The Ultimate Interview Guide

Expert Interview Advice
Expert Interview Advice

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Interviews. Those dreaded meetings, (often for candidate and employer alike) to test subject knowledge, skills and company fit in one hour or less. So how should you approach the interview process to avoid stage fright and make the most of what should be a two way, ‘getting to know you’ meeting?

 

Before the interview – know your stuff

Thanks to the internet, being prepared for an interview has never been easier. In a few clicks you can access the company website and social media feeds (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), research related news coverage and get a feel for the brand and organisation you’ve applied to work with.

Ideally you’ll have done much of this initial investigation ahead of submitting your CV, but it’s good to revisit as information changes rapidly. Alongside the standard Google search you should also:

  • Use the job specification to help you think of questions to ask at interview
  • Search blogs for company mentions and where appropriate look at customer forums, alliances and any other third party sites for less corporate updates
  • Speak to your network to find existing employees or those who might be able to give you more information about the role you’re applying for
  • Research competitors and the market in general

Just as important as knowing about your potential employer, is making sure you’re clear on the facts you’ve presented to them:

  • Know your CV and rehearse how you will explain your skills and experience
  • Which stories could you use to animate the facts you’ve supplied?
  • Who could you mention as references?
  • What didn’t make it onto your CV but could support the skills they need?

Being well prepared reduces interview nerves and combined with the practical steps of deciding what to wear the night before and leaving yourself plenty of travel time, will get you off to the best possible start.

 

At the interview – be the best version of you

Interviews can be likened to speed dating. Both parties sit at a table, trying to make the best possible impression, aiming to be happy, friendly and confident and hoping that something will click.

What are employers looking for at interview? It depends who is interviewing…

Senior Executives:

  • Leadership qualities: Decisiveness, passion, work ethic, integrity
  • High level, fact based information, not too much detail

Hiring Managers:

  • How well could you perform the key tasks (technical/business and soft skills)
  • Clues around how you’d fit with the existing team
  • Information about your aims and ambition to assess your long-term suitability

Human Resources:

  • Tick all the experience needed boxes
  • Meet qualifications of the job
  • Overall fit with the company and culture

“Regardless of who your interviewer is, companies are looking for three things – skills and experience, knowledge of the role, company and industry and personality fit.”

Manage the interview process

Like it or not, humans form opinions of each other rather quickly. In the time it takes to walk from reception to the meeting room, you and your interviewer will have already started to gather information about one another. Try to build rapport, smile and engage in conversation.

Your goal is to present yourself as the most qualified candidate, so use every opportunity to show how well you fit the job requirements, asking questions along the way and showing your enthusiasm for the company and its culture.

Have your answers ready. Often an interview will combine traditional, CV and competency based questions so give some thought to how you might answer each.

Traditional Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What appeals to you most about this position?
  • Why do you think you’d be good at this job?
  • What are your key strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • What do you know about this company?
  • Don’t you think you might be too experienced for this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Get these questions answered.

CV Based Questions

Your interviewer generally only knows what you’ve told them on your CV, so be prepared to expand on the outline you’ve given, talking about previous roles, teams, departments and companies, in a way that supports your current application.

  • Tell me about the business your previous employers were in?
  • What department did you work for and what did it do?
  • How big was your team?
  • Which roles/departments did you work most closely with and why?
  • What was your specific role?
  • How did your role contribute to company success?
  • Why did you decide to leave/stay so long/consider a move?

Competency Questions

Interviewers need to assess your skills and experience directly against the core requirements detailed in the job specification.

Can you give me an example of a time when you have…

… used initiative?
… worked as part of a team?
… worked to tight deadlines?
… developed a new concept?
… increased revenue?
… stood up for what you believe in?
… (job specific) applied the principle of Project Management gained through your Prince 2 qualifications?

Structure your answers

The STAR approach can provide a structure to your answers – think STAR!
Situation – Set the scene
Task – What were you asked to do?
Action – What did you do?
Result – What was the outcome?

General hints and tips

What we hear is only the tip of the communications iceberg, so it’s worth remembering the other factors that contribute to our assessment of others.

  • Be on time
  • Offer a firm handshake
  • Make eye contact
  • Relax, smile and be yourself
  • Take time to think about your answers, talking slowly and clearly
  • Make sure you highlight your strengths, don’t assume they know them
  • Be honest
  • Be polite
  • Avoid bad language/slang terms
  • Use concrete experience to illustrate your points
  • Strike the right balance between listening and talking
  • Don’t discuss salary unless they bring it up
  • Don’t smoke before you go in
  • Don’t chew gum during the interview
  • Turn your phone off and keep it out of sight
  • Go armed with good questions
  • Thank them for their time at the end

If you’d like discuss more about the interview process and how you can make the best impression, call us on 03303 359 818 or email connect@denholmassociates.com today.

SCOTT CAITHNESS

SENIOR CONSULTANT - MARKETING

Scott started his career working for one of the leading Advertising & Comms agencies in Edinburgh where he spent 7 years before moving in to recruitment in 2011. As such, he is well-networked in the Marketing & Comms space across Scotland. With a friendly and consultative approach, Scott is genuinely passionate about providing a positive journey to both candidates and clients alike and believes communication plays a big part in this.  A “thinking-outside-the-box recruiter”, he is known for helping candidates portray the best version of themselves and helping clients find talent for those hard to fill roles.

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Communication Lead

We’re a passionate and professional team who thrive in issue-rich environment and we’re looking to add a Communication Lead to our fast-growing team. You’ll be a trusted advisor to clients across several sectors in all aspects of communication, external affairs, marketing and issues management. Coming from an agency or consultancy environment, at Account Director level or above, you’ll report directly to the Managing Director and be responsible for a small and busy multi-disciplinary team. You’ll have first-class project management skills, be solutions-driven and excellent commercial acumen too. Alongside the senior team, you’ll work to drive the strategic growth of Aspect.

Your core duties will include:

  • Working with the MD to develop and deliver growth strategies 
  • Attracting and retaining profitable clients across a range of sectors 
  • Leading the creation and execution of strategic communication programmes
  • Inspiring, leading and developing multi-disciplinary teams
  • Developing strong relationships with clients, colleagues and associates
  • Producing high quality pitches and proposals to secure new business 
  • Curating, nurturing and managing a team of talented associates.

You’ll be a skilled communicator, interested and knowledgeable about the key issues shaping the external environment. In addition, to be considered for this role, you must be able to demonstrate:

  • 7+ years of senior leadership experience within an agency or consultancy
  • Experience in Energy, Renewables, Financial Services or Life Sciences would be very desirable
  • Outstanding writing skills and the ability to engage and excite an audience
  • An impressive track record of client attraction, retention and growth 
  • The ability to thrive fast-paced environment managing multiple projects simultaneously
  • Strong influencing and leadership skills to motivate and inspire those around you
  • Excellent planning, evaluation and project management skills
  • To develop new processes, systems and ways of working to drive performance

Communication Advisors

We’re a passionate and professional team who thrive in issue-rich environment and we’re looking for Senior Communication Advisors, Communications Advisors and Communications Executives to join their fast-growing team. 

You’ll have previous agency experience at Senior Account Manager or Account Manager level and be passionate about delivering excellent results for clients. You might be a specialist in PR and media relations who produces compelling editorial content across a range of topics and sectors or you might be a public affairs expert who understands the policy landscape and helps clients build influential relationships. Whatever your specialism, you’ll be an excellent writer, full of creative ideas, with proven client management experience and the ability to provide expert advice our clients.

Your key duties will include:

  • Supporting the key account lead with day-to-day client liaison, providing strategic counsel on day-to-day account matters when required
  • Active involvement in planning and delivering global PR, marketing and digital campaigns
  • Managing content programmes, including mapping out content themes, spotting industry trends and story angles, writing copy when required which may include opinion articles, web and social
  • Building strong media relationships, creating pitches based on your story ideas and delivering content in-to suit the client’s target media and securing opportunities
  • Planning and running client’s social media programmes, and management of their channels
  • Continuously identifying opportunities to grow brand awareness and profile our client’s businesses within their target sector through events, webinars, thought leadership
  • Producing comprehensive and timely reports on client activity 
  • Supporting in the development of client proposals to help grow or win parts of the business


In addition, to be considered for this role, you must be able to demonstrate:

  • Proven background in account handling and direct client liaison – 4 years’ minimum
  • Experience in an agency setting focusing on B2B communication or PR
  • Strong communications skills, verbal and written
  • A background in delivering creative, digitally led B2B communications such as LinkedIn campaigns
  • An innate understanding of earned media, with the ability to create stories and generate coverage across traditional media, digital and social
  • Experience working on content management programmes, with an awareness of the changing way business audiences consume information and an appreciation of search, paid and wider customer marketing activity, and how it all fits together
  • A history of working with clients in a variety of sectors is welcomed but experience in the tech and energy industries is advantageous.

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DATA ENGINEER

ANDY MACEWAN

HEAD OF TECHNOLOGY, CHANGE & TRANSFORMATION

Andy has been recruiting in Technology, Change & Transformation since 2001. Delivering tailored resource solutions as trusted advisor to clients ranging from start-ups through to global blue-chip organisations across contract, permanent, fixed term, and managed service/statement of work solutions. He has experience providing candidates for Helpdesk through to CIO and takes great pride in providing excellent customer service and ensuring each candidate journey is a positive one. An expert in his market he can provide guidance across current market trends.

Our Purpose

Our aim is to combat illicit online trade by identifying and removing counterfeits for sale. Counterfeits not only damage brands, their reputations, and revenues, but can cause significant harm to the end customer – whether as a fake toy or a fake medicine – and the consequences can be life threatening.

Counterfeiting is a significant economic and social issue.

The OECD reports that counterfeit and fake goods make up more than 3.3% of the world’s global trade. Those involved in the trade of counterfeits have been linked to people trafficking, prostitution, and drug dealing.

As such, reducing illicit trade is about much more than brand protection but also about human rights, safety, and social equity.

And this is what we do, every day.

Our People

Our people are our most important asset, and their mental well-being and happiness are core to our success. We love our diverse workforce, actively embrace flexible working (even pre-pandemic!) and encourage a healthy work-life balance. We have been recognised as one of the most diverse SME workplaces in the UK and are holders of the Scottish Business Pledge which exists to promote a fairer Scotland. We have also just been included in the 2021 Culture Leaders Top 25 – an accolade of which we are very proud!

We are a fully inclusive and nurturing employer and, despite being in tech, the majority of our team are women, leading to accolades in the Computing Magazine Women in IT Awards and the Amazon Growing Business Awards. We currently represent 15 nationalities and speak 20 languages. Age is no barrier, and we recruit for attitude, providing and encouraging appropriate learning and training for each and every role.

We are also proud members of IP Inclusive, a network of professionals working to make the intellectual property industry more diverse.

Our Environment

We deliver purpose-driven work from an extremely welcoming environment near the City Centre. We actively encourage the responsible use of resources, from using public transport to reuse, recycling, and, of course, a minimal impact office environment. We have benefited from the advice of the Energy Saving Trust and Resource Efficient Scotland. Our waste contractor also provides us with a monthly report on volumes and types of material and the carbon emissions avoided through recycling.

Over 80% of our employees can walk or cycle to The Lair and, pre-pandemic, 10% were using public transport as their normal daily commuting mode. Without doubt, online meetings will replace considerable miles, going forward, saving resources, time and energy. Where possible, when possible, the train remains our preferred option. 

Our Community

As well as working in close collaboration with our clients, and the online marketplaces, we are active members of groups that have been established to combat illicit trade. These include the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group, the European Intellectual Property Office, The Scottish Business Resilience Centre, the Anti-Counterfeiting Group, and the China Britain Business Council. Members of our senior management sit on the boards of ACID (Anti-Copying in Design), the Scottish Ministerial Trade Board, and the European Union Intellectual Property Office’s Observatory Panel for SMEs, amongst others.

Each team member nominates good causes or charities that are supported on both an individual and corporate basis. Wherever possible, we support the employee’s involvement whether through time or fundraising events.

ANGELA MCCANN

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

Having worked in the recruitment industry since 2000, Angela brings a wealth of experience as a Recruitment Professional and a proven track record of delivering a high-quality search and selection service to both public and private companies in the UK and internationally. Angela believes in a partnership approach to recruitment, ensuring a detailed understanding of employer/jobseeker requirements and delivering a bespoke service underpinned by professionalism, pragmatism and strong market knowledge.

JAMES BLYTH

HEAD OF MANUFACTURING & ENGINEERING

James has a decade of experience within the FMCG sector where he has partnered with a wide range of businesses placing key appointments at all levels including Director/ Board level. Driving growth across our Manufacturing & Engineering function, James specialises in Production, Operations, Engineering, Quality, HSE, Technical, NPD and Supply Chain. With his passion and expertise in these areas, James supports candidates and clients by working closely to understand their needs and wants providing exceptional service.

OPTIMISE

CVs and interviews will take you to Level 2. Our behavioural profile will take you to Level 3, vital to identifying future potential.

LEVEL 1

Appears to...

  • Appearance
  • Expressiveness
  • Manner
  • Presence

LEVEL 2

Can do...

  • Knowledge
  • Acquired skills
  • Training
  • Experience
  • Education
  • Credentials

LEVEL 3

Will do...

  • Capability to learn
  • Aptitude
  • Attitude
  • Self-motivation
  • Stability
  • Persistence
  • Maturity
  • Temperament
  • Behaviour patterns