How to maximise your chances of succeeding at interview - The inside job

By Oliver Sylvester-Bradley on 5 Mar 2015 - 15:21

Landing an interview is hard work and when the moment comes you need to be fully prepared. Interview competition is always tough and you need to have every trick in the book stuffed up your sleeve to maximise your chances of success.

So, how can you avoid being beaten to a new role, especially if you're up against a mate of the boss in the age old "jobs for the boys" routine?

In truth it's never easy but if you've got an interview you've got your foot in the door and, with a little research and networking magic, you'll be perfect placed to swing things in your favour.

Here's our top three interview-clinching techniques you can use to inform yourself and impress your prospective employer.

1. Speak to the person who has, or had, the role you're applying for:

This is a super powerful tip; pick up the phone. It sounds simple but if you can muster the chutzpah it will pay off in dividends in an interview. It's normally not very hard to find out who had the role you are applying for before you. Read the "Team" page on the company's web site, search about on LinkedIn and Google the names of past employees to find someone who has, or used to have, the role you're applying for. Then call them via their work switchboard and ask them straight: "Can you give me some advice to help me get the job?" We've used this technique, and know others have used it too, and it has only ever delivered a positive result. When you drop into the interview conversation that you were speaking to Mr X or Miss Y last week and they said "(whatever they said!)" you can be guaranteed the interviewer will take note. If they don't ask you outright how you know the old employee (which is the perfect question, since your honest answer "I phoned them up!" will prove how determined and resourceful you are) they will definitely take note and you will have scored a bonus point.

2. Make a contact within the company to find out the inside track:

It always helps to know someone who works where you want to work so you can find out some home-truths about the company and, even if you don't, it's often not hard to make a new contact. You can do this in a number of ways, from LinkedIn to cold calling, posing as a customer, or accidentally bumping into people at events. It might sound like a tall order to get to know a senior manager but it's not hard to find out who works somewhere. Once you know who it would be useful to speak to, work your network to get an introduction and if all else fails pick up the phone and call them directly. We have never heard of an attempt to make a friend inside a target company (which was executed with suitable skill - on the phone not by email) hindering an application. For example, if you've got the gall to ask the Sales Manager what she'd like to see the new Marketing Manager do, anything they can tell you will be useful ammunition for your Marketing Manager interview.

3. Find out something about your interviewer or prospective boss:

You shouldn't kick off an interview by blurting out "I play golf too!", even if your interviewer is a semi-pro, because you might just come across like a stalker! But suppose you find out that your interviewer lectured, or studied at college you know, or that they have written a book or paper you know about, you've got an ace little ice-breaker up your sleeve. Hold on to this card, wait for the perfect time to play it, and don't play it at all unless the timing's right. If there's a lull in the interview proceedings, or an awkward moment in the lift on the way out, be ready to deploy this trump card. A well timed, and relevant, casual conversation piece might just provide the proof your interviewer needs to persuade their boss you're a good fit for the team. Anyone who has written a book, or even an article or paper will be pleased to hear that you've read it, and if it helps you score a 'personable' point it's got to be worth an hours research and reading.

Interviews are tough, there's no doubt about that. If you really want to succeed you need to work every angle, be bold and create your own luck.