Many years ago I attended the worst job interview of my life. Obviously, I didn’t think it was going to be the worst, otherwise there wouldn’t have been much point showing up but as the interview progressed and my palms got sweatier and my brain got foggier, it was all I could do to stay in the room and not just pick up my bag and say “Sorry is that the time? Gotta go”.
I would honestly say it had been a nightmare and was only helped by a junk food binge after the event.
How could I have got it so wrong? What was different about this one that made my performance below par? (so below par that only a whole block of creamy, milk chocolate could fix it)
I took heart from the fact that my resume must have been excellent, after all I was one of only four being interviewed so it wasn’t all bad.
When I took some time to consider how I could have improved my interview performance I realised that a number of steps are vital to creating your best chance to have the interview that can win you the job.
BEFORE YOUR INTERVIEW
1. Preparation is king
Go through the job requirements and put some time into preparing answers about the main requirements of the job. Usually the interviewer or the panel will ask straight forward questions related to the role requirements – after all they want someone who can do the role and fit in with the team. There is plenty of information around about the types of interview questions commonly asked.
2. Research the organisation
Take some time to get to know more about the company where you are being interviewed. Not everybody does this so it’s a useful way to stand out from the pack. Check out information such as the website, Annual Report, Financials and anything you can find specifically about the role or the Department you are applying for. You can even use this information to ask insightful questions at the end of the interview. Interviewers love to hear applicants weave something about the organisation into an answer.
3. Prepare lots of examples
When thinking about the types of questions that may be asked, list some of your best examples that could be used to illustrate a point. It’s a great idea to think of some that you haven’t already used on your resume to be able to provide more information about your experience.
It’s useful to structure examples that follow a model such as the Situation, Task, Actions, Result (STAR) or Situation, Action and Outcome (SAO) models so they are easier to remember and they show the interviewers a situation and how it was dealt with.
If you don’t necessarily have an example of your own – talk about a situation anyway, so the interviewers can see that you know how to deal with it. For example, if you are asked to describe a time when you didn’t get on with someone in the workplace and how you dealt with it don’t say that has never happened to you – the panel wants to know what your skills are in this area. They won’t actually know if the situation is real or not.
4. Practise your answers aloud
If you haven’t been to a job interview for a while prepare some answers and practise them aloud or, even better, role play with a friend beforehand so it isn’t quite so nerve wracking when you get into the interview. This will also give you an opportunity to rehearse some of your examples so you can fine tune them and not waffle.
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DURING THE INTERVIEW
5. Be confident
This is easy to write, but isn’t always so easy to project at an interview. Your key to confidence, however, is your preparation. If you have followed the steps above you should be able to project your knowledge in a confident, authentic and focused manner. Your answers should be concise but showcase your examples. Listen to the question thoroughly before answering and a pause to catch your breath and focus your mind is good – then you can launch into your answer.
Remember also that not every panel develops great questions – so if you get asked a closed question which only requires a yes or no answer – treat the question like any other and sell your skills.
For some more information on this topic, this an interesting article by Heidi Grant in Harvard Business Review about how to show trustworthiness in a job interview.
6. Bring examples of your work
This is a great way to demonstrate your particular skills in an area. If you have developed a spreadsheet, training program, brochure, policy etc then show the panel. If they don’t ask a question about it, tell them about it anyway at the end when you are asked if there is anything you want to add.
7. Ask the interviewing panel a question
At the end of the interview, don’t ever say no when asked you if you have any questions – you will make much more of an impression if you have done some research and have a question about the company’s vision or culture, something about the main challenges in the position in the next twelve months or even something about the reception area that you noticed while you were waiting – just something to show the panel that you are interested in working for the company.
Remember loads of people probably applied for this job and you were lucky enough to get an interview so take the opportunity to shine and make the most of it.
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After my own disheartening experience I realised that I probably hadn’t prepared enough and was relying on my memory to sift through examples on the spot – not a reliable approach at the best of times. I was heartened to learn later, though, that the job was advertised a few more times before someone was chosen for the job. I was pretty sure that it wasn’t just about me then and I went on to find a much better job anyway!
What are your winning tips?