Corporate Interview Etiquette

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Job Applications By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: Job Applications
Last updated: 09/08/2017
Tags: impress at an interview, interview preparation, interview skills, interview tips, job interviews

Having spent many years interviewing candidates for corporate roles, there’s one thing that I always advise people… Your interview starts the moment you arrive!

Many candidates aren’t aware of this but there are many stories of what interviewers have observed that put them off candidates.

I once knew a Managing Director whose office overlooked the carpark of his office building.

He was always made aware of scheduled interviews and would observe the candidates as they arrived. If he didn’t like what he saw in terms of their actions whilst approaching the building, he would call down to the interviewer and tell them that he didn't think that the candidate was suitable! No-one would argue with the MD.

Now, this seems a little extreme and perhaps not necessarily the right way to assess people but nevertheless, it happened. Rightly or wrongly.

Candidates also need to be aware that a lot of the time, the reception staff were also involved and would give recruiting managers their feedback on how the candidate interacted with them and how they behaved whilst waiting in reception.

Other interviewers would ask colleagues to collect the candidate from reception for the interview and then request feedback on how the candidate interacted. Even if you are not interacting with the Interviewer, it’s important to remember that first impressions count for so much. Others will be involved and your overall interview performance may include feedback from others. People will assess you immediately by the way you act, dress and interact.

It's important to look smart, clean and tidy – if it's a corporate environment where a suit and tie is the norm, remember that there's a reason for that – it's the company culture and you should respect this by wearing a suit and tie smartly. By this I mean, it's not a fashion parade, it's an interview. Top button done up, clean and polished shoes, ironed shirt and a suit that doesn't look like you've just slept in it! Improve the chances of beating the competition by ensuring that you're better, smarter looking and more articulate that them – even if you never meet them.

If it's a more casual environment (more companies are becoming that way), make sure you are smartly dressed (smart casual, not just casual). You don't lose brownie points for over dressing, but you will lose them for looking like a beach bum – it gives the impression that you’re not really bothered. Many companies do still have a dress code policy even if it has a more casual dress culture. So, if in doubt, feel free to call the company and ask them what their dress code policy is so that you can adhere to it. It shows respect and eagerness. Interviewers will not only be looking at your skills and experience, but also whether you can fit in with their culture.

Another of my biggest pieces of advice is to understand and learn about the company you are being interviewed by, the role that you’re applying for and, if possible, find out about your interviewers if you know who they are. You can find many online sites (such as glassdoor) to find out about the company, experiences of past interviewers, comments from current employees about working there and reviews on the executive team. It’s worth doing your homework.

Once in interview, one of the first questions that I’d ask candidates is… Tell me what you know about us

I'd expect candidates to be able to tell me about what they’ve found out about the organsition. Being passionate about the company I worked for, I'd want others to show that passion and enthusiasm through their research. If not, I wondered why they'd want to work for a company that they knew little about – this would make me doubt that they were the right candidate potentially.

I'd also ask… Can you give me an overview of the role that you’ve applied for?

Again, if they could give me a good structured overview of the role I'm interviewing them for, it told me that they were keen and interested in the role. If they couldn't, it would make me doubt that they were genuinely interested and that they were applying for 'just another job'. Why would we recruit someone to join our company that didn't show the willingness to prepare for their interview?

One final piece of advice…We’ve all been in an interview and the interviewer has asked us a dreaded question that we didn't want them to ask. Perhaps it was something like… What are your strength? What are your weaknesses? Why do you want to work for us? or Why should we hire you? As an interviewer, I know that I have.

Strangely enough, more often than not the candidate would reply with… Argh!! I knew that you’d ask me that, it’s a horrible question!! And try and laugh it off. Here’s the thing, if they knew that I might ask me a question like that, why didn’t they prepare an answer for me? Preparation is key. Take time out, review your CV against the role profile or job description, think about and write down ideas of what you think are your transferrable skills and map them against the description. Look at the language that the job description in written in (I don't mean whether it's in English or Arabic etc. I mean what type of language are they using?), do they use particular words that you don't to describe something? Some companies call a ‘Contact Centre’ a ‘Call Centre’ or describe a ‘department’ as a ‘function’. Use the language that is familiar to them – that way they can visualise more easily you fitting into their culture.

Opportunities to ask questions in interview are good, it gives you a chance to learn more and understand the company better. Don’t waste this opportunity. Ask good, solid questions. I’ve had people ask questions like… "What time is lunch each day?", "Do I get my own desk?", "Is there a company car?", "What will you pay me?" And even… "Are there any hot girls working here?" Now, what kind of impression do these questions give about the candidate?

You want to use the question time you have to ask sensible questions that show that you are interested in the long term, that you want to progress and develop or that you want to understand more about the company you want to work for:

What development opportunities are there for me?
How would you describe your culture?
Have you had much interest in the role from other applicants?
What’s my competition like?
Would I be given a structured personal development plan to follow?
Would you set me objectives that support my learning?

These are the types of questions that tell me that the candidate is interested in the long term and wants to progress and develop with us. A first interview stage is not the time to talk about salary, but you are welcome to ask about the benefits that the company provides if you've not been able to find out through your research.

Know your CV well, know the company well and the role that you’re applying for well. Preparation is key!

Bryn Keech Presentation/ Interview Skills Coaches (Northampton)

About The Author

Over 20 yrs developing others in CV writing, Interview skills, coaching, management development, performance development, leadership, first line management, motivation and communication skills, career development and presentation skills.

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