We have expressed before the inevitability of job interviews, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Having read a little and having undertaken a few interviews of my own recently, what follows will be a truly outstanding guide to nailing an interview …. hopefully.
Making a Great First Impression
Undeniably one of the most crucial aspects of any meeting, not just interviews, is making a good first impression. The human mind determines a great deal about a person at a blistering speed at a sub-conscious level. You may not know why, but within seconds you’ll already possess a fair idea of whether you”ll get on with a person, as well as a good measure of their confidence and attitude. Essentially people instinctively form an opinion about you, before you’ve even had the chance muttered a single syllable.
It seems like the most logical place to start. Basically you need to be, as a minimum, on time. But it’s much better if you turn up a little early, were not talking about turning up an hour before hand, 10-20 mins prior is the ideal time to arrive, allowing for any unexpected circumstances in your journey, giving you enough time to find the interview’s venue and a little time to calm and gather yourself. I feel as this one is a bit of a given. Time management is important in pretty much any manner of employment and displays a lot about your organisational skills, attitudes, desires, drive, motivation and a whole lot more.
Dress to Impress
Have you ever heard the saying, there’s no such thing as being overdressed? Now, you could make the argument that wearing a three-piece suit or a dinner jacket to collect the bins would be over doing it a little. But just imagine what a scene that would be and how quickly, in this day and age, that would go viral. Launching the wearer to the dizzying heights of internet stardom, landing guest appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and all that good stuff, but I digress.
When it comes to interviews however, make sure your clothes are clean, tidy, ironed (pressed) and that you’re well presented. It’s something very simple, but it’ll make a world of difference. Imagine you’re interviewing two candidates, one turns up well turned out, crisp edged suit, neat hair with excellently groomed facial hair (we’re using guys here) and well polished oxfords on hit feet. The other arrives in a slightly stained heavily creased shirt, unkempt hair, a tie hanging loosely around his neck and scuffed, dirty shoes. Who would you choose?
Eye Contact and a Firm Handshake
This is a little more to do with body language and the projection of confidence. I’m not asking you to try and stare down your potential employer, but maintaining a solid amount of eye contact is generally a big plus.
The same holds true for your handshake, you’re not out to prove who’s the strongest or who has the firmest grip. Here you want to take a more measured approach. Whilst there isn’t much worse than a limp handshake, a bone crushing one does come in at a close second. Pay attention to who it is your about to shake hands with and from their you should be able to determine the level of tenacity with which to engage in the hand shaking frivolities.
What to Say and How to Say It
No, I haven’t got a script or outline that can 100% guarantee you a job every time it is employed. However there are a few things you can do to improve you chances and stand out from the crowd (preferably in a more positive then negative manner).
Want to look engaged, switched on and intelligent in your interview? Want to be able to ask the right questions at the right time? Of course you do. How are you going to achieve that? By doing your research. I understand the task can seem a little daunting, especially if you’ve delivered your CV into the hands of a plethora of prospective employers. But a slightly more than a quick 5 minute browse of the company’s website can provide real insights in the ethos and direction of said company. Here is were you can really stand out. If you can display an understanding of the company’s goals and ambitions, whilst simultaneously showing how you could fit into/successfully integrate into the company’s culture, well then, that’s a real win-win.
Do what you can to demonstrate what you’ll bring to the table. At all possible avenues demonstrate how you can add value to the company, tell them just how much of an asset you’ll be. Now this shouldn’t be taken as a call to shout “ME! ME! ME!” for half an hour. Instead discuss how you could solve problems (better yet issues you may have uncovered in your research), but don’t do your up-most to tear your soon to be employer’s strategies down and preach about the correct method of tackling a problem.
Show your leadership abilities and potential, highlight the manner in which you identified and overcame problems and conflicts before, in the past. Discuss programmes you could implement and markets you could engage with and so on and so forth.
Form a few go to questions before you enter the ring. Don’t just grasp at anything however, but instead aim to ask pertinent questions, things that would really benefit you to know if you got the job or questions that would generate interesting conversation. After all, an good interview (in my opinion) should resemble a more natural conversation, with all that to-ing and fro-ing, as opposed to a more one sided inquisition. Here once again is another place your research comes into play, allowing you to ask more ‘intelligent’ questions about the company, your interviewer and the industry you’re looking to work in.
Most importantly of all though … don’t as questions to which the answers are obvious or freely available, it looks pretty bad if you ask a question or two only to discover the answers were there all along on their website for example, it doesn’t look good at all.
This is possibly one of the worst things you could do when trying to convince someone that you’d make a fine edition to their team. I understand being honest in an interview or perhaps even express doubts or concerns (although a lot of people would suggest you avoid those too). But divulging nothing but negativity and constantly commenting on how you feel you can’t do this, you can’t do that, or you don’t understand this, or you don’t think you’re capable of X, Y or Z …. you get the picture.
It sends an overwhelmingly bad image, one of low confidence, an inability to do or try new things or meet challenges, throwing up huge glaring red flags for anyone general let alone your new boss. But lets be frank, after a brief discussion of all the things you can’t due, the chances are they won’t be.
Instead focus on everything you can do, be positive and have a little faith in yourself. A sprinkling of self-belief can go a long way, and hey … chances are you’re more than capable as it is.
Avoid Canned Answers
It’s one of those things that stands out a mile away, your gut tells you when someone is delivering a rehearsed bog standard answer to your question, and be honest with yourself, it switches you off you completely glaze over. If it’s true for you, why wouldn’t it be so for everyone else? Canned answers are boring, they highlight a lack of imagination, whilst almost always containing stereotypical buzzwords the interview is likely to hear 100 times during their process. Moreover, they hardly provide any element or spark of personality that your interviewer is looking for. Sure they want to know more about your experiences and qualifications, but they are also looking for clues as to the kind of person you are, so let that shine through.
I’m not saying go in unprepared, instead design a loose framework around the questions you expect to be asked, and maybe even a few more and talk more naturally around those points. You may need to pause and think every now and again as you would in any other conversation, but at least you aren’t coming across as some kind of monotonous robot.
On an exceptionally corny note, I believe it’s important to enter that interview as you and you alone. Of course you want to present the best possible version of yourself as you can, but it needs to be you. People can instantly see through a disingenuous representation of character, so just be you. You’re great … right? Besides, it begs questions, such as why do you feel the need to try and be someone else, and other such detrimental questions.
As a quick way to round this all off. After the interview there are a few little things you can do, but they are only small and should be treated as such.
Send a short thank you message, reiterating your desire to work at that company and in that very team. Thank your interviewer for taking in time to see you and express how much you enjoyed meeting them and how you look forward to hearing from them soon. In my experience I have generally always heard back from people I have sent this little message to, whether it was negative or positive, they still took the time to let me know (which can be a lot more than some employers do).
But make sure you keep it short, they don’t need an essay on the merits of your interview and a detailed step-by-step guide to your passion for manufacturing luminescent ball-bearings, or whatever it was you were just interviewed for.
So good luck and get out there, interviews don’t have to be all that scary.