We asked an expert what you should do to nail a management interview

If you’re lying, they’ll be able to tell


Interviews can be scary and difficult affairs. You go in blind, probably panicked and sweaty, and confused. When in doubt though, the best thing to do is turn to the experts. I spoke to a director at BT, Richard Cooper, who has been trained in interviewing and asked about what he looks for in a winning candidate.

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How should someone prepare for a management interview?

The first thing is to compare your capabilities to the advertised capabilities, so for example it will ask for report writing, presentation and analytical skills and specific requirements, then think very carefully about these things and examples where you have demonstrated these capabilities. The second thing to do is to research the company or department and find out as much as you can about them before you go into the interview. So for example if it’s a big company on their corporate homepage they’ll have their corporate accounts on their investor relations page – read that, even if it is just the executive summary, so you get an idea of their corporate strategy and plans.

If you know the interviewer’s name, try and find out a bit about them – work experience, work history, area of expertise, so you can understand the person asking the questions. Last bit, make sure you know how to get to the interview, and allow plenty of time for contingency. Also a lot of companies now do psychometric testing as part of the process, if that is the case, practice psychometric tests as this will greatly improve your performance on the day. Just Google it.

How would someone make a good first impression on you as an interviewer?

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Arrive on time. To the minute. Allow time for security or reception to process you and for you to get to the room. Dress code: appropriate for the interview. If it’s a job at McDonalds t-shirt and jeans will suffice. If it’s professional, a suit is expected, men and women. If you have tattoos or piercings, cover them up or take them out. Remember, most interviewers are conservative. If you were going to have major surgery and the surgeon appeared with a bolt through his nose and a tattoo on his forehead, would that be what you were expecting? As you are introduced to the interviewers make sure you remember their names and shake them firmly by the hand, making eye contact with each one.

Would you say there are any big ‘don’ts’ that can put you off someone during the interview?

Don’t lie. Most trained interviewers can quite easily tell if someone isn’t telling the truth. Answer the questions succinctly but with enough detail to prove what you did, thinking back to your prepared examples. Avoid using the word ‘we’ when answering, the interviewer wants to know what you did, not other people. Most interviewees tend to use the term ‘we’ far too much. “We did this” or “we wrote that”. If you hear yourself saying that, change it to I. Try to focus on your role and your contribution.

What should you do during the interview?

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Keep eye contact with the person that asks the question but also look at any other interviewers in the room as you answer, even if they are just taking notes. Feel free to ask your own questions to clarify questions they might ask. Towards the end of the interview, the interviewers will typically ask if you have any questions. It is fine to say no, and don’t ask a question just for the sake of it. You won’t have to ask silly questions like “what is your policy for people that take a lot of sick leave?”

And at the end of the interview thank the interviewers for their time, remembering to call them by their name. An obvious last question as you leave the room is when will you find out if you’ve been successful and if you could possibly get feedback on your interview performance. Also if you really want the job at the end of the interview, tell them that. Interviewers like to get keen candidates.