when you arrive at the interview doesn’t hurt too, is everything still where you left it when you left the house?!  

Leave the BS at the door  

‘Mr Marketing’ Richard or ‘Tricky Dicky’ as his fellow contestants have named him had a business plan full of ‘jargon’. The interviewers were immediately on the attack; his opening statement was so full of trendy buzzwords they couldn’t decipher it.  Scrutinise your CV/ Cover letter– not only should you know the detail intimately – it’s your details evidently – but talk in plain non-jargon language. Just as you don’t want the interviewer’s vision clouded by bad personal presentation at interview, you don’t want them to be put off by terrible cliché bingo in your writing – google common clinches and make sure you eliminate them all in your writing. All signs of ‘thinking outside the box’, ‘low hanging fruit’ and ‘helicopter view’ must be immediately stripped out!  

Know your 1-2-3

Just as outsider plumber Joseph, did successfully last night – be able to talk plainly and confidently about your numbers. So many people talk about achievements in ‘we managed this’, ‘we effected that’ without being able to quantifiably evidence what the results were. You will stand out from other candidates if you can confidently talk in numbers – “we achieved a 20% uplift on profit which was X, then post project was Y”. Know your numbers and they will be impressed and your interview will be memorable.  

Keep it real

If your aspirations are to be the Queen of Everything within two months then great, but is that really achievable? Making false and unachievable claims can not only sound like you’re an unrealistic fantasist but they will be fairly difficult to defend in an interview. ‘So you want to be a global brand within 2 months, how realistically are you going to achieve that?’ was the question asked of likeable ex Royal Navy now Hairdresser Charlene, and she sadly had trouble staking her expectations up against reality.  

In summary, be presentable, honest, knowledgeable and realistic. Know your numbers and your detail and you will come across as a candidate with potential not someone how has failed to prepare or impress.

Deborah Gillespie

HR Manager

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