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Interview Tips & Tricks

Do you know how to sell yourself in interview? Have you found yourself freezing up? Have you ever had a question where you have not been able to work out what the interviewer was asking – or you could give an answer, but didn’t know if it was the right one? Here are my top 10 interview tips for this month. As someone said on Twitter, these are not rocket science, but really timely reminders of the basics:

 

1. Research the organization

Everyone gets nervous in interview. It’s a big occasion and you should be nervous. However if you start with some thorough research, you start to build a case in your own mind of why you should be sitting in that interview room or in front of a panel. Having some confidence is a solid first step to overcoming nerves.

You can actually tell a lot about an employer from the employment pages of their website. Things such as the values they have, how easy it is to find out about potential jobs and their responses to you when you apply, can all tell you about the way they handle their recruitment. This in turn may be a reflection of what it’s like to work there. If it’s friendly and easy to apply for a job, then chances are they have given some thought to why you would want to work for them.

The web is a such wealth of facts, but what you need to do, is turn this into information. You can look at annual reports, media releases and product and service information. Online directories have company information and Google indexes the latest media news and references from other sources. If a career page has an email contact for an employee, and invites contact, then do it. Often companies will use testimonials that way to attract new people. Use sites such as linked in to research companies.

When you look for this information, you are not just looking for a set of unrelated facts. You should be looking for reasons that you want to work for that employer. You’ll really impress the interviewer if you find some simple yet compelling reasons as to why you want to work for the employer and what appeals to you about the role.

 

2. Research the role

One thing that constantly surprises me is that how few people really have any understanding of the role that they are applying for. Job advertisements are partly to blame for this. They are often misleading. The person writing the advert is often not the person that you’ll be reporting to. Things always sound different on paper compared to what you will actually be doing in the role.

One of my clients recently applied for a job in the public sector. The position description said: Building effective communication strategies with a variety of stakeholders and colleagues to ensure information exchanges are timely, accurate and useful.

This is what this statement meant: Providing advice to staff and students on the status of their research applications.

If you see something like the above, try to talk to someone who knows about the role. A good question to ask is “what does a typical day/week look like?” Once you know what’s expected of you, preparing for the interview is instantly easier.

Also important is a real insight into the role and the recruitment process. Dig deeper than the advertisement. Put a call through if a contact number is provided. You can find out which of the skills that the employer requires are actually the priorities. You can determine what you can do without and importantly you can start to make yourself known (in a good way) to your future employer. Even if the advertisement doesn’t invite it, you can still contact the recruiter. If there are no contact details, be scrupulously polite, it usually means the employers are expecting a deluge of applications.

Ask them questions about the recruitment process, what the steps are, how long each step takes, and whether they’ve had many applicants. You’d be surprised at the information you’ll receive if you sound polite and interested.

 

3. Research yourself

Employers want you to be self-aware. Have a long hard look at what you have achieved, the way you have achieved that result and the skills you developed or demonstrated along the way.

This type of reflection helps you understand your strengths. It gives you confidence and helps you overcome nerves.

 

4. Interviewer insight

No two interview processes are the same. Depending on the organization and the role, you could be interviewed by a recruitment consultant, the HR department, the line manager, all three individually, or any combination. Each will have a different agenda for the interview. This is important to remember as your approach with each should be slightly different.

The recruitment consultant is always the first screener. Their role is to match you to the employer’s requirements and sell you as an applicant. The consultant establishes their credibility with each good candidate they put forward to the employer. Take time to woo them, even if you think they don’t know their stuff (as is a common criticism). Their role is essentially a sales one: to sell you the job and, if they believe you are right for the role, to sell you to their client. Make the consultant’s role easier by focussing on your strengths and achievements and point out why you are a good match.

The HR consultant is usually the recruitment procedural expert. One of their jobs is to ensure the organization meets its legal requirements. They often set up the recruitment process and have a strong attachment to ensuring it is working. It’s a safe bet that you will face a more structured interview from them, than you will from a line manager. They are often the employer’s first screener and may need to sell you further, depending on their position and influence within the organisation.

The line manager will be the person who is most concerned about finding someone for the role. They may be a person down or not meeting their organisation’s objectives by being understaffed. In the interview it will be the line manager who has the greatest sense of urgency about filling the role. Focus on your workplace achievements when fielding their questions. Work hard to build a rapport with them. They will be assessing your fit for their team.

It may sound obvious but treat each interviewer as if they don’t talk to each other and know anything about you. You’d be amazed at how little communication sometimes goes on between each party.

 

5. Practice

Most organizations now use behavioural questions – which means they will be expecting you to provide specific examples of where you have demonstrated the skill they are seeking.

I strongly suggest practicing for an interview and seeking professional help. A professional is skilled at drawing examples out of you and finessing the ones you already have. However never rote learn your lines as you can never predict all the recruiter will ask. Memorising answers will make you stressed in the interview if you can’t recall what you want to say. Worse still, you may even be not be answering the questions the interviewer asks.

 

6. Build rapport

Be friendly. People like that!

One of the best ways to relax is to assume the interviewer is on your side. Good interviewers are not interested in tripping you up. In fact, most of them are on your side, or are at the very least they will be approaching the interview in a professional manner. It may even help to you to relax if you think of the interviewer as someone who wants you to do your best.

 

7. Give yourself time

Leave plenty of time to get to the interview. Rushing breeds panic. No matter what excuse you have, lateness is noted. It creates a negative impression and it puts you behind immediately. Allowing waiting time for an interview gives you time to compose yourself, gather your thoughts and be mentally prepared.

 

8. Please be yourself

That is, please be yourself. You will be doing yourself no favours if you try and suppress your personality, or pretend to be something that you aren’t.

 

9. Relax

While you think this may be the perfect job for you, it may be that it’s not. There are other jobs out there. If you keep this in mind then you’ll remove some pressure from yourself that this is your only chance to perform.

If you think the interview is going badly, relax and use it as practice for the next one. You never know, you could even recover if you take this approach.

 

10. An insider’s tip

The interview is just the formal means of assessing your suitability as a candidate. However you are not just assessed there. Each interaction you have with your future employer feeds into the bigger picture of their impression of you. Use this knowledge. Be polite and friendly with whomever you meet in the process from the very first phone call to the last goodbye to the receptionist on your way out.

Interviews can be daunting. Please contact me if you need some help putting it all into practice or just some extra advice. Here’s another blatant plug. When it comes to interview skills, practice with a professional does make perfect

 

Classic Job Interview Blunders You Must Avoid

 

1. Looking sloppy or having a stain on your clothing

Wrinkled or stained clothing will be noticed a mile away. No matter how nice the rest of your outfit is, if you have a stain on one part, it will ruin your entire look. Plus, it’s a dead giveaway for you lack of attention to detail. If you’ve ever hear the saying, “how you do anything is how you do everything,” it could hold more true in this situation.

 

2. Not being prepared with your questions and answers

Before you go into your interview, you should always go over some questions you think you could be asked. While you don’t want your answers to sound rehearsed, you definitely want to sound prepared. If you are asked a question and don’t give an intelligent answer to it, the employer will most likely move on to the next candidate.

This includes your resume as well. If the interviewer asks you about a previous job you have listed on your resume and you can’t remember because it was so long ago, you will only make yourself look bad and unprepared. Brush up on everything that you have listed on your resume – its fair game for your interview.

 

3. Talking about salary too soon

Don’t jump the gun regarding salary. Wait until the interviewer gets to know you a bit and or asks you about it before you start talking about it. If you only want the job because of the money, it will show and hurt your chances of getting the job. Most often there are several candidates who are competing for the same position you are. The company isn’t going to give the job to the person who is only in it for the money.

While it is completely reasonable to negotiate your salary, make sure you do it at the right time.

 

4. Being late

Always be on time for your interview. Make sure you have the right directions and allow plenty of travel time including traffic to get there. If you are late for an interview, your employer might see that you will probably be late showing up for work. Of course, there are some exceptional situations where you might be late and if one of those arises, make sure you call and let the interviewer know.

 

​5. Lying

Always tell the truth about your past job history and anything that is asked of you at your job interview. If you lie, it will be a matter of time before the employer finds out.

 

6. Gossiping about a former boss.

Nothing will make you look worse than talking badly about a former boss or place of employment. If you talk badly about your previous employer, chances are you will talk badly about this company if you get hired. Nobody likes a gossip. Plus you never know who knows who so it’s best to keep your personal business personal.

 

7. Having a bad odour

Bringing a strong odour into an interview can be very distracting. Don’t wear any perfume or smoke a cigarette right before your interview. You never know what kind of allergies the interviewer may have and this is not a great way to find out. Try not to smell like anything so your interviewer can concentrate on you instead the smell.

 

8. Being fidgety

If you are fidgety and anxious, the interviewer will sense your lack of confidence. Before you go into your interview, take a few minutes to collect your thoughts and take a few deep breaths. Make a point to make eye contact with the interviewer to create a good non-verbal connection.

 

9. Not listening carefully

If you don’t listen to what questions the interviewer is asking you, you are basically saying that what you think is more important that the question they are asking. Make sure to listen to exactly what they are asking and answer the right question. If you don’t listen carefully during the interview, you will probably not be great at following direction on the job.

 

10. Appearing desperate

Interviewers can pick up on this right away. It’s ok to be enthusiastic about wanting the job, but there are limits. Keep your emotions out of the interview and focus on the skills and experience you can bring to the table.