Steps to make sure you are adequately prepared for big interviews

19 Feb 2015

Complete proper and thorough research on the position, company and interviewers.

For partner level positions, it is likely that you will already be familiar with the firm in question to some extent and may even have a very developed understanding of their market position and/or the current partners within the firm.

However, for a top level position, it is important to be able to demonstrate that you have done an exceptional level of research into the background, philosophy, activities, culture and aims of a firm. Some of these things you will be able to discover and learn about via a firm’s website, report or other standard communication channels, whilst other items will require more thorough research.

Be prepared to dig through news archives searching for industry stories relating to the firm, possibly even regarding the employees you will be meeting. First hand accounts of the firm are always valuable, so if you can call on the knowledge of a contact who currently or once worked for them, then it is worth doing so. Researching a firm can be a long process and is always something you should try to dedicate significant time to during the application process.

Be prepared to pitch. Are you ready for the fact that your interview could involve more than answering a handful of questions?

It is very possible that, as part of the application process for a senior position, you will have been asked to come prepared to talk about a particular topic, or your experience in a particular area. You might even have been asked to give your thoughts on a particular case or presented with a specific issue to solve.

Even with these considerations it is worth planning for an eventuality where you are asked to essentially ‘pitch’ for the job you are applying for. Even if you are not asked to deliver your pitch during the course of the interview, the process will provide plenty of worthwhile material for discussion or use elsewhere.

As part of your pitch preparation, give serious thought to preparing detailed and well-referenced examples of successful work you have done in the past. Whilst it is probably possible to talk at length about the good work you have done, it is likely that your potential new firm will be looking for tangible information on how you are likely to perform in your new position. Consider providing figures as part of this.

Predict and prepare for an examination of the negatives.

It is an inevitability in any interview – especially one for a senior position which are likely to be conducted with more frankness and openness that lower-level hires – that you will be asked and potentially quizzed at length about your perceived weaknesses, or past failures.

It is important that you prepare well to address these. If there is an obvious area of your C.V. that invites investigation by sharp-eyed interviewers then ensure you are ready for difficult questions around it. If there is an area of the position specification that you are aware you do not quite fulfil, then be prepared to detail how you will address this on a practical basis.

If you cannot spot many obvious weaknesses in your application that you may well be asked about, then plan for the inevitable question: ‘what are your weaknesses?’. Failing to prepare for this question can be the downfall of many. Answering that you don’t have any can look arrogant, whilst the alternative can lead to revealing more than you planned! Be sure to include in your answer how you plan to address or mitigate whatever weakness you decide to discuss.

Prepare position-appropriate questions to ask.

Preparing questions for the interviewer is a tried and tested piece of interview advice, which shows them how interested you are in the position and company you are applying for.

However, your questions should be more than this. For a start, remember that recruitment is a two-way process; you considered this job right for you when you first applied, is there anything you need to know now to make sure that this is indeed the position for you? Make sure you ask about these areas during the interview, where possible, to enable you to make a decision as soon as possible.

It is also important that your questions are position appropriate. If you are joining the firm as an equity partner then it may well be entirely appropriate to discuss questions or issues around revenue streams or future business plans. Ensure that you have planned to ask questions that are related to your intended position within the company and that may well help you to properly fulfil the requirements of your role.

Do you know what the company is currently concerned about? How are you going to help them address those concerns?

This element of the recruitment process ties in with many of the others; in your research, have you discovered an obvious reason why the company is interested in hiring you? If not, are you prepared to ask them about their recruitment plans? Does your pitch take into account specific areas you will help the firm to address?

Every firm will have business concerns as they look to the future; maybe they are changing their business model in the new deregulated industry, or perhaps they are looking for new revenue streams. Are they noticeably weak in a certain specific area or industry?

Whatever these concerns, plans and threats are, the firm will be interested to hear how you might be able to help address these, whether directly, through the skills you bring immediately to the appointment, or indirectly, through the future plans and strategies you may be able to help implement, further down the line.


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