Interview Advice

The interview remains the cornerstone of the recruitment process and can be the most traumatic part. A well-crafted CV can often get you an interview, but once the interview is confirmed the onus is very much on the candidate to perform well and be fully prepared. Adequate interview preparation will provide confidence and assist in giving a good impression. The first few seconds can be the most crucial point of the interview, and interviewers often (subconsciously) decide within 2 minutes whether you will get the job.

There is a variety of ways to research client organisations and a good starting point is the company website. Most sites provide a company history and describe the products and activities of the business. The products manufactured will give you a good indication of the production process, type of issues the business faces and the type of customers (multiple retailers, wholesalers, foodservice). If the company website has limited information, call and request a brochure or corporate information. For Plc's information is generally plentiful. You may know someone who has/does work there. If so, give them a call as you can gain an inside track into the business and possibly learn more about the person/s who will be interviewing you.

To find financial information on the company you have an interview with, visit the Companies House website where you can access company information for no more than £1 per document, with some information available for free. Documents available to instantly download include: End of Year Accounts including balance sheets, director particulars, and shareholder information. Using this financial information at interview can sound quite impressive and shows you are commercially astute. Being able to quote the past 3 years turnover and profit at interview will also demonstrate that you have done your homework and help you stand out from the crowd. 

As part of your preparation try and determine what sort of culture the company has. Remember, as well as showing the employer that you are professional and organised, research will allow you to make a decision as to whether the company is right for you. Try and find information about the person/s who will be interviewing you. Viewing their LinkedIn profile is a good starting point, as the food industry can be a small world and you may find you have worked at the same companies or know some of the same people. Try and find out, how long have they been employed at the company?, how long in their current role?, what is their background?, which companies have they worked for in the past?, what type of positions have they held in the past?, what type of people have they recruited in the past?

This information will help you understand the company culture the interviewer likes to work in, which gives you an insight into their personality. Also, if you have worked for the same company in the past and have mutual contacts this is a good talking point, and helps you build empathy and rapport with the interviewer.

Dressing appropriately for interview is important and this doesn't always mean wearing a business suit. Try and find out what the interviewing company's dress code is in advance, so you arrive for the interview appropriately dressed. If you are travelling to interview straight from work and not wearing a suit, let the employer know in advance as it will be better than having to explain yourself once you arrive on site.

Body language is an important consideration. Speaking clearly, eye contact, smiling, a firm handshake and sitting up straight all sounds like common sense but it is easy to let nerves get the better of you. Leaning slightly forward and mirroring the interviewers body language are techniques that are often used to create the right impression.

The majority of modern interviewing is competency based, with technical questions also used. The interviewer is looking for specific examples of achievements in certain tasks. Prepare for the interview by trying to anticipate the type of questions you may be asked and prepare your answers. When talking about your achievements be clear and precise but cover all the key points. Rely on work based examples to demonstrate your point and back up your response to questions raised. The interviewer will then be able to relate to specific work based examples used to emphasise your point. Be open and honest with the interviewer, this is crucial in establishing trust and rapport.

Do not get drawn into discussing an issue that you cannot substantiate. If you have mentioned a project or particular achievement on your CV, there is a good chance you will be asked to expand on it during the interview. This is a great opportunity to shine, so be prepared, use handouts if you feel they are going to assist in getting your point across. Make sure you know every sentence on your CV and can explain your responsibilities and achievements in all of your previous roles. One technique used by interviewers is to pick through your CV asking ad hock questions, so be prepared for this, and be able to expand upon the information contained in the CV.

Remember, Food Industry businesses are commercial enterprises, so if you can explain details of how you saved your current employer a substantial amount of money, your perceived 'value' will increase. Try and always mention the financial 'payback' enjoyed by the company on projects or work you have completed. This will increase your credibility with the interviewer and ensure you will be viewed as an asset rather than a cost.

Think about your audience. A Human Resources Manager may be more interested in your cultural fit than your technical competency, so lead your answers into demonstrating that the company culture matches your personality. The Head of a functional department may be more interested in your technical competency so adjust your answers accordingly and demonstrate your technical competency with relevant work based examples. Senior candidates are rarely selected on the basis of one interview so prepare thoroughly for follow up interviews. Don't relax too much on a second or even third interview, subsequent interviews may be more relaxed but you are still being assessed.

Ask questions, the interview is a two-way process. Keep your questions relevant to the role and the company and don't ask too many questions at a first interview. Think of several potential questions before the interview, and as some of these may be covered during the interview, you may have three or four questions left to ask at the end of the interview. Remain positive even if you are not sure you want the job. As the interview progresses and the more you get to know about the role/company you may change your mind and decide you do want the position after all. Do not ask about the salary and benefits at a first interview, it looks like you are more interested in the rewards rather than the role. Wait for the interviewer to bring up the subject of salary, unless it has still not been discussed by the end of the second interview.

At the end of the interview ask the interviewer if there are any points they wish you to clarify, or do they have any reservations with regard to your application. If the interviewer voices any concerns this will be your only opportunity to respond to these concerns and put the interviewers mind at rest. Follow up the interview with an email thanking the interviewer for the meeting. You can also use this as an opportunity to emphasise any points you felt you answered poorly during the interview, but keep any email brief and business like.

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