Best Interview Prep Tips

When you need help prepping for an interview this article can be of assistance to you.

How have you ensured maximum value for money when managing resources?

The Real Question: Money is tight. Do you know how to squeeze a dollar for all it’s worth?

Top-line Tactic: Don’t shy away from giving them figures.

For all competency-based questions, providing quantifiable results is always a good idea, but for questions like this that are designed to gauge your ability to manage scarce resources, work within budgetary constraints and make cost savings, getting down to exact figures is even more important than usual.

It’s also important to keep in mind that, while controlling the budget is generally a management-level skill, this question might be asked of candidates on any rung of the career ladder. Companies want people at all levels of the organization to make the most out of company resources. You might not be setting the budget, but no matter what you do you make choices about using your employer’s resources.

The bottom line: don’t say this isn’t your area, try to choose an example where you can quantify the end result of your efforts and then just apply the STAR method, stressing, as always, not just what you accomplished but the skills and behaviors that got you there. For a more junior-level position, that might sound something like this:

While I wasn’t directly charged with handling my department’s budget, I’m the type who always likes to get the most for my money, so when my supervisor sent me to pick up some materials we’d had printed I couldn’t help being surprised by the size of the bill. At college I was active in the drama club and got flyers and programs printed up, so I knew we were paying too much. I asked for quotes from a few printers and found one who was 20 percent cheaper. My supervisor was delighted. We switched suppliers and saved over $5,000 a year.

Name some top opinion influencers in this industry

The Real Question: Do you care about thought leadership? Do you agree with the people I agree with?

Top-line Tactic: Get a spread of names, from “safe hands” to mavericks.

This is one question where a highly motivated career-switcher can score just as well as an industry veteran, because finding opinion influencers has never been easier. The world is positively dripping with industry opinion. Here are two ways of putting together an impressive roster of names.

Power lists: most trade magazines publish an annual survey of the most powerful, influential or just plain wealthy people in a given industry. They usually give these lists corny names like “Landscape Gardening’s Power 100.” Follow the top few names in these lists and you won’t go too far wrong. In all probability you’ll only be reciting the same old names as everyone else, and maybe the same old ideas too—but you need to start with the classics, as Liberace used to say.

Event speakers: most industries have big trade shows, like the Geneva Motor Show or the Ideal Home Show. These exhibitions usually feature a seminar program, and the speakers come in two varieties: a keynote speaker and a Sideshow Bob. The keynote speakers are typically on the “Power 100” lists mentioned above, so you’ve already got those covered—it’s Sideshow Bob you’re really interested in. He or she is someone who has yet to make it to the keynote stage but often has the most fresh and radical ideas. You don’t have to parrot what they say—they might be on the fringe for a reason—but in interview it’s enough to show you’re aware of thinkers who exist outside of the consensus. It’s also important to show how you feed your mind, not just what you feed it.

In property, you can’t ignore the opinion of people like Donald Trump. Their opinions are often influential partly because they get so much exposure anyway. What they say often ends up being true just because they’ve said it. That’s not to take anything away from them—they’re prominent because they know what they’re talking about, after all.

But I also try to take in the views of people on the fringes, people like Campbell Robb of Shelter. I read his thoughts on the recent sharp rise in house prices we’ve seen across the UK, when he said homelessness, house prices and our benefit bill will continue to rise out of control if nothing changes. I can’t say that he’s right, but most people in the industry have vested interests in keeping the whole thing going, and he doesn’t—so you can at least be sure he believes what he’s saying.

I think the range of opinion in the industry is one of the things I like most about it—I try to read the Property Gazette every week and I have a few blogs set up as subscriptions.

That’s how I follow opinion leaders.

And if you don’t read the trade press every week, be aware you’ll almost certainly be competing with people who do.

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