Interview Preparation by Caroline Vooght at Expion
Caroline is an experienced recruiter for the Food/FMCG industry. With over 20 years’ experience, she’s seen her fair share of CVs and is able to advise on what clients and hiring manager are looking for. As part of the Expion Search and Selection team, she offers recruitment and support for both clients and candidates and this is the second in a series of articles offering insight to the YFJ audience.
Interviews are a necessity for most roles, and those for the food industry will normally involve a visit to the company premises or manufacturing site, at some point.
But how to prepare yourself for the interview?
Firstly, make sure the interviewer has the most recent version of your CV. If you’ve tweaked or enhanced your CV since you applied, send across the latest version to the hiring manager, or to your recruiter who will make sure it arrives in the right hands.
Now onto research. This area is important and will pay dividends if you spend some time researching the business thoroughly. Look at the website, LinkedIn, social media and research your interviewer. Look for company reviews on places such as Glassdoor to gather some insight into other people’s experience of the business.
Buy the products. It sounds obvious but this is easy to do when you’re in Food or FMCG. Eat at a restaurant the business supplies. Consider who supplies the business with ingredients, packaging etc. Can you gather additional insight? How are their competitors positioned?
Do you know someone who has previously worked there? Can you gather any insight from colleagues or friends? Perhaps they also have a You Tube channel to showcase who they are and what sort of a business they are?
Check out the news. Have the recently won any awards as a business or for the products they make? Are they in any partnerships that could be significant?
Quiz your recruiter. They should offer plenty of guidance and support but lean on them if you need to. They often have insight into what the hiring manager is looking for and the feedback from others who have been out for interview before you.
And finally, research yourself. Check out your digital footprint and make sure there’s nothing ‘out there’ you wouldn’t want a future employer to read.
Dress to impress
Whether you’re on a screen or face to face, you should always look the part. If you’re at home or in a meeting room, make sure you won’t be disturbed, and you can focus (so move your phone away as well). Be guided by the business on dress code, and if in doubt, suits still count and ensure you show intent when you’re in the building, or on screen.
If you’re travelling, it’s obvious to allow plenty of time but be prepared with relevant phone numbers in case something happens, so you can advise ahead if there’s been an issue.
If a factory tour is likely, go prepared. Dress accordingly, and watch any piercings, nail varnish and apply makeup as though you might have to go in to the factory (BBC’s ‘In The Factory’ programme recently came under fire for presenters being overly ‘made up’ when on the shop floor’). Most businesses will plan for this of course and let you know in advance, but hiring managers might feel a spur of the moment walk around more productive.
Tell us about yourself…
This question is a tummy turner. What to say?
You can tackle this in 2 ways. Firstly, think about the personal statement on your CV. That should tell the interviewer who you are, what you offer and what you are looking for. Don’t regurgitate this, but build on it and add some personality, and relate this to the role.
Next think about what your common strand is in your CV. What’s been something you’ve consistently excelled at, and this role will allow you to showcase? Make sure you factor this into the answer.
And don’t forget to mention something outside work as well. Do you fundraise, train regularly, or volunteer? Could this relate to the role, the business or the environment? Add this in at the end to make you sound more ‘you’.
But here’s the watch out – don’t waffle! Easily done.
Tell me about a time when…
We all love a good competency question. But whether your interview is competency based or biographical and running through your CV, use the STAR framework to articulate your answer.
Giving some thought to this prior to interview is vital. Go through the job description and read carefully everything the role includes and what the business is looking for in a candidate. Now, think through where you can demonstrate you’ve done this.
Describe your answers as follows:
- The Situation – always explain which business you were working for, in which role and the circumstances.
- The Task required as a result. What did you/the team need to do?
- The Action you took. What you actually did. Focus on the question and how you are demonstrating your skills and experience.
- The Result of that action. What were the tangible benefits to the business/situation/individual/team
Always make sure you have a couple of answers prepared for each scenario you may be asked about.
What would you like to ask us?
It’s normal that at the start of the interview, the interviewer will give some information on the business and the role. If not, they should certainly do this at the end. You need to make sure you have some questions they won’t have already answered.
Some tips that we find work well is to ask them to explain what you’ll be doing over the first few months. Who will you be working with and what will you be focusing on? And if you’re feeling brave, ask what the most important thing is you can do for them if you were appointed into the role.
These questions really get to the crux of what the role involves and where you’ll need to deliver. And of course, gives you chance to reiterate your skills and experience in those areas.
Yes, you may find yourself back at home with a cup of tea, replaying the interview in your head, and you’ll no doubt have spoken to your recruiter if your interview was arranged through a third party. But it’s also worth jotting down some notes.
What was asked? Did you answer everything well, and could you have done better? Most people think they’ll remember (but often they don’t) so taking 5 minutes now may help in the future, and certainly if you are asked for a second stage. You’ll need some different examples if you meet the same people again.
Say thank you. It’s old-fashioned perhaps but it’s a way to stand out, show intent, and be able to send across a link to anything you referred to in the interview. That could be a copy of a presentation, an article online involving you, or something relevant to your discussion, if appropriate.
Sounds obvious but it’s important. Someone might have come back to you but you missed the call/email. Don’t let a business you’re interested in assume you might not wish to progress.
And ask for feedback. Don’t be shy and don’t just accept ‘the other candidate was better’. What did you do well and what could you improve on? That’s the very minimum you should receive and use the feedback for future interviews.
Good Luck! If there’s any additional questions or support you need, then please just contact me.