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How to: Prepare for an operations interview

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How to: Prepare for an Operations Interview

Interviews can be daunting. There is no denying it. So, what is the key to easing your nerves and setting yourself up for success? High-quality interview preparation.

The effect operations professionals have on business is astounding. They are the all-rounders who create and implement business solutions like nobody else can, they are the ones anybody can turn to for help and they are the glue who hold countless recruitment businesses together.

Displaying everything you bring to a business during an interview isn’t always that straightforward. So, what are the keys to acing your next operations interview? Read on to find out!

The Queens and Kings of ROI

Far from being the cost-centre, operations are the queens and kings of ROI.

Reflect upon all the ways you have created a clear ROI and think about how you can effectively portray how you implemented these.

For example, have you:

  • Implemented a new BD strategy which has increased billings?
  • Renegotiated supplier contracts to save money?
  • Project managed a CRM migration with a more cost-effective provider?
  • Overseen an office move & kept costs under budget?

How have you improved your current business?

Operations touches all business areas, from directors, to consultants, to compliance to HR and so on. Think about all the projects you have done and how these have improved your business. I’d recommend sticking as closely to the STAR method when discussing these improvements and make sure you sell them!

For example, have you:

  • Implemented a GDPR policy?
  • Created a new promotion pathway for consultants?
  • Put together a hiring structure to make sure the right people are targeted?

SPEAK WITH YOUR RECRUITER

I cannot reiterate enough how important this is! A good recruiter would have been to meet the end client and would have taken a detailed brief on the company and the role at hand. Therefore, they can feed you with very useful information which you won’t have access to via the company website or LinkedIn page.

Find out the company’s strengths, weaknesses and what they are looking for this operations hire to achieve.

Gaining these insights before the interview will allow you to tailor your responses and clearly display how you have solved similar issues before and think of ideas which you could implement in their business.

Working in operations, you will know not to undervalue the human element of recruitment as well. So, your recruitment consultant should have a strong relationship with the end-client and will be able to brief you on which key attributes, skills and competencies they will be looking out for during the interview.

Research is your best friend

To complement the information your recruiter can arm you with, ensure you carry out your own research into the business and try and find common ground with them. Whether that is their CRS programme, to recent team events or mutual connections, it will make you more relatable and likely to succeed.

Aside from the more human elements, there is lots of other information you can garner online. For example, if they have international growth plans and this is something you have been involved in previously, well voila!

Relationships and credibility – preach!

Operations need to be able to build relationships with sales. If you cannot get the buy-in of the consultants’ then you are going to struggle when making the various great ideas, you have to actually work.

Without the sales team’s engagement and participation, the work and effort that went into implementing a new process is going to go to waste. Therefore, you need to display to your interviewer that you can and have gained the buy-in from the sales floor previously.

Whilst not necessarily being quantifiable, give examples of positive relationships you have built with consultants in your current company.

Now, what to avoid…

Relationships, they’re a double-edged sword

A don’t for when you are discussing building relationships with the sales team (and a big don’t at that) is to not get lost in talking about how much your sales team loves you and how much you are the go-to person. This is because the operations manager is usually the one who is responsible for having many difficult conversations too. You can be a consultants’ best friend on Friday over drinks but be HR to them on Monday morning.

The important thing is to maintain that crucial balance of friendly but respected. This is probably one of the hardest parts of the job, but a good operations manager will have managed to find that balance, so it is important to demonstrate that.

Motivations

Be at ease with your reasons for wanting to leave your current role. Like it or not, the reality is this can be the difference on the outcome of the interview process.

Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. Answers like, “I want more money” can cause alarm bells as it means you are at danger of being counter-offered and staying at your current company, or jumping ship at the first opportunity you have to leave them etc. Additionally, companies want you to buy into them, not just be a mercenary.

Another one to avoid is talking about disliking/hating your colleagues. Operations professionals need to be a people’s person, so this reason will display a lack of ability to build relationships.

All in all, think about a reasonable answer to the question without lying – of course!

And don’t forget

It goes without saying that you need to know your CV well, so, this piece has focused on all the other elements that go into preparing for an operations interview.

The most important thing is to display confidence and have lots of situational examples of what you have achieved and the positive outcomes. ROI is the biggest sell for an operations manager!

Among all of this, remember to be personable and full of energy as personality in an operations role is what helps you build relationships – especially in a new business.

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