The Three P's and Interview Success

At North Point we have facilitated thousands of technical interviews over the years. Working with candidates from recent graduates up to board level in fields as diverse as pharmaceuticals, nuclear, software development, and manufacturing has taught us lots about the specific needs of these sectors, but even more about the secrets of success in interviews.

Amazon lists almost 6,500 books on interviews in their careers section, a lifetime worth of reading to improve performance for those ninety minutes of stress. It's as easy to get overwhelmed with good advice as it is to get overcome with interview nerves.

Interviews don't need to be all bad. We've seen a lot of them, and seen what makes success happen in the real world. You don't need to be an interview expert (it probably helps if you are not in fact) to do well in them.

We think all you need these are these three magic "P's"


Not loads: you don't need to know the entire corporate history of the organisation. You do need to understand a little about the company, the role and how (your best guess) the role fits into the company. If you don't know this, how can you be sure the role is right for you?

Every vacancy is a problem awaiting a solution in the form of a new hire. If you can work out how to solve that problem for the company they will want to hire you.

You also need to know yourself: your CV, your strengths and limitations, your history and your goals.

You can do all the above in one good hour in a coffee shop.

Once you have thought about yourself, your goals, the company and its requirement it is time to


Most people treat interviews like a visit to the dentist: A quick last minute brush-up and then a lot of finger crossing and hope. A much more effective way to think of them is like an acting audition.

Interviews are very similar in nature no matter the seniority the industry or the skills. The interview panel want a chance to assess your background, personality and approach. Therefore the nature of the questions you will be asked does not change.

Knowing this you can prepare answers to the most obvious questions just like an actor rehearsing their lines.

All interview questions revolve around the same basic ideas: "How well can you do the job?" and "How well will we get along?"

The first group of questions are designed to discover your technical suitability, love for the work, ways in which you can solve their problems. So questions like "Why do you want this job", "What kind of work do you enjoy?", "Tell me about the work you did at X", "Why are you leaving Y?"

The second group are even more important. The organisation needs to know you will be an asset both technically and culturally to the team. "What are your strengths / weaknesses" "Tell me about yourself" "How would your colleagues describe you?" "How would you handle situation X?"

Answer any of those questions now, off the top of your head. Then practice your answer just like an acor would. Even 4 or 5 attempts will refine and improve the meaning, delivery and appeal of your answer. It's even better if you practice infront of a mirror.

Actors, presenters and politicians practice the lines and answers they know they will need to say. Make your interviews much easier by following their example.


Related to the "How well will we get along" idea, passion and enthusiasm are the key psychological indicators we humans look for in someone to relate to.

Think about good conversations you have had at parties, or great dates. The feeling you get when you can hardly wait for the other person to finish their sentence so you can join in and agree. Every time those situations happen we feel a bond with the other person.

When it comes to interviews, to relating to a person you may be working with for the next few years, the same principle applies: the more enthusiastic and passionate you can be about the role, the opportunity, the working methods and the organisation the more likely the manager will be drawn to you and feel you are "her kind of person".

Passion and enthusiasm comes naturally from finding the right role, doing your research, understanding how the role fits your aspirations and knowing your lines.

So next time you are called for an interview try and remember the three P's.

We're willing to bet your interviews go way better.

Good luck.