Interview Preparation

The interview remains the cornerstone of the recruitment process and can be the most demanding 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 minutes of the interview can be crucial and adequate preparation can ensure you get the interview off to a good start. 


Visiting the company website of the organisation you will be interviewed by is a good starting point in your research. Sites will provide a company history, product description and detail the activities of the business. Details of products supplied or manufactured will give you a good indication of issues such as the production process, potential challenges, and 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 and readily available. You may know someone who has/does work there. If so, give them a call as you can gain the 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, visit the Companies House website where you can access company information such as Company Directors and Latest End of Year Financial Accounts, all free of charge. Quoting financial facts taken from the End of Year Accounts can sound quite impressive at interview and shows you are commercially astute. Being able to quote information such as the past 3 years turnover and profit will demonstrate that you have done your homework prior to the interview 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 you are professional and organised, your research will allow you to make an informed decision as to whether the company is right for you. Try and find information about the person/s who will be interviewing you. View their LinkedIn profile, as the Food sector can be a small world 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?, where have they worked in the past?, what type of positions have they held?, what type of people have they recruited in the past?

This information will help you start to understand the company culture and provide insight into the Interviewer, their objectives and priorities, which may give you an indication of the type of interview questions they may ask. 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 the 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 offer up further detail until you sense the interviewer is satisfied with your answer.

If you are being interviewed by someone with a similar background as yourself, they will be able to relate to specific work-based examples used to emphasise your point. Whereas, if you are being interviewed by an individual who doesn't have your technical knowledge you may need to dumb down your answers to questions. Whoever is interviewing you, be open and honest with the interviewer, this is crucial in establishing trust and rapport.

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 your previous roles. One technique used by interviewers is to pick through a 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 how you saved your 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 a task you completed. This will increase your credibility and ensure you are 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 to 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 informal, 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 but 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 you learn more about the role/company you may change your mind and decide you do want the job 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.

When the interview reaches its conclusion ask the interviewer if there are any point’s they wish you to clarify, or do they have any reservations regarding your application. If the interviewer voices any concerns this is your opportunity to respond to 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, although, keep any email brief and business like.


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