The 80/20 Rule of Preparing for an Interview

It is quite common for most candidates, especially executives to get it all wrong.

In engaging in conversations with executives about interviews, we often ask them how much time they spend preparing for an interview. They often say 10 hours, sometimes even more! When asked what tasks or activities they spend their time on as part of this preparation, the answers are almost always exactly the same. Most candidates spend almost all of their time reviewing the website and in particular, the company’s strategic plan, key people, contracts, customers or clients. They even go as far as to meet with people who currently work there or people who have left to get an insight into the organisation. Now we’re not suggesting this research is a waste of time, quite the contrary, but we do suggest that in addition to your research, you need to spend time preparing yourself for the interview.

Let us explain.

Most questions that Hiring Managers and HR Professionals ask at interviews are focused on understanding the shortlisted candidate’s previous experiences and how they might be relevant to the role they’re trying to recruit for. They are trying to assess your technical skills, your cultural fit and your ability to work within the team and a broader business. The want to know about your values and what you are passionate about. They want to ensure you’ll make them look good because they are putting their own reputation on the line by hiring you. So, let’s be honest, most of the interview questions they are asking are all about YOU. What you’ve done, why you’ve done it and gauging what strengths you could bring to their business?

There will likely always be mandatory questions such as “What do you know about us?” or “What do you think about our new strategy on XYZ”. And yes, the answers to these questions require you to do your research, but you need to do far more than dwell strictly on the business itself.

Firstly, with your research you need to think about what you are reviewing. What does it mean to YOU? How do YOU feel about it? What skills and experiences do YOU have in reference to what you are researching? Always make sure to overlay YOURSELF in your research.

Next, you need to spend up to 80% of your preparation time perfecting your own interview responses.

After reviewing the advertisement and position description you could take an educated guess as to the questions the hiring manager will ask. As a result, you should prepare real answers using real examples and you need to practice these answers. In order to put your best foot forward, you need to be confident you can answer almost any question that comes your way, and to do that you need to spend time thinking and practicing responses that highlight your greatest achievements. You need to be able to “think on your feet”, and therefore preparing in this manner will give you the best possible chance to excel at the interview stage.

Whilst we can’t guarantee that you will get every job you apply for, with this type of preparation, it will give you the confidence to perform your best and prepare you to the point of significantly improving your performance during your interview.

A commonality amongst most executive candidates looking for their career is that they are often time poor and unknowingly struggle through the recruitment process. Often, they struggle most during the interview stage. Unlike junior candidates, most executives haven’t been to as many job interviews, or applied for as many roles, and as a result, they are not experienced enough to know what the Hiring Manager is looking for.

If you feel that you could benefit from some candidate coaching or interview preparation, please get in touch with the Perks People Solutions team on 08 8273 9273 or