Tips for better Interviews
This is an interesting topic. Mainly because there are so many different people you may be interviewed by, and because their styles may all be significantly different.
You could be interviewed by someone who has absolutely no idea how to properly conduct an employment interview, or alternatively, by someone who is highly skilled in asking well thought out and scientifically proven balanced questions designed to understand what you are really like, or saying, without you actually saying it directly.
You could be interviewed by a Consultant, working on behalf of a Client, and/or you might be interviewed by the decision maker themselves; and/or any one of their staff.
Some advice…..Don’t sweat it! Naturally you want to impress the interviewer, you want them to like you and consider you suitable for the role but at the end of the day - be yourself. While it’s obviously important, and respectful, to be polite and courteous to whoever you are meeting with, there is no point doing your impression of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde; where the person they end up with on staff is NOT the same as the person they interviewed.
One thing is for certain, an interview is where you need to be at your best. This is your “15 minutes” (hopefully not literally! Although I do know consultants who do 15 minute interviews. How they are able to TRULY ADD VALUE to both the client and the candidate in this time period is a mystery to me; however…...)
We could probably talk all day about interviews. What to do, what not to do, what to say, what not to say, but for now we’ll just cover some basics:
- Look and Feel your Best - Get a good nights sleep the night before the interview. You’ll look and feel fresh, be more alert and focused and less likely to have your mind wander if your interviewer speaks for an extended period of time.
Dress to Impress - When in doubt, “dress up”. Don’t attempt to dress to what you THINK would be appropriate for the role. Your prospective employer is the best person to tell you what the most appropriate attire is/will be for the position once you’ve “Got” the job. So initially, do yourself a favour, and them the courtesy, of seeing you at your best.
By the way, labels are nice, but not necessary. We would all like to be dressed in Hugo Boss, Zegna, Trent Nathan and Chanel, however, it is far more important to look clean, fresh and coordinated than it is to look like you just stepped out of the pages of GQ or Vogue. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to look like a professional. By the way, if you feel you might have the fashion sense of Bjork or the coordinating ability of Austin Powers, get some help!
- Be Prepared - If you are truly interested in securing a particular position, and you know who the Company is prior to the interview, find out as much as you can about them, prior to the interview; This will serve two purposes:
- Through your research you’ll find out more about the Company, its Customers, its People, its Products and/or Services and can therefore make a far more informed decision about whether this Company is for you or not; and
- You will be well prepared to answer the old faithful interview question “So, what do you know about our Company?”
Be on Time - This is a killer. This could make or break you, depending on the interviewer and the kind of day, week or month, they’ve had, up until your meeting with them. Over the years I have actually heard Consultants, and Clients, say out loud, on their way to meet a “late” Candidate (but not actually TO the Candidate, thank goodness) that they have just blown the interview because they are late. I like to think that this doesn’t happen very often, but, you wouldn’t want one of those times to be YOU, would you?
By the way, just to let you know, in the Consultant/Clients mind, when you ARE late, no excuse is good enough. They might smile and accept it, but in the back (or front) of their mind, there may be that first opinion of you - “Unreliable!”. I know this sounds a bit harsh, but it’s true. Potentially, all the interviewer will be thinking about for the first few minutes of your face to face will be “If they can’t even deliver themselves to an interview on time, in what other areas are they unable to deliver”. You rarely get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Be Alert - When you arrive in Reception, preferably do not sit. Standing up will keep you alert and will allow you to casually look around the Reception area for tell tale signs of success and achievement by the company. Often Companies will place awards and certificates they have received, and they are proud of, in reception. Once again, you can use information contained in these items to better inform and prepare yourself. Be careful though not to appear as if you’re “casing the joint’.
Another reason why it’s better to stand than to sit is because when your interviewer arrives and greets you, you do not have to struggle to your feet, while all the time looking relaxed, and/or they do not have to bend down to shake your hand.
Here’s another interesting thing too; the shaking of hands. When someone greets you, don’t just automatically stick out your hand expectantly; wait for them to offer theirs and, if they do, take it and give a nice “firm” handshake. Some people prefer not to shake hands and by you sticking out yours, you will either be making them do something they would prefer not to do, or they’ll just leave you standing there with your hand stuck out in front of you……….could be a bit embarrassing!
Also, shaking hands is a business/relationship gesture, it is not a test of strength; you do not need to crush a persons hand to impress them. Don’t be too soft either! Just a firm squeeze is all that’s required.
When you are invited to sit, in their office or meeting room, wait for your interviewer to sit first. Sit with your back straight and with your head up. Believe it or not, sitting up straight will keep you more awake and alert. (When the spine is “slumped” you will feel tired more quickly).
During the Interview - Listen to the interviewer “attentively”. Nod your head and make “I’m listening, and I’m interested” sounds. Keep eye contact (you don’t need to stare) and avoid “fidgeting” or “jiggling” your legs and feet. Answer all the questions directly and succinctly, giving truthful answers and, wherever possible, give examples to support your answers. Sometimes a few “Testimonials”, from previous Clients or Customers, or Company Memos, supporting your achievements and successes, can be useful - But don’t overdo it; keep the “Brag Book” for the Grandkids!
It’s a good practice to take a couple of extra copies of your resume with you to an interview. One, in case the interviewer has either lost, forgotten or never received their original copy, and a couple of spares so you can have one in front of you, if you need to refer to it during the interview, or if other people attend the interview who never received a copy.
Have a few well thought out questions prepared, in case the interviewer asks if you have any questions and, if you do ask a question, LISTEN to the reply!
At the end of the interview, if you feel that the role is for you, and you feel that you would add value to their organisation, tell them; without going over the top. Make sure the interviewer clearly understands that you want the job. Ask for it, if you feel it’s appropriate. At the very least, ask what the next step would be and whether they will contact you or if you should contact them.
If you have been referred to the interview by a Recruitment Consultant, be sure to contact the Consultant as soon after the interview’s completion as possible. It is important to provide them with feedback on how you felt you went, in the interview, and whether you are still interested in the opportunity or not!
Treat your interview as a normal business appointment. You might want to send a brief note, or email, to thank them for their time and for considering you for the role. People like to be appreciated and it is a demonstration of your professional follow up; potentially showing them how you will treat THEIR Customers when you work for them.
All the best! ☺
- One Final Thing - RELAX. Be prepared, be professional, but most importantly, be yourself. There is no reason to feel intimidated………..by anyone! It’s OK to feel a little nervous, that’s natural, especially when we are wanting to present ourselves as best we can and impress someone we may never have met before. I speak to a great number of Candidates who tell me that they are intimidated by most Recruitment Consultants; don’t be. At the end of the day they are human beings, just like you, and chances are they went through an interview process to get the position they are in now, just like you. If, however, you feel uncomfortable with a Recruitment Consultant, or do not feel that they are going to represent you the way you want to be represented…..don’t use them! Remember, they need you as much as you need them.