Interview Preparation: The SPREAD Technique

When it comes to an Interview, it is all about first impressions. BInterview Preparationeing prepared is essential to making a good one! You have applied for a position; your skills and experience are coming up as a match to the requirement and subsequently you have been called to interview. Do not do yourself an injustice! Put in the effort and give yourself the best possible chance of being the company’s first choice for the position.  I’ve come up with the SPREAD technique as a guide for interview preparation to assist in having you as prepared as possible to give that best first impression.

SPREAD stands for Scheduling, Prime time, Research, Examples, Appearance and Delivery.

Scheduling

Working with a Recruitment Consultant:   

  • One of the perks of working with a Recruiter is that they will have information about the company and you will get the benefit of this knowledge.
  • Depending on the duration of their relationship, they may have insight on the likes and interview style of the person you will be meeting.
  • Behaviour and conduct insight that your Consultant can provide is highly beneficial. Knowing what the interviewer does not like is just as important as knowing about the competencies and behaviours they are seeking.
  • ALWAYS endeavour to solve any scheduling issues yourself first. You are interested in the position and it is your responsibility to try to accommodate the company, not the other way around. Show initiative and try to find a work around to any conflicts.
  • Address any outstanding issues/concerns you may have at this time with your Consultant. Your Recruiter is always a good sounding board in trying to resolve any obstacles you feel you cannot overcome. As a last resort your Consultant can explain any scheduling situations on your behalf to the company and see if a resolution can be reached.

Independent Application:

  • Someone has contacted you from the company and is looking to schedule a date and time.
  • You need to determine who they are, and what position they have in the company. The same questions and information that you would be looking to get from a recruiter you are going to try to get from your new point of contact.
  •  Just remember that you are speaking directly with the company and first impressions have already commenced. Keep your questions specific to the interview.
  • ALWAYS endeavour to solve any scheduling issues yourself first. You are interested in the position and it is your responsibility to try to accommodate the company, not the other way around. Show initiative and try to find a work around to any conflicts.
  • Contact your point of contact and address any scheduling issues you have.
  • With a valid reason most if not all companies are accommodating.

Below is a list of questions to ask prior to the interview:

Questions to Recruiter & HR/POC: Information on the company

  • Whom will you be meeting (their full name, job title and relationship to the position)?
  • Who should you ask for upon arrival (sometimes not the same person who is interviewing you)?
  • Is there parking or are they located on a public transport route?
  • Is it a competency based interview or technical interview or both?
  • Is it a panel interview or one to one?
  • How many rounds of interviews are expected?
  • What is the estimated duration of the interview?
  • When does the company expect to make a decision or provide feedback?
  • How many candidates are being interviewed?
  • Dress code
  • If at all possible, have your Consultant or POC try to schedule the interview during your Prime Time!

Prime Time

Everyone is different, some people have more energy in the morning and others are more alert in the evening. If you are not sure when your Prime Time is, ask yourself when are you most alert and engaged about your tasks during the day, when is your mind at its clearest and when is it easiest for you to focus?

Being aware of your high-energy periods is advantageous because you can schedule complex tasks accordingly, like your interview, when you are likely to be at your best.

Research

Do your own homework about the company: Look at their website, read the ‘about us’ page, is there anything about them in the news? Any current affairs that are industry related? You don’t need a life history here, but the Who, What, Where, When and Why are the boxes you are looking to tick.  Who they are? What they do? Where they do it? Main competitors etc. are advantageous to know. You could be asked any of this in the interview to see how much you know and your level of interest in the company. Are you just looking at the job or taking the organisation as a whole into consideration?

Find information on their values and statement on culture: Researching the culture and values of the organisation will influence your decision on whether you want to work there.  Really, this should be done at the application stage but is usually overlooked.  Knowing the culture of the company is important. What is described? Does the culture and values align with you personally? Do you feel you would fit in? Would it be a place you would want to work etc.?  These are very important factors that many overlook.  The culture and values are where you will get a feel for the ‘type of person’, and traits the company looks for from employees, it can be a great source for behavioural pointers prior to an interview.  If what is described is not aligning to your key traits, do not be discouraged. However,  it is something to be aware of and over the course of your interview, there may be related areas that you can query to put your mind at ease or help you to make a decision.

Professional Sites: You have been given the names and job titles of the interviewers. It is a good idea to  search for their profiles on LinkedIn. Any information such as, how long they have been in the company, brief role descriptions of what they do or industry connections can be insightful.  Glassdoor is another useful resource for information on companies. The site provides “employee generated content”, anonymous salaries, company reviews, interview questions etc.  All posted by employees, job seekers, and sometimes the companies themselves.

Examples

Aligning your experience to the requirement: Creating a skills matrix is a useful preparation tool that I have my candidates complete prior to an interview or an application. It’s easy to do and will help you to prepare: Create a two column table in a word document. Then write down the list of requirements (from the job specification) in the left column and, finally, outline your competencies and previous work experience that address each item listed into the right hand side column.

These are now your work examples that are specific to the company’s requirements. At all times during the interview you want to stay focused on these areas as it is this relevant career history that is pertinent to the position and of interest to those interviewing you.

Questions: Now that you have conducted your research on the company and prepared your skills matrix, what questions do you have about the organisation and position that have not been addressed from your research (or Recruitment Consultant)?  You will want to prepare these to ask at your interview (usually at the end).  This is your opportunity to really probe the interviewer on various topics that are of interest to you around the position and company.

Think about questions in areas such as working in a team, size of department, reporting structure, hierarchy, culture, and values….etc. Consider having them describe what they expect a typical day would look like in the position, what initial expectations they may have from the candidate and what ideal/specific experience and traits they are looking for from a candidate. Having them describe the latter opens the opportunity for you to redress any areas they have subsequently raised that you may not have already discussed.

Appearance:Job interview comic

Visually, you want them to see you in the position you are interviewing for. Ensure you are ‘suited and booted’ appropriately to reflect the position and company. My advice is to always be in formal business attire unless otherwise advised. (Certain companies might be casual; your research should show this, make sure you know!).

Of course there are exceptions to every rule but be cleanly shaven (men), clean washed hair, neutral nail polish (ladies), do not ‘over kill’ on perfume or aftershave/cologne. Fresh breath (ensure you are not walking in after a bacon sandwich from breakfast or lunch!), clean clothes that have been ironed, make sure they smell fresh not damp/musky and neutral professional makeup ladies.

The more you know about the company and who you are meeting the more prepared you will be and know how to present yourself.

Delivery:

The Night Before: Know what you are going to wear, research how you are going to get there: your mode of transport and route, consider traffic based on the time of day etc., don’t forget to check the weather forecast in case you are walking (in case there is a need for an umbrella). Endeavour to arrive at least 10-15mins in advance of your scheduled interview time.

Being unprepared for simple things like this can fluster and frustrate, and is quite unnecessary.  The more prepared you are the more at ease you will be.

Arriving to the interview: Last but not least, BE PUNCTUAL!!! Know who you are to Be on timeask for upon arrival, introduce yourself, smile and shake hands! If for any reason (and it needs to be an excellent one!), you happen to be running late, ring your Recruitment Consultant or Point of Contact on the way and make them aware as soon as possible so that they can update the appropriate people. It is better to have this explained and expected than just whittling off your excuse as you walk in flustered and them frustrated. People are very understanding as long as you conduct yourself in a professional manner and have a valid explanation.

You now know about the company, who you are meeting, how you are getting there, what you are wearing, have outlined your work experience examples that are relevant to their requirement and have prepared questions on the company and position.

You are prepared and ready….. Take a deep breath, smile and good luck!

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