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First Interview Preparation

  1. Remember that your CV has been selected by the client as one of only a few that they wish to interview
  2. Preparation for interviews is critically important. We obviously don't expect you to tell any untruths in the interview, but preparation is everything. The better prepared that you are for an interview, the better you'll present yourself and the less nervous you'll be.
  3. Please take notes whilst preparing for your interview. Napoleon said that his battles weren't won on the battlefield, but in the tents of his generals i.e. preparation is everything. Take your notes into your interview with our client. Our clients have expressed admiration for candidates who come into interviews that are obviously well prepared.
  4. Reason for Leaving:
    • Check with our consultant to correlate with what is on Arrow's version of your CV
    • If you've decided against leaving your company, please have the courtesy to tell your Consultant now so as not to waste anyone's time
    • If there is the slightest chance that you are going to entertain a counter offer from your current employer, discuss this with your Consultant at this time
    • Is there anything that has changed since you last discussed your reasons for leaving with your consultant?
      • Urgency in making a move
      • Criteria for selecting a new company
      • Salary Change
      • Promotion
      • Relationship with your company
      • Other interviews or offers pending with other companies
    • Whilst candidates normally are leaving their current company due to a career wound, it's considered bad form to bad mouth your current company or current superior
    • Keep your reasons for leaving short and sweet - you will probably have less than an hour for your interview. Try to avoid spending too much time on your reason for leaving.
  5. Keep it confidential - I don't know if you know but fully two-thirds of all positions are lost by people talking to their colleagues, friends or most of all, other recruitment agencies
  6. Confirm date & time of the interview with your Consultant.
  7. Confirm phone numbers:
    • Arrow's telephone number is 011 883 7116. Our phone number and the company's phone number for you in case you run into a problem.
    • Confirm the address of the Company that you're interviewing with. Ensure that you know how to get there well before your interview date.
  8. Have your cell phone charged and have talk time in case you run into a problem.
    • Talk to anyone at Arrow if you get lost - They'll help you get there
  9. Company/Job Present Facts - Our Consultants at Arrow Executive Search pride themselves on taking complete job orders and on knowing our clients. Ask your Consultant to describe our client's industry, the company's growth, and characteristics that will appeal to you e.g. environment, growth possibilities, the number of employees in the company and the department that you'll be joining. A word of advice - although we've given you all this information, unashamedly treat the information that we give you skeptically. After all, we don't need to work for your new company, you do?. Say to the client we've told you X or Y or Z about their company/department, and ask whether the information that we've passed on to you is accurate. Ask your Consultant to forward a job brief to you if they have one
  10. Visit our client's website. Mention in the interview that you've been to their website. It's not uncommon for clients to ask what you know about their company. They're often impressed that you know about their mission and values. Again, take your preparation notes in with you to your interview.
  11. Also ask your Consultant about your interviewer/s background/s, interviewing technique/s and interview style/s.
  12. Do not take confidential information like age analyses, confidential memos or balance sheets into the interview
  13. DO take copies of references and testimonials with you
  14. It's healthy to be nervous before an interview, however your preparation with your consultant, the notes that they give you to assist in your preparation and your preparation now will make you less nervous and above all, WILL ALLOW YOU TO PRESENT YOURSELF AS A TRUE PROFESSIONAL AND AN EXPERT IN YOUR FIELD.
  15. Switch off your cell phone and take your sunglasses off when you arrive at the company
  16. Although most companies are fairly relaxed about dress codes, please don't let this lull you into lax preparation. We still find that a conservative presentation at the time of interview increases your chances significantly.
  17. Should you have any body piercings (other than earrings) and tattoos please take them out or cover them up in your interview.
  18. We suggest business suits for both men and ladies. Whilst it may seem pedantic, presentation is everything. We suggest that you discuss your interview dress code further with your Consultant.
  19. Some interviewers are hands and shoes people. - Polish your shoes and clean your nails please.
  20. Also, no heavy jewelry ladies
  21. You want to be as relaxed as you can - we suggest that you be half an hour early. Sit in your car and review your notes, then go into reception 10 minutes before the interview. We've had candidates lose job offers on fourth interviews because they were late. Do everything you can to be early. Of course, if you're late, please phone the client and your Consultant the moment that it appears that you may be late.
  22. A basic rule of thumb is that FIRST IMPPRESSIONS LAST.
  23. Be polite from the first moment that you arrive with reception and security. Interviewers often ask these people for their impressions of you.
  24. Greet with a firm handshake, but don't crush hands?
  25. Maintain eye contact. If you're interviewed by a panel, it's natural to mainly address the person asking a question. Having said that, if you're interviewed by more than one person, remember to also include the other interviewers in your responses to questions.
  26. Sit proudly in your chair and try not to slouch
  27. Interviewers often look at body language. If you find that you're folding your arms across your body, gently lower them and sit on your hands if necessary?
  28. Mention interviewer's name/s a couple of times during the interview
  29. You're likely to be a bit nervous and indeed it's healthy to be a little nervous. We've found that candidates who mentally 'put their feet up on the desk' almost never get the jobs they were so confident about in interview. The biggest thing that you need to do is LISTEN. As you will be so well prepared for your interview, you'll want to jump in with your well prepared answer. Beware - sometimes people don't allow the interviewer to complete question before answering only to find that they've jumped in and answered the wrong question. Patience - you'll have a chance to weave your spells?
  30. Whilst your preparation will allow you to ace your interview, let your answers come out as though they're spontaneous and not rehearsed.
  31. You'll only have an hour at most in the majority of interviews. You therefore will need to prepare to give a good summary of both yourself and your skills. Mentally prepare answers to likely questions. As you have a limited amount of time, mentally role play your answers to the interviewer's likely questions. THE KEY HERE IS NOT TO ANSWER IN ONE WORD ANSWERS, BUT TO BE CONCISE AND NOT TO BE LONG WINDED.
  32. Most of our clients will ask Targeted selection questions. Some that you can prepare answers for are:-
    • Have you ever experienced problems with a colleague? What were the circumstances? How did you handle it?
    • Have you ever experienced problems with an unreasonable client? What were the circumstances? How did you handle it?
  33. Whilst we certainly don't expect you to tell any untruths, the interview situation is an absolute opportunity to sell yourself. Without being cocky, go ahead and quietly SELL YOURSELF.
  34. Of course, you should prepare yourself for the standard interview questions like:-
    • What are your strengths
    • What are your weakness - this may need to be run by your Consultant
    • Where do you see yourself five years from now
  35. HAVE TECHNICAL QUESTIONS PREPARED AS WELL. These questions could be about key performance areas of the function that you're interviewing for e.g. book value, etc.
  36. Also pose questions about their company, but take care not to pose silly questions about leave, working hours, etc.?
  37. A question that is sometimes valuable to ask interviewers, is why this position has become available
  38. An easy way to prepare for an interview is to imagine that you were the interviewer and interviewing for a person in your job category. What questions would you ask to establish whether that person is good or not? Prepare responses to those questions. Take the questions that you've prepared into your interview with you - there is nothing worse than riding away from an interview and then remembering questions you should have asked.
  39. Remember to also focus on your achievements - THE QUALITIES THAT YOU DISPLAY AND HAVE DISPLAYED IN BEING AN ACHIEVER AND IN MAKING A DIFFERENCE TO YOUR COMPANY. Whilst those qualities are really important, the interviewer is really going to want to know what DIFFERENCE YOUR QUALITIES HAVE MADE TO YOUR COMPANY AND PAST COMPANIES AND EMPLOYERS. Demonstrate to future employers WHAT DIFFERENCE YOU WILL MAKE TO THEIR DEPARTMENT AND TO THEIR COMPANY. This is one of the most important areas. It defines what separates you from the crowd. Give good thought as to how your past achievements and qualities can be applied to your new role.
  40. It's always a very good idea to role play your responses to questions with your Consultant. They're professionals in their field and have the experience to tell you whether your delivery will make sense to our clients. It's a great service that you should really leverage prior to your interview!
  41. It's considered bad interview etiquette to talk money, so try not to. If however, you really get pushed to do so, then you'll have to, but try very hard not to. There is only one acceptable reply to their compensation question. What you should say is, "(Name), I am here because I believe there is an opportunity for me with your company. I will consider your strongest offer."
  42. It's a good idea to ask you Consultant to critically review your CV and address any potential problem areas that may arise in your interview. It's part of your preparation and Consultants have sage advice on how to answer awkward questions on uncomfortable areas such as' "why do you hop jobs so often?"
  43. Phone your consultant when you leave your interview. Human nature is that if they don't hear from you within 45 minutes they'll think that you're not keen and will push the other candidates
  44. Please feel free to consult with your Consultant at Arrow Executive Search. After all they are Consultants by definition and have a vested interest in you putting your best foot forward.
  45. We don't know if this is the right opportunity for you. Bear in mind though that since we were established in 1984, our experience at Arrow Executive Search is that we have found that the individual that is most successful in life is not necessarily the most intelligent nor the one that works the hardest. Although of course working hard and being smart never harmed anyone. Has that also been your experience? Our experience has been that often the individual who gets ahead in life is generally one who takes the right opportunity at the right time. You'll have to decide whether this opportunity is right for you.
  46. Whilst we definitely want you to be well prepared, we also want you to get a good night's sleep.
  47. You should be a little nervous in an interview sometimes candidates have even said they were so nervous driving to the interview that they didn't want to go, but then enjoyed the interview. So above all, enjoy the interview!

Interview - Check List

Objective: Your main focus of the interview is to explain how your background qualifies you to do the job.

So you need to concentrate on how you can match your past experiences to the position's requirements. It's important that you use a spread of examples when talking about your past experiences.

Just to quickly review a couple of do's and don'ts in the interview situation:

Very Important: If you are unable to attend the interview: i.e. an emergency or problem has arisen on the day of the interview: first try to notify your consultant at Arrow Executive Search on (011) 883 7117: if you cannot reach your consultant, leave a message for him/her and also immediately notify the company that you have a problem and will be late, cannot make it, etc

  1. Remember to have your cell phone switched off.
  2. Answer questions with more than a 'yes' or a 'no' - use examples and explain wherever possible
  3. If there is something you disagree with strongly in the interview - hold it back until you talk to me after the interview.
  4. Never criticise past or present employers, the company or the employees.
  5. When asked about your reasons for leaving, it is very important never to blame, criticise or say 'promises weren't kept'. Companies want to hear 'better prospects, better challenges - be prepared to explain what you understand or mean by 'challenges' - like further develop my skills.
  6. When asked the question - where do you see yourself in 5 year's time, be aware to answer in a way to describe advancement and returning with a question - 'what would my career prospects be with your company in 5 year's time? There have been interview blunders with the '5 year question': it is not a trick question and there have been situations where candidates have tried to be clever and answered with 'I hope to be in your position' - a definite no-no!
  7. Be very aware of giving a personal characteristic as weakness - rather make it work related.
  8. If your are also asked to list your strengths or positive characteristics, it is important to show how this strength will compliment or benefit the work you do or the company you will work for.
  9. Salary - remember that this is an area where if you mention an expectation you can blow yourself right out the process (where you may very well be open to a lower figure) - or you may undersell yourself hence lose out on a possibly higher package if the client was in a certain package range. The best way to answer: 'So, what are you looking for?':
    'My current package is X and I get (discuss benefits, commissions, raise - when - from what we have discussed, this opportunity is really something I see as challenging (explain with a few substantiations) : I am certain that your organisation would make me an offer which is fair and market -related, in which case I would be very keen to consider this.'
  10. During the interview - don't smoke, eat or chew gum - even if invited to do so.

When the interview is over: if you are keen on the position, indicate this to the client. Say what you like about the position and ask: 'do you have any questions about me being able to do this job?' I'm very interested in the position and your company and I'm confident that I can do the job. At the end of the interview you can also ask - 'where do we go from here?'.

Dress: Conservatively is safest, otherwise your Consultant will brief you on appropriate attire.

Call your consultant at Arrow Executive Search as soon as your interview is over - it is important that you call us first before the client calls us.

Preparing for your Interview

The key to winning at any interview, is being prepared. If you are prepared, you will be more confident, and in turn, "sell" yourself better, and make a greater overall impression.

  • It is a good idea to do your own research before an interview, for example company website or newspaper clippings. Often, the first question you are asked is "What do you know about ABC Company".
  • After being briefed by your consultant on the job requirements, prepare yourself well by thinking of your previous experience, and how it is relevant to the clients' requirements. Think of examples from your present or previous employers, where you have been exposed to similar situations, how you have handled them, and what the results were. (Past examples help future employees quantify the value you could add to their organisation.)
  • Prepare a list of questions about the company and the position. A few examples of questions you could ask are:
    • The company's growth over the last 5 years and forecasts for future growth
    • The stability of the industry
    • Who their main competitors are
    • Why the position is available
    • Where this position could lead to i.e. growth prospects
    • Who would you be interacting with in the position, i.e. external / internal
    • What technologies and systems the company uses
    • Company structure and management style
  • During the meeting, discuss the job content, but do not initiate remuneration-related discussions.
  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer, and if you are being interviewed by a panel, talk to all of them, not just one of them.
  • Remember to be positive throughout the meeting. Don't become negative about previous employers, especially when it comes to reasons for leaving.
  • Keep your personality and smile.

Bear the following in mind for your interview.

  • Remember to switch your cell phone off.
  • A firm handshake makes a very good first impression
  • Rather overdress than underdress for an interview. Remember that first impressions last, and even if you are visiting a technical environment, you should look smart and conservative for that first meeting.
  • Indicate your interest in the position throughout the meeting. Be enthusiastic and excited. If you are not interested in the position, keep your enthusiasm. There might be other positions the company would like to consider you for.
  • Always reference your ability to do the job they are looking to fill, with past examples of your competency.

Interview Essentials

Sell It to Me, Don't Tell It to Me
Interviews are the time to sell what you have accomplished, not simply to tell what you've done. For example, if you're asked how many people you managed in your last position, it's tempting to quickly respond, "I had a team of 35." However, a much stronger response is, "My staff at my previous company included 35 professionals and support personnel. Not only was I responsible for managing those individuals, but I also directed all recruitment and hiring activities, set salaries, designed bonus plans, facilitated annual performance review process and projected long-term staffing requirements. What's more, my team increased annual sales by more than 35 percent within just one year."

Turn Every Negative into a Positive
What do you do if your interviewer asks about your experience working with an accounting package. And you have none? Don't simply say you don't know it. Instead. Use related experiences to illustrate you have some relevant knowledge. For example, you could answer, "I have extensive experience on a different package, so I'm sure getting a handle on this one won't take any time at all." Then, even though you've been honest, you've positively positioned yourself and your knowledge.

Big to Little
When someone asks you about your experience with mergers and acquisitions, use the big-to-little strategy to organize your thoughts, respond seamlessly and make it easy for your interviewer to understand your specific experience. Start big, with an overview of your experience in M&A transactions - just a short description of your overall scope and depth of experience. Then, follow up with smaller details - two to four specific achievements, projects or highlights that are directly related. You might talk about your involvement in due diligence, negotiations, transactions or acquisition integration. In essence, you're communicating, "This is what I know, and this is how well I've done it."

Take the Initiative
You're nearing the interview's close, and you had wanted to share your experience in supply chain management. However, the topic was never brought up. It is your responsibility to introduce it into the conversation. You might comment, "Before we end, I'd like to share one more thing with you that I think is important to the position and my fit within your organization." Then proceed with sharing the information. You must take the initiative during an interview to be sure you have communicated all that is of value.

There is no doubt interviewing is a stressful and often difficult situation. However, it's your professional life on the line. Walk into each interview knowing what information you want to communicate. Quietly control the interview to be sure you paint a picture of knowledge and success as you position yourself for an offer.

Tips for the Behavioural Interview

Past behaviour predicts future behaviour

When asked a traditional question like, "What would you do if you had a customer who wasn't interested in buying the product?" you can make up a story. But when you are asked behavioural questions, the interviewer is listening for specific examples of how you have handled situations or problems in the past.

Behavioural questions begin with phrases like, "tell me about a time when," or "can you give me an example of". The interviewer wants to hear your real-life examples. When an interviewer asks such questions, he or she is listening for examples of how you handled situations similar to the ones you may handle for this company. This is your chance to talk about your accomplishments. If you can demonstrate, through examples (preferably recent ones), that you've succeeded in certain areas of interest, you will be considered a possible candidate for success in a future position. After all, if you did it somewhere else yesterday, you can do it for this company tomorrow.

Your success stories should include the situation, the action you took and the results. Here is an example if you were interviewing for a sales position:

  • The Situation:
    I had a customer who did not want to hear about the features of our products because of a prior interaction with my company.
  • The Action:
    I listened to her story and made sure I heard her complaint. I then explained how I would have handled the situation differently and how we can offer her better service. I showed her some facts that changed her mind about dealing with the company again.
  • The Result:
    She not only placed a large order with us, but complimented how we handled her account. She is now one of our best customers.

You can prepare for this type of interview by thinking through your examples before the interview. Determine what examples you have that would be appropriate for the position based on its job description. If the job requires dependability, think about a time when your dependability was recognised or made a difference with a customer.

You can use the stories you prepare even when the interviewer does not ask behavioural questions. If you are asked a traditional question, use your prepared example and preface it with, "I can give you an example of a time when I used that skill on a previous job."

By preparing for the interview ahead of time and recalling your past successes, you will be able to have examples in mind and will not be caught off guard. There is no way you can predict what the interviewer is going to ask you, but you can prepare what you want him or her to know about your past as a predictor of your future performance.

Career Management

Professionals can no longer solely rely on their qualifications to secure appropriate career opportunities. It is important to think about short, medium and long term career goals. Ideally, career management should start prior to completion of your qualification.

To help one understand where one's career is heading and where to start, it is important to identify your interest in specific market sectors: manufacturing, FMCG, services, banking, IT or retail. Also assess exactly what is important within the organisation: culture, size, location, opportunities, people, work ethic, product / services. It is vital to work in an environment that suits your specific personality and allows you to develop and self-express in line with your own potential and aspirations.

Once you have established the specific industry of interest and the type of company you would like to be associated with, you have to establish a partnership with a highly reputable consultancy, such as ARROW EXECUTIVE SEARCH, that can find the ideal opportunity in relation to your specific needs and requirements. A confidential relationship between yourself and your consultant will be entered into.

Business is becoming more and more complicated and demanding, therefore it is vital to do a regular self assessment in assisting you to evaluate your competence in: technical skills, man-management, ability to meet deadlines, presentation, decision making, leadership, negotiation and interpersonal skills. These qualities will be based on the amount of relevant exposure you have had. A continuous update and improvement on your technical ability will without a doubt add value to you as an individual as well as to the company. Successful consolidation of your career will require these coupled with practical experience.

The downside of any career these days is that no one is prepared for unemployment, retrenchment or redundancy. Understand that there is no longer a stigma to the above. Retrenchment is seldom related to work performance. So, drive your career like you own it; focus on your achievements and strengths. Stay positive and understand that finding the right career might be time-consuming.

After consultation with your consultant, an in-depth understanding of your personal requirements will be established. Only those opportunities that meet your requirements will be presented to you.

Due to our "skills-short" marketplace, we have found that more and more candidates are being counter-offered by their current employers. While at the point of receiving the counteroffer it may seem flattering and attractive, many candidates have come back to us within a few months, with regret at missing out on a great opportunity as a result of a making the wrong decision.