Renewable Energy Jobs - Interview Guide
Real advice to help you secure get the renewable energy job that you want!
So you have landed an interview for your dream renewable energy job, well done!
The golden rule of being interviewed is be prepared! I know it sounds simple and very obvious but so many job seekers make the mistake of arriving for interviews without preparing properly in advance expecting their past experience to help them walk into the job.
Some useful hints and tips
Do all the research on the company that you can. Spend time going through the company website and if possible ensure you get a copy of their latest published report and accounts (normally these are available to download from a companies’ corporate website).
“What do you know about our company?” is one of the most commonly asked interview questions. If it is on their website, there is no excuse for not knowing about it!
Key facts you must know
Ask the recruiter!
If you are working with an external recruiter ask them for the information! The recruiter should be able to give you all the information you need, ensuring you go into the interview prepared. If there is anything you are not sure about - ask.
Find out about the interview process, company culture, team size, current management, working conditions, and the challenges faced by the manager, team or business for example. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of impressing the interviewer.
First impressions count! Ensure that you are dressed for the job you want, rather than the job you already have. Always overdress rather than risk being underdressed.
Studies show that often the average length of time between a candidate entering the interview room and a decision being made is just under four minutes! After this time, recruiters are often looking for evidence to support the decision that (perhaps subconsciously) they have already made.
Nobody ever lost out on a job for being too well presented, however, if you are not looking your best it may count against you. If you are at all unsure about the dress code ask the recruiter.
I know you’re a professional, you don’t need to be told to arrive on time, but if you have interviewed extensively yourself you’ll know just how many job seekers still arrive late.
Find out where you are going and plan how you are going to get there. If you are unsure of the exact location of the interview print out a map, again often found on the company’s corporate website or available online from one of the many onlie map providers.
Allow plenty of extra time in case of travel delays. If you arrive very early find a nearby café and collect your thoughts and make any final preparations e.g. ensuring you have your mobile phone turned off before you go into the interview etc.
It’s good practice to show up 5-10 minutes early, as this shows you are keen and ensures you don’t hold proceedings up (also remember it can take up to 10 minutes to get signed in as a visitor in some buildings). Try not to arrive more than 10 minutes early as most managers have busy diaries and may be uncomfortable about leaving you waiting for too long.
Okay. Show time!
When you first meet the interviewer, greet him or her with a firm handshake and try to smile. Break the ice by asking them how they are or how their weekend was etc, some interviewers are better than others and making job seekers feel at ease. Don’t wait to be asked a question to demonstrate your ability to communicate and build rapport. If the interviewer doesn’t make small take, take the initiative.
If you are wearing a suit jacket and you wish to remove it, ask the interviewer if they mind before doing so out of courtesy. They will of course say yes, but manners cost nothing.
Sit where the interviewer indicates. If he or she sits down without directing you to a specific seat, take one that is close enough for you to converse comfortably and at a normal volume without being so close you are breathing down their neck and making them uncomfortable whilst they are taking notes.
Take out any papers, notes, questions etc and your pen before the interview starts. This will save you having to look for them later during the interview.
Sit upright looking alert and giving the interviewer your full attention. Leaning back in your chair while twirling your pen will not create the best impression so is best avoided.
What interviewers are looking for
During the interview the interviewer will be trying to answer two fundamental questions:
To help them work this out the interviewer will ask you a number of questions.
These could be ‘biographical’, ‘situational’ or ‘competency’ based interview questions. Before you arrive for the interview you should have an idea of the interview format, if you don’t know ask the recruiter before you arrive.
Can you do the job?
The interviewer will look for objective proof of your ability to perform the tasks associated with the job you've applied for. They will want to hear about any relevant prior experience you might have, backed up by live working examples.
It is no longer enough to demonstrate that you have done something before; you need to explain when and why you did it, what the outcome was and what you learned from the experience. The interviewer will be assessing behaviour as well as experience and skills.
Don’t be afraid to talk about things that did not quite go to plan
It’s fine to give examples of where things did not go to plan, provided you can highlight what you learned from the experience and how you would approach things differently next time. Be prepared to talk openly about areas of weakness as well as strengths, as recognising these are of equal importance.
Are you a good cultural fit for the company?
Cultural fit can be seen to be as important as skills or experience if not more so. The interviewer will be trying to assess how well you might ‘gel’ with the current team and how easily you would adapt to the organisation’s working practices.
Some companies will perform several rounds of interviews across a mix of ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ situations to ensure the 'fit' is right. Later stages of an interview process may be labelled as ‘informal’ or just a chat; however if the person or people you are meeting has a say in who gets hired, these should always also be treated as formal (regardless of how they are described) and you should prepare for these ‘informal’ interviews or chats as you would any other ‘formal’ interview.
Think about how you would like to present yourself. Look for clues on the company’s corporate website, e.g. how does the company want to be viewed in the market place?
Ask the recruiter you are working with for details of the company culture if you are at all unsure.
Are you keen?
Making the wrong hire can prove very costly to any business. There is much more than the direct financial costs associated with recruitment to consider, so the interviewer and hiring manager will want to be sure that you are taking the interview as seriously as they are.
To convince them that you are a serious candidate who wants the job, you will need to make sure you have done your research. Detailed company information can be found in annual reports, company websites, news articles etc. You should also prepare a list of convincing reasons why you think the position and company in question are right for you at this stage in your career (even if you have not quite made up your mind about the role).
If you leave the interviewer with the impression that you are keen they are far more likely to be keen on you. It works!
You may have the opportunity to ask questions as the interview progresses, it is normal interview practice for the interviewer to give the job seeker the opportunity to ask questions for the last part of the interview.
Asking insightful, well thought out pre-prepared questions when given the opportunity is as important as any of the answers you will have already given during the interview, this is well worth remembering.
Not having pre-prepared questions or squirming uncomfortably as you try to think up a list of intelligent questions on the spot will make you look badly prepared and disorganised.
Spend time before the interview reviewing the job profile and review any notes you have taken during any briefing discussions with the recruiter before the interview. Pick out anything about the role, team or company you are unsure about.
When going through the corporate website, note down any questions that are not answered by the information available.
Whatever you do – ask questions!
And remember when asking questions, take notes to ensure the interviewer is left with the impression that you valued their answer and then ask follow up or probing questions to get more information.
Simply running though a list of questions without taking notes or following up with further probing questions could give the impression you are simply going through the motions and will likely not help your application.
Have 10 questions prepared before you go into the interview. As the interview progresses several of these will no doubt be answered as part of the general interview dialogue. However, when it is your turn to ask questions, pick the 3 to 5 questions that seem most relevant at the time.
Good questions to ask might include:
At the end of the interview
When the interviewer has indicated that the interview is about to end ask the interviewer about additional stages the interview process, ask for an indication of time scale for feedback (rather than asking them for direct feedback on the spot).
Finally ensure that you thank the interviewer for their time.
Following the Interview
Following the interview it is important that you provide timely and frank feedback to the external recruiter (if you are working with one).
The recruiter will discuss your feedback with the interviewer and relay his or her feedback to you in a constructive way that will hopefully benefit you in future interviews you may take part in, either with this company or others.
Regardless of whether the feedback is positive or negative try to view it objectively and think about how you can improve your interview technique in the future.
Dos and Don’ts
…always prepare by thoroughly researching the company. Accounts, press releases and directors’ biographies may be available on their corporate website. If not, a simple Google search should come up with enough information.
…dress to impress. The company may have a smart casual office dress policy or dress casually on Fridays but it’s always a good idea to dress as smartly as you can for an interview, even if the interviewer is dressed down.
You will not lose credibility for being too smart however it may count against you if you are not considered smart enough.
…arrive 5-10 minutes early, no earlier, and never late. Leave enough time for unexpected travel delays and spend a couple of minutes collecting your thoughts before you go in.
…greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and try to smile even if you are feeling nervous.
…try to give examples and evidence to back up statements or claims. Rather than telling the manager you are ‘target driven’, give live examples of when you have hit or exceeded targets and describe the steps you took to ensure targets were never missed.
…pre-prepare a list of well thought out questions to enable you to question the interviewer when given the chance. Ask intelligent questions about the company, the team and the position you are applying for and remember to take notes.
…give prompt feedback to the recruitment consultant following the interview.
…thank the interviewer for their time.
…assume that because you have done a similar job in the past or because you work for a competitor that you will sail through the interview and don’t need to do your research – you do.
…make statements without backing them up with evidence or examples, as they will carry no weight or credibility.
…get defensive. The interviewer may not accept everything you say immediately if at all. Some points may need clarification, or the interviewer may simply be looking for evidence to back up claims or statements.
…fall in to the trap of believing because you have been told this is an ‘informal’ interview that this stage of the interview does not count – it does. Prepare for this stage of the process as you would any other ‘formal’ interview.
…ask questions but then move on with no response when you get some answers. Make notes, ask probing questions and clarify any points you are unsure of.