Polish you shoes, turn up on time. This could be considered good advice for preparing for an important interview, but what do you do if you really want that job? If you are serious then you need to prepare.
Research the company or organisation, study their website. Who is the CEO? What are their key activities, major divisions, key products and services? Who are their competitors and what is their standing in the market?
And don't stop there, use a search engine and check out any and all information about the organisation. What about the press? Any news of mergers and acquisitions? New products or services? What is the current share price? When the interviewer asks "What do you know about our business?", you can use this information to dazzling effect.
But there's more. What is the name of the interviewer? Chances are, if you check on a search engine you might be able to find the name; many executives have their profiles or even CVs on the company website. They may have given an interview to the press or spoken at public conferences.
Find out everything you can about the person you are going to meet. Why? Well firstly you might have quite a lot in common: you might have worked for the same company in the past, or worked with the same people.
But more importantly, the profile gives you an insight into the interviewer's professional competence. Do they come from a strongly technical or management background?
Check with your recruitment consultant for any further information. They have probably met or at least spoken to the interviewer, and might be able to give you an insight into the likely line of questioning.
What kind of interview will it be? Formal or informal? Is there something in particular that the company is focusing on? Will it be a technical interview or will they concentrate on softer skills such as strong communication, team building or leadership skills. Might they ask for particular examples of your work experience?
Typically, interviewers these days, like to ask "critical incident" questions - ie. "Tell me about a time when a project was running late or over budget. What did you do to bring it back on track?" Make sure you have well thought out examples of what you have done.
Have you thought about how you will answer interview questions? I recommend using the Star technique - situation, task, action, result.
This is a useful technique to answer any interview question: explain the situation/context, outline the task required, describe the action you took (not the team) and describe the result. This approach does work.
Finally read and re-read the job specification. It was probably written or at least approved by the person who is going to interview you. Sit down and match your skills and experience against each and every requirement in the job specification.
Do you really need to prepare this much for every interview? If you really want the job, yes you do! You can be sure that the best candidates will be doing just this.
Jeremy I'Anson is principal consultant IT - senior appointments at Hudson
This was first published in March 2006