Your Definitive A-Z Guide to Interviews: Part 1
Interviews are inevitable part of job hunting but they don’t need to be something you dread. With the right amount of preparation you can stand out from the other candidates and give yourself a much better chance of getting that job.
If the letter inviting you to an interview is rather vague, don’t just accept it. It will be time to ask some questions, so give HR a call and ask for a few more details. It’s advisable to have names and job titles of your interviewer(s) and what the interview agenda will be. Get as many facts as you can since all information will help you focus in the right areas for your interview. The added bonus for requesting this information is that the HR department will remember your high level of professionalism which will give them a very good first impression of you.
Always prepare at least 3 questions to ask at your interview. These should be appropriate to the role or to the company – but don’t try and be clever in asking a question to catch out your interview panel, it will put them right off you. Good question areas are: the products and/or services provided by the company, training procedures and career progression.
If you think you have the confidence to ask questions during the interview as opposed to just at the end please do so, it will demonstrate you are engaged in the interview process and are interested in the role. Take care not to interrupt the interviewer with your questions though, always be patient and let them finish talking before jumping in.
Even if you are nervous, anxious or scared out of your wits, a positive body language will do you well and boost your confidence no end. A firm handshake, an honest smile, holding your head high and shoulders back and making eye contact, will all be remembered by the interviewers as you being a positive and likable candidate.
You may want to take notice of some of your habits you have when you are nervous or being slightly economical with the truth, for example, picking your nails, fiddling with your hair, rubbing your nose, scratching your face etc. The interviewers may not pick up on what these habits represent, but it will definitely distract them. Its better that they listen to what you have to say as opposed to being mesmerised by how often you stick your finger in your ear!
What is your ‘listening look’? For many years I used to frown when I was concentrating on what someone was saying – unfortunately their perception of me was that I was angry with them. Now that I am aware I do this, I have changed my ‘listening look’ by relaxing my face to avoid that frown.
What do you look like when you concentrate? Do you look angry, bored, confused? How can you check? You can ask someone who’s opinion you trust and get then to talk to you. Concentrate hard on what they are saying and then get them to give you feed back on how you look. You can discuss any adjustments that need to be made to change your ‘listening look’ to something more positive.
Ensure you have a copy of your up-to-date CV with you at the interview. It is unlikely you will need to refer to it, but it will make you feel more confident having it with you. Make sure you are well versed on your CV; there is nothing worse than trying to remember where you worked 5 years ago and fumbling around in your head to recall what you did.
If you find yourself in a situation where the interview has dipped and the mood has taken a down turn – stay calm. Humour can help here but don’t go too crazy, just put on a smile and explain how nervous you are and be positive. Take a deep breath and carry on. Showing your honesty and the appreciation of the situation with a positive spin will be acknowledged and appreciated by your interviewer(s). Remember there is nothing wrong in saying you are nervous, they are probably nervous too.
If there is one thing I enforce more than anything else to my clients it is this: be enthusiastic about the job! Even if it sounds like the dullest job on the planet, you can still show enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is highly infectious and it’s something that companies cannot train. Given the choice between 2 candidates – one with skills and no enthusiasm and one with hardly any experience and bags of energy and enthusiasm – the job will mostly likely be offered to the enthusiastic candidate. Remember: companies are happy to invest time in training for the job role, they won’t want to bother training someone to have a positive attitude.
It is important that the interviewers realise that you will fit in with the team or department. Showing you are approachable and friendly is just as important as having a strong skills set in the job itself.
Yes first impressions do count. Ensure you have the simplest of things sorted: Clean polished shoes, freshly laundered and ironed clothes. If you are a smoker avoid having a quick ciggie right before the interview as the smell will linger, if you are desperate though, make sure you have mints or mouth freshener to hand. Avoid very tight fitting clothes or clothes that will irritate you.
Ladies: Take care on the jewellery and make-up, a classic look is best. I have interviewed ladies with glitter lipstick and wearing enough jewellery to put Goldsmith’s to shame. Avoid showing to much skin even on a hot day (that includes décolletage!). Make sure there are no holes in tights/stockings and it’s always a good idea to pack a spare pair discretely in your bag – just in case.
Gentlemen: Ensure your aftershave is not going to knock out a rhino at 20 paces; less is best. Facial hair is OK as long as it’s neat and tidy. Avoid ‘builder’s cleavage’ when you bend down, so ensure your shirt is tucked in well.
Make sure you have done your research on the company and the role as much as you can. Try and remember a few facts about the company, as it will be highly likely they will ask a few questions in this area at the start of the interview. By making a little effort in your research, you will gain a lot of head way at the interview. I am always amazed at the number of candidates who do not bother doing this.
Your preparation can in some instances go against you, especially if you have done prep work weeks in advance of the interview. Be ready to be intuitive with your answers and tweak your responses accordingly, rather than regurgitating what you have rehearsed and sounding like a robot.
“Just one more thing”
This is what I call the Columbo technique. For those of you who missed out on the fabulous 70’s detective series, our genius detective Columbo would ask loads of questions to the prime suspect. He would then leave the room, the suspect would then relax and then Columbo would suddenly reappear and say the classic line “..just one more thing ” and then deliver the killer question while the suspect was completely off guard.
This can happen to you at the end of the interview. So if you think everything is drawing to an end, please stay in interview mode until you actually physically leave the building…you never know, they could ask that make or break question as you are shaking their hand good bye.
Killer skill set
Don’t just think of qualifications and experience when preparing for your interview, chances are you will have a fabulous skill set too. It is very usual for all of us to play down what we do so well. If you made a list of all your skills most, if not all, would be transferable to anything you decide to do.
Remember soft skills are just as important as hands-on skills. So if you are an excellent negotiator, good listener, a natural leader or you just have the ability to brighten a persons day, then remember to mention this and prepare examples where you can illustrate your excellent talents.
I have put luck in this list as a number of my clients insist that getting the job is more about luck than it is about anything else. I don’t agree, if you have done your preparation, dressed according, have a positive attitude with lots of enthusiasm you will definitely be short listed or better still offered the role.