Interviews, interviews, interviews… the stage everyone candidate strives to reach, only to freak out when they’re sitting in the lobby fearing the unknown: How many people am I up against? What if I mess up? Are my hands too sweaty?!
Yes, interviews can be tough – and the more your career progresses the tougher they’re going to get – so it’s important that you’re able to perform.
I’m sure you’ve picked up tips and tricks along the way; take this insight from my own meandering experiences, which have led me to collect a strong inventory of dos and don’ts, to ensure you come across as impressive as possible.
#1. Do Your Research
Knowledge is power. It seems obvious, but going into an interview without any knowledge of the company or the job role is employment suicide. One of the first questions you’ll be asked is, ‘So, what do you know about us/the role?’ and you could do with a better start to the session than, ‘Uhm, well, urrrr…’
Take the time to research the company and the role. Explore the interviewer(s) on LinkedIn and identify a few talking points to break the ice and relate on a personal level. Knowing a good amount about your potential new employers arms you with more than enough to impress at the initial stage as well as reinforcing that the job is right for you.
#2 Be Cautious of Background Checks
We live in an era where nothing is private anymore. Employers will check your social media profiles so make sure you haven’t slated any previous employers, posted any crude or insulting statuses or uploaded any indecent or inappropriate images.
Update your LinkedIn, too, as this will be one of the first online profiles that they will search for. Take the time to add your most recent experiences and volunteer work, and badger your previous colleagues and friends for recommendations – they go a long way.
#3 Look Sharp
You only get one chance to make a first impression so make it count. You’re going to be judged on how you present yourself because this indicates how you will represent the company, how you will come across to clients and how you value your image.
This doesn’t mean you have to shell out on a bank-breaking designer three-piece, but let them see you’ve made an effort – a collar and tie with a polished pair of shoes is a must, no matter what role you’re going for.
#4 Produce an Interview Proposal
The proposal is a particularly new addition to my inventory and I wish I knew about it years ago. It is a quick and valuable addition to your CV, which you should send to the interviewer the day before you meet. Providing this document shows that you’re forward-thinking, efficient and passionate and I have only ever received great feedback. Try the following template:
- Cover sheet – logo, who the presentation is for, your name
- Index – outline the page numbers and headers of each section
- Company Profile – provide a few bullet points of info about the company
- Vacancy Profile – provide a few bullet points about the role responsibilities
- Personal Profile – provide examples of how you meet the job criteria
- References – add at least one of your job references here
#5 Arrive with Time to Spare
Make an effort to arrive 15 minutes before your interview start time. You don’t want to be bursting through the door, sweaty and out of breath after sprinting to the office. This shows that you’re punctual and enthusiastic by arriving early and you’ve now given yourself some valuable time to read through your notes and refresh your memory before you’re called in.
#6 Save Your Life Story
At every single interview ever conducted in the history of employment, the candidate has been asked, ‘So, tell me about yourself.’ Your first reaction is usually to try to impress by listing every achievement you’ve ever made, each and every one of your experiences and explain just how amazing you really are. Try everything you can to avoid doing this.
To be frank, unless it’s 100% relevant, they just don’t care and you don’t want to bore them at the first hurdle by going off on a tangent. Try to identify the areas they want to you to talk about and how it reflects the vacancy in question. Answer their question with another question and go from there:
‘I’m sure I could talk for hours about myself but I’m conscious that your time is valuable. Perhaps if you highlighted the key skills you’re looking for I could give you examples of where I have demonstrated these characteristics?’
Make notes for your own benefit so you can refer to each skill listed. Most employers list the sought-after characteristics in the job specification so you should already be one step ahead.
#7 Articulate the Benefits You Bring
As mentioned in #6, you already have an educated grasp on the skills and characteristics the employer is looking for – be that from your own research or the information you receive during the interview.
Isn’t that great news?!
You are being handed the words you need to articulate on a silver platter, so remember not to waffle. They don’t need to know how you spent the summer working on a farm to build livestock skills if you’re interviewing to become a finance assistant, [unless…]
Focus on what skills are highlighted, one at a time. Have you got skills in payroll? Are these skills beneficial to a finance assistant role? Prioritise and don’t overcomplicate your answers.
#8 Ask Questions
Interviews are a two-way street and employers love it when you ask them questions. You’ll normally be given some time towards the end to pick their brains and impress them, but don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout the interview. Try the following:
- ‘I appreciate everyone here is hardworking but what qualities do the top performers possess?’ (Once they answer, ask if you have demonstrated these qualities or if they see this potential in you)
- ‘My sole focus is to hit every target and exceed expectations. If I were to meet those targets what would be the route of progression?’ (This demonstrates confidence in your ability to perform)
- ‘What do you expect from the successful candidate in the first 90 days?’ (This question enables the employer to open up about daily tasks and the intensity to expect from day one)
- ‘Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?’ (Again, using the word will establishes confidence in your capacity to fill the vacancy)
Check in on your progress as you go. If the employer mentions that your lack of experience is a concern for them, well, would they have really invited you down and waste both of your time if there wasn’t something else they saw in your application?
Ask them whether they believe that someone with your experience, even if that someone isn’t you, could perform the job. If they say yes but still seem hesitant, then you’ve not done or said something that they’re looking for. Ask them what that may be and demonstrate it.
#9 Make Notes
When the interview begins, ask permission to take notes. It shows that you’re attentive and it helps you refer to important points made throughout the meeting. Be careful not to overdo it and write up an interview transcript as you risk losing a personal rapport with your potential employer and missing important pieces of information that affect the dynamic of the conversation.
#10 Mind Your Body Language
93% of how we communicate is non-verbal, so there is huge potential to curate the way you present yourself from the second you walk through the door to radiate confidence and self-assurance. Try the following:
- Lead with a strong, firm handshake
- Maintain good a level of eye contact (be careful not to creep them out by staring directly into their soul)
- Sit up straight, back into your chair, feet firmly planted (or crossed at the ankle), shoulders back and head up – no slouching with your eyes fixed on your shoes
- Smile and project a good energy
#11 End on a Positive Note
The end of an interview is always awkward. Is the interview over? Have you asked all of your questions? Why are you still sitting there smiling? You don’t deal with the pressures of interviewing just to show that you’re right for the job – you want to see if the job is right for you.
Employers understand this; so, why do so many candidates sheepishly thank the interviewers for their time, spend what feels like an eternity gathering their things and then leave without confirming their interest? Let them know you are interested in the role!
Try ending the interview on a positive note like this:
‘I appreciate you taking the time to meet me today. Being here has transformed my understanding from being one dimensional to three dimensional. I believe I can meet the challenges this role presents from everything I’ve seen and heard, and with your support I believe I’ll thrive. I really want this job, what do I need to do to get it?’
#12 Be Yourself
Every company is looking to invest their time and money in someone who fits the company culture. By being yourself you give them the opportunity to make the right decision based on your personality whilst discovering your desirable traits. You don’t want them to hire you based on false pretences that may come back to haunt you.
People buy from people – you just need to show them something worth buying.
#13 Always Follow Up
You’ve done the hard part; you’ve endured an hour-long grilling on why you’re right for the job but there’s just one more step to take: the follow up. Use the notes you’ve made to highlight any key points that interested you and let them know how you feel towards the role.
Are you excited about joining the company? Are you keen to get your hands dirty and take on new challenges? Send an email when you get home outlining your enthusiasm and gratitude for giving you the opportunity and let them know you’re looking forward to receiving their decision shortly.
You’ve done everything you can now. There’s no point in stressing about what you did or didn’t do – it’s over and you did the best you could. Interviews can be tiring so grab a cold one, put your feet up and wait for the good news.
Interviews can be difficult, but one thing to remember is that over everything, the people on the other side of the desk are just people! They respond to good energy and engaging answers just like everyone else. Walk in confidently, know what you’re going to say and how you’ll respond to questions and be enthusiastic.
Let me know your interview tips and tricks below…