So this is a slightly different post to what is usually on my blog, so I completely understand if you do not wish to read it. However, I think in the current societal state, we could all do with a little job seeking advice occasionally, and having studied the recruitment process extensively as part of my degree; I think I should share some of my top tips for a successful interview.
Note: Using all of these tips will not guarantee interview success, just as not using these tips does not mean you will be unsuccessful. They are simply tips I have picked up through the literature and personal experience.
Tip 1: Pre-interview communication
One element that people tend to forget is that you are evaluated from the moment you make first contact, whether through direct face-to-face application, or through a job site; the moment they see your name you are being evaluated for the available position. So, what does this mean?
You have sent off your CV and you have had a reply saying that they have shortlisted you for the post, and you will be contacted with information about an interview/ assessment day/ trial-job role-play scenario. What should you do? You contact them back, if they have left a number call them to confirm that you are interested and to get an interview as soon as possible. If they haven’t, you email them back, a professional email. Always be courteous and thank them for taking the time to contact you and state that you would like to discuss the interview and sort it out. Proactive.
This is key if you are applying for a role that requires you to be out-going, proactive and assertive; they will be looking for those traits from the beginning and not only once you sit down in the interview.
To summarise tip one, be pro-active about the role before the interview, prove that you mean business and you want this job. They do not want the work of having to hunt you down. Trust me.
Tip 2: Manners maketh man
When you are in an interview situation, you are going to be nervous as hell. If you aren’t nervous then they will think you are over-confident. However, in all those stutters and fumbling over words because you want every word to be perfect, people tend to forget the basics.
- Introduce yourself, shake their hand(s) and tell them who you are and ask what they would like you to refer them as.
- Refer to them by what they have said. Don’t mumble around your words and hope the right person interviewing you knows you are talking to them. ‘So Mr Clark to answer your question…’ or ‘Yes Hannah, I do have experience…’ this layer of communication is vital in building a rapport with the interviewer, which is greatly influential in their decision making.
- If you are offered a drink/ seat, thank them. Please and thank you are the basics of manners and something that is drilled into us from the moment we can babble. There is no point wasting all your mother and father’s words when it comes to an important interview!
- Thank them, once the interview is concluded and you have asked all your final questions. Whether they have said yes, no, we will contact you; thank them for taking the time to see you. Show them that you have appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate what you can offer the company.
Tip 3: Clothes… one of the most important elements
I know that there will be both men and women reading this, these tips will generally apply to both parties however remember I am female and that has been the focus of majority of psychological literature in the recruitment process.
When you are asked to dress by a certain code, don’t try and interpret what it means; if you don’t know what ‘business attire’ means, a simple search will definitely bring up enough examples for you to understand the acceptable list of clothing.
Although in business situations, it is customary to go straight for black and white; remember you are there to make an impression. So, if you dress in black and white, and so does the next person, and the next person, and the person after that; how will they be able to say ‘oh that person said this’? A pop of colour draws positive attention, however, remember that a splash of colour is desirable, a pallet of clashing colours is not.
For men… a splash of colour on the tie or a different coloured shirt has been found to be the most influential, especially if the colour works well with the remainder of the suit.
For women… a blouse with a splash of colour works the same as a tie, although women are not expected to wear ties in the workplace, another method of standing out could be to include a tie with a splash of colour.
Tip 4: The Power Stance
So this is a tip discussed in many places that give advice regarding interviews. The idea of the power stance is to create the illusion (if there is a lack of) confidence, ‘fake it till you make it’ is how this is often referred.
Before you get there (or in the bathroom if you forget), take a few power strides. Bring yourself up as tall as you can, put on a business face and stride as far and hard as you can. I don’t mean fast, I mean move with purpose. Be ‘a man on a mission’, push yourself forward hard and plant your feet strongly. Once you reach there, your confidence and your posture will be that of a confident but not arrogant applicant.
When you are sitting in the interview, do not slouch back in the chair. If you are asked to sit outside the interview, don’t slouch there either. Sit yourself forward and lean into the conversation, making eye contact and show engagement with every element of the discussion. Hold your hands loosely, try not to hold anything in your hands because if you do shake because of nerves this will look even worse. If the worst comes to it, slide your hands either between your knees or under your thighs. If you anticipate shaking, before entering the interview, (without being seen) tighten your fists hard, and then stretch them out, relaxing the muscles in your hands.
And remember the saying ‘keep your chin up’ because exposing your throat to a potential threat, in this case the interviewer, shows that you do no fear nor do you submit. This is evolutionary and animalistic in nature, although you don’t want to be seen as confrontational, if you don’t have a power within the room; you will be lost in the crowd of applicants.
Tip 5: Use the smile and the eyes
Okay, this may sound like an extremely feminine thing to say, but this applies equally to men. A smile, not a seductive or cheeky smile, but a genuine happy smile, makes you look more approachable as well as comfortable and confident in the environment.
Now eyes are one of the most important elements, mainly because eye contact with your interviewer builds a conversational bond, it also conveys your confidence and can help you gage how the interview is going.
One of the things often noticed while using eye contact is the note-taking process. Now a lot of people presume that the notes are either a sign of being really good, or really bad; they are neither. They are simply key things you use to answer, anything about you that is not within your CV or application and helps build a picture of you. They are not saying that there is nothing interesting about you if they stop writing notes, perhaps you have simply engaged them in conversation and they are no longer thinking about the notes but rather focusing on the words you are saying. The same can be said for if they are taking a lot of notes, they may be loving what you are saying and it is building on the basics that they have on you. Note taking seems to be an area of great concern for applicants, when really it doesn’t highlight whether you are a good applicant or not.
So, at the end of every interview you will always get asked ‘so, do you have any questions?’ and there are two wrong ways of answering this:
- Never, ever, ever, say no. During the interview, there is no way that you will have discussed every aspect of the job and how it applies to you.
- Never, ask about money; if you are seen to only be there for the financial benefit, or other benefits of the job, rather than the experience, you will be overlooked for someone who seems genuinely interested in the role- this is because those only going for the money are more likely to leave sooner than those who are interested in the job role itself. A key element of recruitment is finding people who will stick with the role, because the process, alongside training, is an expensive one.
So, how do I answer this question?
- I think back over the job specification and think of anything that they haven’t directly asked about
For example, in a recent interview, entrepreneurial development was mentioned within the job specification but not in the interview, so I asked how much of a role it would play in the job and how training would help me with this as it is an area of little experience for me.
- I also finish with ‘do you have any concerns with my application so far?’ this forces them to rationalise any decisions they have already made about your application, and if you are not successful, it also highlights areas you need to work on to be successful next time.
So those are my top 5 tips interview success and my advice on handling that final question.
I hope they help!