These job interview success tips will support you as you move on to the next stage of the job search process.
Congratulations that you have secured an interview for the job you really want. Obviously your resume was great and included all the right catch phrases, key words and experience listed. But no matter how impressive your resume and experience are, equally important is how you behave during the interview process.
Employers are not only looking at the skill set you possess, but at how you will present yourself as a representative of the company. In today’s business world, employees are an extension of the company’s brand.
Remember: Your resume is your entree card to an interview. A person with an excellent resume stands a very good chance of gaining an interview. However it’s the job interview that gets you the job or gives the job to someone else!
You must prepare for your interview in much the same way as you would prepare for an exam or test, or as an actor would for a play or a speaker would before a conference. You should never simply arrive and wing it. The better prepared you are, the better will be your chances.
Know your resume
It may sound a little silly but how well do you know your own résumé? Assuming you will have tailored your résumé for each particular job, it is really important that you know what you have sent to your prospective employer. The interviewer will almost certainly ask you questions according to what is on your résumé. Make sure you know that information backwards and be prepared to answer following the formula I’ve given you.
Understand the job description
The job description gives you many clues about what the interviewer will want to know about you. Find out everything you can about the job itself so that you can have some intelligent questions ready to ask. Hopefully you will have answered many of their questions through your resume, but the interview is your chance to give expanded answers to their question of why you are the right person for the job.
Nothing impresses an interviewer more than to have an applicant ask relevant and probing questions about their prospective job. Do your homework and make a solid impression. Prepare answers for these questions so you can confidently explain your achievements and experience.
Research the company
Do some research about the company, its mission statement, history, background and future plans so that you can relate your answers to knowledge of the company. This indicates that you are genuine about wanting to work for this company rather than just wanting to get any job.
Know who is interviewing you
When you are invited to attend an interview ask who will be interviewing you. You may be told the people’s names or just their role. Do some research so that you know more about the person/people. Knowing their names in advance helps you to remember the names when you are under the pressure of an interview. Knowing about their role gives you an insight into what aspects of you as a prospective employee might be of particular interest to them.
Use a formula for your responses
Go through the job description to work out questions they are likely to ask you and prepare answers to these questions. There is a winning formula that helps you to answer job interview questions successfully, clearly and concisely, weaving your achievements into your answers.
S – Situation: What was going on?
T – Task: What were you supposed to do?
A – Action: What did you do?
R – Result: What was the outcome?
Sometimes this formula is written as
PAR- Problem, Action, Result or
CAR – Circumstances (or Challenges), Action, Result.
Work with whatever version of this most resonates with you, but make sure you have examples for lots of different possible questions and make sure that the examples you give both show that you have dealt with that issue before and shows you in a good light.
Practice centering yourself
Get into the habit of being able to centre yourself under pressure. Sit in a comfortable position, upright but not uptight! In that position take a deep breath, the sort that goes down into your diaphragm, and then exhale slowly. As you do this imagine that you are surrounded by people who care about you and who only want the best for you.
When you are practicing for the interview, consciously return to this position and this state between each question. In practice, take as long as it takes to make you feel the strength and power that comes from feeling completely ready and surrounded by warm wishes. If you have practiced this well, in the interview between questions you will regain this position and be calm and ready for your next question.
Learn a good opening and closing statement.
Try not to sound like a machine and practice to make it sound natural. But at the beginning of the interview, if you are asked something like, “Why do you want this job?” use your prepared statement to make a great start.
Likewise at the end of the interview, always thank the person and then wind up with a short summation of your abilities. This is the closing statement you have committed to memory. A good start and a good ending are very important.
At the interview
Dealing with nerves
It would take a really ice-cool person to go to an interview and not feel a little nervous. Many people feel very nervous. It’s only natural because having made it this far the pressure automatically builds. You are thinking that this is the make or break time. Your job interview success rests on this moment in time. A good interview and you could land the prize…A bad one and you’ll be just another applicant.
Water is often offered to you as you commence an interview. Accept the water and have it near you as a prop. If you need to take a moment to answer a question, or just to calm your nerves, then sip slowly on the water. Centre yourself between questions and answers using the calming technique that you practiced when you were preparing for the interview.
Being late is simply not acceptable. Plan your day well. Allow for heavy traffic or take the earlier train. You must be on time and preferably, for your sake, be early. Allow yourself the time to travel sensibly and then be able to quietly prepare yourself before the interview. Check out the address well before time. Even drive to the interview venue some days in advance so you are certain you know where you are going. If travelling by car, where will you park? Don’t leave things to chance.
Have you considered how you will present yourself? You know the old saying that you only get one chance to make a first impression. It’s important that people can see you’ve made an effort. This doesn’t mean going over the top but clean shoes, tidy hair and appropriate clothing for that business and role are essential.
Be friendly, personable and polite to everyone. There is no point turning on the charm in the interview if you have been unpleasant to people before you went into the interview. The person at the front desk is often a valued colleague who will be asked their opinion of you. Consider this: If it is a very close decision your job interview success could rest on the genuine communication you shared with the person who welcomed you when you arrived.
Put yourself in the other person’s place. They are looking for a new work colleague. If the interviewee was late, looked like they’d just fallen out of bed, was impolite, and hadn’t prepared for the interview, would you choose them? Don’t damage your chances.
One question that is often asked is “What is your greatest weakness in your work life?” Don’t treat that question superficially. It isn’t credible to say that your weakness is that you are too kind, or you work too hard! Treat this question as you would the others, and work through the formula to devise a good answer.
Dealing with age
We are all aware that age is often a factor in who is offered a job opportunity. So how does this pan out in the interview? It’s important that you do not emphasize any aspects of yourself that could be a barrier to employment.
Few things age you as much as the statement “I’m not great with computers”. If your technology skills are poor then you can’t lie about that but try giving it a positive spin, such as referring to your ability to master skills quickly.
Be prepared for all aspects of the interview
Follow the lead of the person/people interviewing you as far as formality goes but it will impress your prospective employer if you can recall people’s names.
Eye contact is so important. There’s nothing worse than talking to someone who won’t look you in the eye. And don’t rush your answers. One more breath before you begin is a good idea.
Communicate who you are
Many interviewees don’t have a clear image of themselves. This leads to poor body language, rash or negative comments and general confusion for the interviewer. Be clear about your personality, your goals and your achievements. Work to your strengths. Be natural but have a game plan and stick to it.
Acknowledge your achievements
Your work has been interesting, challenging, worthwhile and rewarding, on some level at least, so be prepared to expound on the difference you have made in that job. You must be prepared to support any achievements you have included in your résumé with statements using the STAR, or equivalent, formula mentioned earlier in this article.
Employers want successful people, people who are enthusiastic and capable and who enjoy their work. The fact you may not have been the boss is not as important as the fact that you can point to a number of tasks which you have made your own and achievements of which you are proud.
Get a good night’s sleep
Don’t prepare the night before. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare, to think things through and give yourself the best chance to succeed. In some ways it’s like an exam. Get a good night’s sleep the night beforehand, eat sensibly and don’t put yourself under any undue pressure.
Here are 11 reminders to help you ace that interview.
1. Be punctual.
Arrive on time, or even better, arrive five to ten minutes early. Employers take notice of when you arrive for your interview. Arriving early is an indication of good organization; it shows that the individual plans ahead and allows extra time for preparation or unforeseeable events, such as traffic jams.
2. Be well groomed.
Make sure hair is neat and nails are cut and clean. Business attire should be pressed and conservative. Avoid excessive jewellery, make-up, perfumes or colognes. Do not wear flamboyant colours or patterns and certainly do not show too much skin. The interview is not about your fashion sense (unless you are interviewing in the fashion industry!) but about how you will fit in with the corporate culture.
3. Speak in a tone that reflects confidence.
Be assertive in your presentation. They want someone who can step into the role confidently and assume the responsibilities of that role.
4. Speak clearly and coherently.
Avoid using slang terms and inserting “like” and “um” in your statements. This is common and usually a result of nervousness. It’s important to recognise this habit and curtail it, particularly if the position you are interviewing for requires public speaking.
5. Be direct and answer the question asked.
Remain “on point” with your responses. Employers have little patience for rambling. If the interviewer wants more information, he/she will ask follow-up questions.
6. Don’t rush the interview.
Speak at a moderate pace. You only get one shot at making a first impression so you want to make sure you cover all the relevant points as to why you are the right hire. If you speak too fast, you may forget to discuss important skills or experiences you bring to the table. Additionally, how you present yourself demonstrates how well you communicate in general (see #4 above).
7. Choose your words carefully.
Make sure you know the meaning of the words you use. Do not try to impress the interviewer by using overly technical or complicated terms. Keep it simple. As a human resources professional, I have interviewed many job applicants over the course of my career and it’s astounding the number of applicants who, in an attempt to impress, use words that either do not exist or do not have the correct meaning within the context of the interview. It’s a common occurrence and a common disqualifier.
8. Be engaged during the interview.
Ask some questions about the company. The interview is not only the employer’s opportunity to learn more about you, but your opportunity to decide if you want to work for the employer. Some questions you may want to ask include, “How would you describe your management style?” and “What do you see as the biggest challenges for the company in the upcoming year?”
9. Be cool and express gratitude for the interview.
Never ask the interviewer “how did I do” or similar questions at the conclusion of the interview. Doing this shows poor etiquette and a lack of confidence. At the conclusion of the interview, thank the interviewer for his/her time and state that you enjoyed discussing the opportunity with them.
10. Send a follow-up thank you note.
Never underestimate the power of thanking someone for their time. Many people fail to do this, and it can be the difference between a job offer or having your resume moved to the bottom of the pile. The thank you letter is also a great way to remind the employer that you are interested in the position and to restate (briefly) why you are the best candidate for the job.
11. Remember that being nervous is normal.
Just remember, employers know that most applicants are nervous during the interview process. The interview should not be an intimidating or scary experience. Quite the opposite, the applicant should enjoy the opportunity to discuss with someone all their positive traits. Put the above job interview tips into practice. Once you master the process, interviewing will be about as scary as having coffee with a friend.