Interview like a boss!
I recently spent time facilitating a number of interview panel workshops. Part of this training involved participants’ having a go role playing as an interviewer. This meant it was necessary for someone to play the part of interviewee (me!). While the focus of the session was on the panel’s activities, observing numerous mock interviews did give me the opportunity to think about what comes across well (and conversely what doesn’t) when going through the interview process.
Your interview is your first face-to-face chance to let an organisation know who you are and what you can contribute. Without putting yourself under too much pressure, you want to do everything possible to prepare, and whether you get the role or not, you’ll know you gave it your very best.
Although it sounds clichéd, never, ever underestimate the basics!
- Be on time
- Dress appropriately
- Be prepared
These are all essential if you want to have an excellent interview.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue
It is far better to spend an hour in the café round the corner reading through your application (again) than rushing in with seconds to spare which is only likely to make you feel more anxious.
Wear something that you feel smart and comfortable in
Something that reflects who you are and at the same time reflects the culture of the workplace you are going into.
Research the role and the organisation, extensively, in advance
Take a copy of your CV (and your cover letter/application if you wish) along with you for reference, as well as a list of any questions relating to the role that you might have. These questions may get answered during the course of the interview, but if they don’t, it means you’ve got something up your sleeve for the inevitable ‘do you have any questions for us?’. If they don’t ask this at the end of the interview, you might want to say ‘can I ask a couple of questions?’. The information you get may ultimately help you decide (if offered the role) whether you really want the position, it may also give you additional information to assist as part of any formal negotiation around a job offer.
Make eye contact
During the interview when you are giving your responses, try to talk to and make eye contact with all the interviewers – this can sometimes be tricky depending upon seating arrangements (and when one interviewer seems more friendly). However, try to make sure everyone present feels included, this might tip the final decision in your favour!
Know the job description inside out
Interviews, whilst nerve racking no matter how many you have been through (from either side of the table), should not be a test! They are to establish if you are the best person for the role (and your role is to demonstrate that). The interview may be part of a wider suite of selection techniques being used for assessment (for instance some companies use job tests, work samples, or presentations) or they may be stand-alone. Either way ensure that you know the job description (and required competencies for the role) inside out, well in advance. Dedicate time to prepare some examples (a couple for each competency or skill required) garnered from your previous experience, to illustrate your proficiency and suitability for the job in question.
Even if some of your skills or background don’t match the role requirements precisely, the fact you’ve been invited to interview means the company have seen you have the potential to undertake the position.
Those straight out of education or with limited work experience can sometimes struggle to come up with answers. However, many skills are not specific to a particular industry or job (although of course some of the more technical aspects of a role may be). For example, a key competency of a role may be negotiation. Whilst you may not have had a formal role involving negotiating, you may be able to provide an example from a project at University, or volunteer work you have undertaken, that necessitated negotiating a successful outcome. In this instance, just adapt your answer to illustrate how your experience (in whatever context) was successful and could similarly be applied /is relevant to the job being interviewed for.
Be open to up-skilling
In addition, make clear to those interviewing you, that you are willing to undergo further training in any areas you are unfamiliar with (this may, for example, apply to a particular area of the job such using a particular computer programme). One of my roles required MBTI certification which at the time I didn’t have, but I went on to complete the course, becoming certified, and more useful to the organisation, while adding another skill to my bank.
Offering to up-skill where required, in this way, demonstrates that you are keen and motivated to do what’s necessary for the job, which also gives a good impression as the interviewer(s) aim to predict your future behaviour on the job.
Expect the unexpected
Sometimes a question can seem to come out of left-field or the interview can go off in an unusual direction. If you’re not sure how something relates to the role then ask!
Thank the panel
Thanking the interview panel at the conclusion of the interview, whilst not rocket science, is always well received and surprisingly is not something everyone does.
Treat everyone you meet or have contact with throughout the process politely and with respect. You never know who anyone is and what interaction you may have with him or her in the future, if you do get the role. As author and Civil rights activist Maya Angelou said
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
Besides which it’s courteous, and part of being an awesome human being!
Whilst not strictly part of the interview itself, I’d recommend talking to your referees well in advance and also forwarding them a copy of the job description. Then if you are shortlisted, they won’t be surprised to be contacted and will be able to give an accurate reference relating to the role. On that note, I’d also ask you referees each time you apply for a new role if they are still happy to be a referee for you (and not just assume they will be). This is polite, professional and likely to ensure your referee is in a better state of mind when they give your reference!
Best of luck with your next interview!