Preparing for an Interview

Preliminary Interviews

If you do make it through to the preliminary (or ‘longlist’) interview stage of a role that GatenbySanderson are managing, this is your chance to show that you meet the necessary criteria and are the right person for the role.

These interviews would usually be held at a GatenbySanderson office in London, Leeds or Birmingham, and will be with a GatenbySanderson Senior Consultant or Partner. GS may also use an external ‘technical assessor’ with relevant senior experience, who will ask specific questions based around the criteria as well as the issues and challenges the postholder will face. The role of the interviewers is to report back to the client with a written report on each candidate and a recommendation regarding whether they should be taken through to a final stage.

In advance

  • Be sure to really prepare by investigating everything about the post and the organisation. Occasionally candidates say that they were going to do research IF they get through to a final panel, and hence seem ill-informed at longlist. Our advice is to do the research in advance of the longlist interview.
  • It should be explained in a confirmation email or phone call, but if you are unsure please do check in advance about the format the interview will take. This should help prevent any unexpected surprises on the day.
  • Try to second guess the questions you may be asked.
  • If there is a technical assessor used, find out who they are and what their background is.
  • Do dress appropriately – it may be a preliminary interview but that does not mean it is informal!
  • Work out your transport well in advance; the GatenbySanderson offices are near mainline stations, so we recommend the train (parking is tricky to find at times!).

During the interview

  • There may not be much time for chit chat at the beginning of the interview, and you may be plunged straight into the interview. Often, candidates are asked to talk about their careers at the start of the interview. Keep this focused and relevant.
  • If the interviewer asks you to ‘briefly’ or ‘succinctly’ answer a question, please try to do so!  They may be dropping a hint about the length of your answers!
  • Watch your ‘body language’. So, maintain eye contact, don’t slump in your seat, engage with the interviewers, etc.
  • For your answers, offer examples of what you have achieved. Don’t purely answer in an overly strategic or theoretical way. We want to know you understand the bigger picture, but you also need to back this up with evidence of delivery or outcomes.
  • Your motivations for an application will be explored, and it is advisable to offer a bit more than ‘I fancied a change’.
  • There should be the time to raise question of your own at the end. Do so if there is something relevant you want to ask – don’t ask questions for the sake of it.
  • The consultant should let you know about the next steps and dates in the process, but do check if there is anything you are unsure about and let them know about any practical issues (ie dates clashing, holidays, etc).

After the interview

  • You will be informed by the lead consultant in due course regarding whether you have got through to the next stage. This may be a week or two after your interview, as GatenbySanderson will of course need to confer with the client before drawing up the shortlist.
  • You should get feedback (if you want it) after the interview. Do check how this will be organised; you may have to book space in the lead consultant’s diary. Feedback is a key part of the process – and you can gain a huge amount of information which will stand you in good stead.

Final Panel Interviews

Once you have been told you are attending a final interview process (often called a ‘final panel’ process), there are various things to think about and be aware of.

Do get feedback from the lead consultant about your longlist interview, and also use them to gain insights into the client and the issues.

Do some additional research – talk to contacts who may know the client; find out who you are meeting (see below).

Do gain a good understanding of what to expect at final panel. This can vary hugely between clients and sectors, but by and large you may be asked to do some or all of the following:

  • Additional psychometric or ability tests (ie personality profiles, numerical or verbal reasoning tests, in tray exercises, leadership judgement indicators, etc.). These can often be done ‘on line’ in advance.
  • Meeting the Chair, Chief Executive or other colleagues in a ‘one to one’.
  • Meeting external partners or stakeholders.
  • ‘Informal’ lunch or dinner with colleagues and/or partners.
  • A presentation – the topic is usually but not always given to you well in advance. However, sometimes you have a short amount of time to prepare.
  • Final panel interview with an appointment committee.

A final panel process for senior roles can often be spread over two days, with panels and meetings on day one, followed by the formal and final interview on day two. Occasionally, there will be a cut off at the end of day one, and not all candidates will go through to the second day.

It is a two way process, so do try to find out more about the role and the organisation. Ask the right questions (but don’t ask questions for the sake of it, particularly at the end of a long interview).

The organisation will be keen to test your understanding of them, plus your ‘fit’ with them – so be prepared to explore issues of culture, motivations, etc.

Keep up your energy and focus, particularly during a long day with numerous panels or meetings!

Be aware that you are always ‘on show’, even during a lunch which seems informal.

For final interview, find out who is on the panel, and ideally find out how long the interview is and how many questions you are due to be asked. (This will help you get a sense of how long your answers should be.) Ask if the panel members are likely to ask ‘follow ups’, or whether you get one shot at the answer.

A GatenbySanderson consultant may or may not be present during a final process. If they are there, use them for on-going feedback and information.

To refer someone else to this Programme, please click here.