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Top tips for succeeding in an interview
11 January 2017 | Posted by Kieran Barber

Interviewer 1
: “Mr. Murphy, do you mean that you lied on your application?”

Spud: “Only to get my foot in the door. Showing initiative, right?”

Over the past few years I have interviewed hundreds of people. Interviewing is hard but it doesn’t have to be. I see the same common mistakes occur in most of the interviews I do, so I have extracted a few tips to hopefully make interviewing a better experience for both you and me.

I work for Kainos, a fantastic company employing amazingly awesome people to deliver Digital Services with the UK Government. We have had fantastic growth over the past 5 years- revenue has leaped from £25m in 2012 to £90m in 2016, and in a services company the recipe is simple: growth in company is directly proportional to growth in staff numbers.

Last year over 2,000 people applied to Kainos, and we only employed 180. A success ratio of <10%

I love the company I work in and as we grow we are fiercely protective of that undefinable thing that makes us…well…us — our soul, our culture. So getting a job here might be hard but that is because we really care — about our people, our customers and the services that we deliver. So having all the job spec requirements ticked will not always result in a successful interview. 50% of what I am looking for in a interview is based on the culture test; not only do you need to have the ability to do the job but will my teams want to work with you? Hopefully the tips I have included here will help.

Interview Success Tips

1. Be honest

I have a BS filter that rarely lets me down. After a few interviews you can quickly tell when someone is winging it. It doesn’t take much to ask a few pointed follow up questions or just throw in the exaggerated ‘really!?!’ every now and then. Things usually crumble quickly. Just be honest.

2. ‘I’ not ‘We’

When talking about your experience don’t refer to the collective. I am looking to work with you – not your team or previous firm.

3. Keep theory for academics

When you interview a lot you can easily tell someone who has done it from someone who has read about it. If you don’t know, don’t spin it.

4. Be concise

Please be concise. I want to make my decision in the hour we have (I try to keep all interviews to less than an hour) so try not to waffle. If I am interviewing you, it is likely that you have already passed the ‘can you do the job’ test; so try to avoid the trap of waffling. If you can’t be concise and verbally efficient in an interview, it is likely that you will be the same in front of clients and in the job – that’s not good. Be passionate (see tip 7), but be brief and keep to the point.

5. Failure is not bad

I like failure, not repeated failure, but we all learn and grow from failure. Talk about your experiences, say why they happened, what you learned and what you would do differently next time.

6. Be yourself

I interview lots of people every week and it can get boring quickly. I desperately want every interview to end successfully. I want you to succeed. We will quickly cover the can-you-do-the-job stuff and that decision will be binary. The only variable left to answer is ‘can you work well with our teams?’, ‘will you fit our company culture?’. So be yourself – and we will quickly find the answer to that question as well.

7. Be passionate

I work with passionate, intelligent and hard working people every day. They are an amazing team and this is the single most important thing that keeps me motivated in my job. Do your homework beforehand; know the industry, know your sector, know about Kainos. Understand what drives the business, how does that impact you? What can you do about it? Why do you do what you do? Whatever you say don’t answer like this:

Q. Why did you decide on this career path?

A. Because me mammy thought it was a good idea.

He didn’t get the job.

8. Be professional but be personal

I am employing you to be a professional but I am also employing a person. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself and what drives you outside of work. I still remember one guy answering a question by saying:

‘I am doing this job to get enough money to open my own brewery.’

I gave him the job.

9. Doubt means no

This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons for such a low success rate in our interviews. If there is a doubt, I always err on the side of caution and go for ‘no’. I broke this rule once and regretted it. Therefore it is only fair that you should apply the same rule to us…after all I am selling to you as much as you are selling to me.

I love the company I work for. It is hard but rewarding and I am lucky enough to work with brilliant talented people every day. When I interview all that I am looking for is more of this. Hopefully the advice above will help for any interview with any company. Whatever you do, good luck!

This post originally appeared on Medium. View it here. 

Interested in a career at Kainos? View our vacancies.


1 comment
January 13, 2017
Dave Rand

I love this! Having interviewed a fair number of software developers and managers myself, I can relate to everything you’ve written here — especially ‘doubt means no.’ This rule is one of the most important tools for protecting and maintaining the right culture in a team, and bending or breaking it always leads to problems.

Also, I’ll never understand why some people just can’t admit during an interview that they’ve ever failed at something. I’d much rather hear a story about how something went terribly wrong (and the lessons learned) than to hear an endless string of success stories.


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