I have experienced many interviews where upon completion, the panel and myself have been truly ecstatic that we have found the right person, and hope the feeling’s mutual. Others, we look around for Ashton Kutcher because we think we’re being punk’d. Seriously.
This is it: the make or break stage of your job application. The interview is pretty much what it comes down to. Interviews can be daunting, but at the same time they are simply a two-way conversation, with each party assessing the other’s suitability for their needs.
So how can you make your interview the most memorable?
1. Research. Extensively
I remember years ago when I lived in London, one of my (twelve) roommates came home and said “What are you studying for?” I said “My job interview tomorrow”. She came back downstairs an hour and a half later; I was still studying. She said “My gosh, I’ve never seen anybody put in any effort for an interview, let alone this much”
I do this because as a recruiter I ask, and as a candidate I expect to be asked, this question:
“What do you know about our company?”
How much preparation a candidate puts into researching the company is tantamount to how hungry they are to work there. Do not participate in an interview unless you confidently know the organisation’s mission, vision, values, leaders’ names, core product/service and anything else that is obvious from the company’s website. Demonstrating you have put the effort in to acquire this knowledge shows you are keenly interested to work at that company.
If these things are not evident through your own research, they should become questions of substance you can ask (see below).
2. Practice and prepare
You can never pre-empt what you are going to be asked during an interview, but you can have some cleverly crafted answers up your sleeve. You will probably be asked situational and behavioural type questions, so think back over your experience and recall what stands out that will best demonstrate you are the ideal candidate for the role. It is prudent to prepare answers to the following generic questions, and any others that you think you might be asked:
- Tell us about a time when you have had to overcome an obstacle to achieve favourable business outcomes? What did you do and what was the outcome?
- What are your strengths/weaknesses?
- Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
- What is your greatest personal or professional achievement? Why?
I discuss strengths and weaknesses in more detail under HR Hot Tips #16 and #17
3. Be mindful of your eye contact and body language
I’ve sat through interviews where I do the introductions and the icebreaker, and then based on the candidate’s body language, beyond this, I am not even in the room. During face-to-face interviews, try to engage everyone on the panel through eye contact, not just the person asking you the question.
Furthermore, ensure your body language is open. Avoid folded arms, overly emotional facial expressions, excessive hand movements, and don’t fiddle with your hair or clothing. That said, try to not be a robot either. The panel is looking for your natural flair and personality to determine how well you will blend with their current or desired culture.
4. Use specific examples
It’s easy to digress and lose sight of the question, but try to stay focused by using specific examples about your experience to answer exactly what you were being asked. Sometimes, I find I have to ask the same question several times to get a relevant answer. Try to stick to topic and use strong, tangible examples that actually answer the question. The panel does not have time to dig for specifics – you have to convey them clearly, succinctly and efficiently. Truly answering the question will demonstrate that you are an active listener, which is a critical attribute that sadly, not everybody has.
5. Communicate confidently and clearly
Naturally, a lot of people suffer from nerves when it comes to the interview. This shows through their less-than-confident voice. You want to appear as a self-assured and confident individual during your interview. Some little things to keep in mind are:
- Don’t talk too fast. A lot of people suffer from this, especially when they’re nervous. Practice talking slowly and clearly with a friend or relative.
- Don’t mumble. Ensure you are speaking at an appropriate volume to the room (not too loud, not too soft) so you can be heard the first time.
- Watch your language. Habitual use of words like: “like” “I mean” “you know” and “stuff like that” for example, is annoying. Any kind of swearing is unacceptable. Even less offensive swear words like “crap” and “bloody” should be avoided.
6. Ask questions of substance
Asking questions that provoke even further discussion beyond the interview questions will demonstrate that you are thinking beyond what is in front of you. These questions relate to things that aren’t obvious on the company’s website, or that have not been answered throughout the course of your interview. For example, as an HR candidate, I ask questions about: employee turnover, morale, strategy, operations, management styles, culture, demographic, diversity, what success looks like, initial priorities for the role, and so on.
7. And then the usual stuff – appearance, handshake, manners, posture, punctuality etc.
These are not common sense. I have interviewed people who look like they have just gotten out of bed, are wearing runners, carry a backpack, arrive late, and have a sloppy handshake. You may not need to wear a suit, but you do need to look presentable and professional in line with the role you are being interviewed for. Make sure you have a strong, confident handshake, you are dressed well, you look clean-shaven if you’re a guy, and that you’re not slouching during your interview, for example.
Several tips in the “Before” section of my book 101 HR Hot Tips: Handy Secrets for Success in the Workplace cover various interview preparation aspects. Purchase it here.
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Next week’s blog: Are your social media activities helping? Or hindering?
Are you looking for career advice? I provide recruitment advice and interview coaching to candidates. See http://www.harlandhansen.com for more information about services I provide.