Alim, what are the key areas of an interview preparation?
Well, it’s still important to do your homework, really. I would say there are three main elements really. The first, know the organization, research the company, understand the key services, the markets, the presence around the world. Always a good idea to also read up on the industry and more importantly also find out what the company values. Number two, I would say; know the role, what is required of the role, what will you spend most of your time doing when you’re hired. And thirdly, of course, know yourself. Be ready to articulate why you are the right person for the role and how you might fit in to the company.
What type of research should you do, where to start?
The more you know about the job, the industry and the employer the more likely you’re able to present yourself well for the interview. But this will also help you to evaluate whether the particular company or job is right for you, so it’s a great opportunity to get that information. Your research could really come from many sources and the internet is a great avenue of information. Specifically, I would suggest go to the company website. For example, on our KPMG.com site we post CV hints, press releases, careers profiles. Look at the annual report, look for awards that the company might have received; it will give you a sense of what the company is really about. Talk to friends, perhaps people who have worked for the company before or that are working there now. Students often talk to their professors. Try and get as much as you can about the information and also read about the industry and the competitors. Overall, I think speaking confidently about the industry and demonstrating awareness of the company will really help to establish credibility with the recruiter.
How much self-preparation is possible, can you do too much?
You want to be prepared to a level where you’re confident, credible and genuine. But you also want to avoid seeming to be too rehearsed or too verbose because you want to come out genuine. So, know enough about the company and the role in order to align your skills with what you’re required to do for the role. Being calm, presentable and organized will also help you to be focused and concise and this, in the end, will help you to deliver a good interview.
How do you make best possible first impression at interview?
You definitely want to arrive on time. Perhaps five to ten minutes before the scheduled interview. Be presentable, dress appropriately, establish rapport with the interviewer right away. Perhaps a comment on the office space. Be positive, be confident but not over confident. Of course, smile and be yourself. After all, you’re already successful for getting the interview, now it’s about demonstrating the real fit between yourself and both the organization and the position itself.
When given an opportunity, what questions should you ask?
I would use that opportunity to first, of course, find out more about the organization that hasn’t already been shared with you by the recruiter. But you also want to use that opportunity to perhaps be a little clever and elicit opportunities to explain a little bit more about certain competencies that you want to highlight. An example might be: does this role value detailed orientation, for example. And usually they will say yes or no, depending on the role and accordingly you can interject with, or comment after that question with, tips around how you might be able to deliver that value. So, it’s a good way to cover one or two pieces of information that might not have been addressed in the interview.
When in the interview should you mention the word salary?
Salary is usually the big pink elephant in the room, but it’s not the elephant you want to disclose right away or identify right away. Rather, you want to focus on the job itself and what the organization values and how you can best deliver that value. If the recruiter raises the question around salary range, it’s appropriate then to talk about your expectations. But I wouldn’t suggest raising that within the interview itself until the offer is actually made, and then there's plenty of time to actually negotiate whether the salary’s appropriate or not.
Can you mention about an interview that went really well?
Overall, I think an interview goes really, really well when I hear passion in the person’s voice and I hear examples of how they added value to the organization, so real credible examples of their experiences. But most of all, it’s really about understanding how they’re going to add value to the role that they’re applying for. So, someone who can convey that really well is just always a great, successful interview.
How about one which stuck out for the wrong reasons?
Well, just recently, I was doing an interview in one of our offices in Asia and I understand that cell phones are part of the culture and people sometimes pick them up during a meeting. But it’s always a good idea to keep the meeting focused. The interview should be focused between the recruiter and yourself. So, I really suggest turning off your phone and it can be especially awkward when that phone rings, with all the different ring-tones you can have right now, can be a bit awkward and perhaps sets a different tone in the interview and breaks the focus and concentration of the recruiter.
And was that person successful?
While the actual song was a favorite of mine that played on that phone ring, unfortunately that specific candidate didn’t have the overall qualifications that we were looking for for that specific role. So unfortunately no, I couldn’t hear that ring-tone again.
Could the principles you've mentioned apply to various interview formats?
Well, you’re quite right. You can do interviews these days through a web-cam, tele-conference, panel interviews, so on and so forth. Technology really helps us do great things these days. But it is important to stick to the same principles and whilst you’re on a phone call doing an interview, you might be able to get away being in your PJs, you still want to sound confident, you want to be credible and you want to be genuine. You want to be able to articulate how you’re going to be the perfect person for the role.
Would you share your own experience of interview for KPMG?
Absolutely. Well, my interview process was prolonged for some time. But overall I met with many great people, in total about seven, and believe it or not in four different countries. But that really demonstrated to me the actual global accountability of the role and how I have to work with various global leaders around the world. But more importantly, it gave me an opportunity not only for the company to understand my strengths and what I might be able to offer to KPMG member firms, but also an opportunity for me to understand the challenges and opportunities in different parts of the world from our global tax leaders, and also what they’re looking for from this role. So, in the end, while it was a longer process than I had hoped for, it was very nice to get that level of information before the decision was made both by myself and KPMG to get into a relationship.
Thank-you, Alim, for your time.