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THE KEY TO A GOOD INTERVIEW IS IN THE PREPARATIONS


The key to a good interview is in the preparations. According to an executive recruiter chum of mine, it is obvious who has prepared well as they standout and perform the best. The better you prepare, the more present you can be. This will mean you will be your authentic self and come across far better.

“Failing To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail” - Benjamin Franklin ...

In terms of your preparation, my advice is to be thorough! Whether you are going for a flying role, or making a career change (temporary or long term), this blog provides a comprehensive guide to all the things that you can do to make your performance in the moment as brilliant as possible!

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW

So, let’s start with things that you can do before the interview. Now, this might seem a bit retro given the impact of COVID-19 but, if you have an in-person interview, I strongly advise practicing the journey. What’s the parking like? Is the route convoluted or complex? How’s the traffic at the time you will need to be travelling? If you ‘stalk’ the business or building beforehand, you can get a sense of what sort of dress code the current employees stick to. All of this is good intelligence that will help you on the day.

Next, research the Company. The interview is as much about you demonstrating you have an interest in the company as it is about proving you are a good fit. As an example, consider the following resources:

  • Google the company. What do you notice? Do they appear in the news? If so, what for?

  • Are there any videos you can take a look at? Are they formal marketing ones or informal ones by the staff? Both can give insight into the culture and values of the organisation.

  • Check them out on social media. What language do they use? What do they talk about? This will show you what’s on their mind or what’s important to them.

  • Have a look at Glassdoor. This gives feedback on the company, their interview process, salary guides etc. Treat with some caution as sometimes only exiting disgruntled employees take the time to write on here! So, it can be a bit like Trip Advisor where only the incensed bother to comment!

  • Check in with any connections in your network in the business that you can gain insight from. After the interview, these connections might be able to advocate for you, but this requires a bit of delicacy so that you don’t put anyone in a tricky position.

  • Talk with anyone you know in competitor companies or in the industry to get insights. Again, treat comments with a pinch of salt in case they are just bashing their competitors! But there may well be grains of truth in what they have to say!

  • Search out the company’s vision and values. Do these resonate? You can test how these feature in the lived experience as one of your questions to the interviewers.

  • Look them up on Companies House. You can see their financial results and also how stable their senior leadership is. A lot of churn in the directors or shareholders could be an indication of confused or discordant leadership, or company direction.

  • Find the company’s LinkedIn page. Follow it and then start to like, share and comment on anything that particularly resonates with you.

Next on your research programme is the interviewers. Now, you won’t always get told who these are in advance. But, if you are sent a meeting invite, have a quick look to see if there are other folks included in the distribution list. If you aren’t given the names, ask. They can only say no! If you are given the names in advance, have a quick stalk of them on social media and via Google. See if you have any mutual connections. Check out their work history – are there any parts that you can have a mutual conversation about? Remember, it’s a small world! Finally, leverage the knowledge of the recruiter if they are using one. They should want to help you be successful as it is good for their figures and reputation. Next up, really study the job specification. Ideally you want to be able to match your experiences to their requirements. Figure out what’s the story (or stories) that you can tell that ticks off every one of their requirements. To find those stories:

  • Prepare examples that demonstrate your success for all the duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare examples for all the skills and competences

  • If you have any gaps, think of ways they/you can overcome them. What proxies for skills or experience do you have? What specific attitudes do you have that overcome skills gaps e.g. quick learner? As a performance coach, I know that 80% of our performance is down to our attitude, not our knowledge or skills. So, don’t be afraid if you only tick 8 of the 10 boxes.

  • Practice out loud. With other people. Repeatedly. Don’t practice in your interview! You will only know if the answers are any good if you’ve tried them out to a friendly audience. A coach can help here...

  • Really have a handle on your achievements including facts / figures / times / dates etc. A robust evidence base is so much more compelling.

  • Do you know yourself? Do you know how your style matches the organisation’s?

THE INTERVIEW

Sometimes I think that people lose sight of the real purpose of the interview and think that all the power lies in the hands of the interviewer or organisation. It’s not true. Interviews are a two-way exploration of your suitability for each other. You have as much right to say “no thanks” as the interviewer does. Now, there is of course a balance between taking over and being a passenger!

The main aim for your interview prep is to find a way of making sure you can be at your absolute best. To help you do this, this section will focus on the dos and don’ts of interviews. First up, how to be your best in video or virtual interviews. In some respects, these can be helpful as you are on “home turf”, so should be at ease. However, as we know from this post-COVID world, children, pets and internet providers all have a way of dialling up the stress! Here are some things to think about:

  • Check your kit and equipment in plenty of time. And have backups.

  • Ensure your background is suitable – clean, calm, tidy, nothing you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

  • Prep the family – tell everyone that you have an interview on the go. Ban Netflix or any other internet stealing devices for the duration.

  • Dress for the part. I strongly advise against so called “Zoom Chic” where your top half is presentable and the bottom half less so! If you dress the part, you will feel and be the part. The right costume will put you into the right mindset.

  • Try not look at yourself! It’s a natural animal phenomenon, but it will be noticed! If using Zoom, you can “Hide Self View” by clicking on the 3 dots on your face.

  • Using something like Zoom is brilliant as your face is beautifully framed in a close up, and I can stare without it seeming rude. This means that I can read your non-verbal communication even more easily! So be careful with your poker face!

  • Keep your answers shorter – you or they can ask if they want more.

  • Dial up your energy by about 20 percent. Some of your natural human energy that you have in the room is lost on a video conference, so you have to make up for it.

  • Make sure you engage with everyone on the call.

Next up, how to be your best in Face-to-Face interviews. Just the very requirement to be elsewhere can be both a help and hindrance: it can focus the mind; but also introduce uncontrollable variables like trains! Here are some things to think about:

  • Build rapport with “Everyone” you meet. Do not underestimate anyone. Be nice to the receptionist as you never know how much influence they can have on the decision.

  • In response to the question “Tell us about yourself” tread carefully with your response. The interviewers don’t actually want to know personal stuff, or at least, not yet! Treat this as your “Elevator Pitch” opportunity. In no more than three minutes have an answer for: what you do; what challenges you solve; your key achievements; and your top competencies.

  • Defuse any potential bombs. What are your known areas of weakness or misalignment? Don’t be afraid to get them out the way early and have your response to why you are still a good fit.

  • Try and answer your questions using a clear and recognisable format. For example:


STAR - Situation, Task, Actions, Results;


CARL - Context, Action, Results, and Learning. This model is great for showing a Growth mindset and learning from past events. So, perfect in response to that horrible, “tell me about a time you failed……” question;


SOAR - Situation, Objective or Obstacle, Action and Results. This answering framework is very similar to STAR, but it tends to work better for those in leadership positions where tasks are not theirs to carry out; or for behavioural interview questions.


  • For maximum points, make your answers pertinent to the role. Use, where possible, the same language and make it really easy for the interviewer to spot which competence or other requirement you are nailing with your answer.

  • Pick your best stories to respond to the questions and test these out on a tame audience. Sometimes what we think are our best stories are not the perfect fit, or don’t do justice to what we are trying to communicate. Again, a coach can help here...

  • Don’t be afraid to embrace silence. There’s a lovely quote about, “letting silence do the heavy lifting”. Let interviewers process what you have said.

  • Finally, tell your story, don’t sell your story. If you find yourself repeating certain aspects, or saying the same thing in different ways, you have slipped into selling. If you have taken the time to pick your response framework and you have gone through the process of finding your best stories, you can just tell them, and they will do the rest.

I’m often asked by clients wanting help preparing for interviews, how to answer tricky questions. The key message here is, prepare for the worst, expect the best. Try these tips:

  • Do your prep so you have an answer to what you think is your ugliest question. This gives you head space to think and should avoid what I call the “bunny in the headlights” reactions which can freeze our bodies and minds.

  • Figure out what your Achilles’ heel is and have an answer. It is better to be self-aware and prepared, than blindsided.

  • Don’t be afraid of talking about failure. Our greatest learning can come from failure. Being able to admit to failure, and what you’ve learnt as a result, is a powerful demonstration of self-awareness, humility, courage and ability to learn.

  • Finally, there’s a trick politicians are taught in media training called the ABC method. It is used to move the conversation from a negative or off-topic question back to their own agenda. It stands for Acknowledge, Bridge, and Communicate. How this looks in practice is:

Acknowledge the question you were asked and why it is a relevant question;


Bridge this topic to one that is parallel or similar that you are passionate or confident about;


Communicate the messages that you want to pass on that cement why you are the perfect candidate.

Ok. So you’ve told your best stories, and safely navigated the tricky question sharks. What next? Now, it’s all about leaving a lasting impression with your questions at the end. When I coach clients for interview, we always make sure we spend some time shaping up some fabulous killer questions that they can ask. These questions, in my experience, can convert a ‘fine’ interview into a ‘wow’ interview. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  • Don’t ask about hours and benefits or promotions. These are self-serving questions which won’t leave the best impression. And the information is probably already, or will be, provided anyway.

  • Don’t say we covered it all – that indicates a lack of thinking or wider interest.

  • Instead, prepare some insightful questions about the business and the job. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Think long term, strategic about the business – so, what does the business look like in 5 years’ time?

  2. What would success look like in 12 months’ time?

  3. What would I have to achieve for you to think I was a successful appointment?

  4. How will you help me be successful?

  5. What’s the lived experience in terms of leadership tone and style?

  6. What’s the biggest challenge being faced right now?

  7. How would people inside the business describe life?

  8. What would your negative Google Review say about you?

  9. How did you manage Covid-19? What was the impact on business, strategy, people, performance?

  10. Ask about the next steps in the recruitment process.

THE FINISH!

Phew! It’s over! You made it through the interview. Now what? For your best chance, you want to finish strong. If you want the job, do not leave the interviewer in any doubt! Just like in dating, interviewers can be put off if they don’t feel loved or have to guess whether you are keen for the next date! So, the ways to leave your interviewer feeling loved are:

Draft and send a follow up email – the same day of your interview, or the very next morning. In that email include the following:

  • Thank people for their time;

  • Restate why the company and job appeal to you;

  • Reiterate your achievements and competencies that you believe will make you a successful appointment;

  • State how you can add value to the organisation.

Should you be unsuccessful make sure that you ask for feedback. In particular, ask what one thing you could have done differently that would have made a difference. State how important it is for you to keep learning so you can be more successful next time. Ask if it is possible for them to keep you on their books, in their minds, for future potential opportunities.

Finally. Reflect on this process. What did you do well? What went well? What could you do even better next time? And feed this into your next interview planning process. It’s worth writing this down for future reference.

If any of this has resonated with you, or you have an interview you’d like some help with, I’d love to hear from you! You can connect with me through ResilientPilot.com and



Johanna is Resilient Pilot's Peak Performance and Stress Management Coach. With a passion for aviation talent and transferrable skills, Johanna can assist you in securing your next role. Click here to connect with Johanna and browse the rest of our mentor team. You can also watch our recent #AvTalent webinar to further enhancing your personal branding here.

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