The ability to shine in interviews is a distinctly valuable attribute, and one that can make all the difference to your current and future career prospects. As with any skill, it can and should be consistently improved upon and refined by professionals of all ages and levels of experience. Particularly within the current economic climate, the ability to represent yourself well within an interview scenario is vital, and very often the key to excelling in interviews is an ability to do the basics well.
No-one can tell you how to conduct the absolute perfect interview, because this is entirely dependant on the role you are being considered for, the skills and experience that you possess, and the natural strengths to emphasise in your character. There are many different approaches that yield different levels of success for different people, although the tips below should allow you to approach any interview scenario with solid foundations, confidence and optimism.
Be yourself, condensed
If you are at the stage where an interview is required then congratulations, you have already represented yourself well, either through your CV or through positive personal association. This means that your interviewer will know something about you already, particularly if you have come through a specialist recruitment consultancy that thoroughly briefs both sides before the interview.
This allows you to professionally be yourself, to a certain extent. You should take confidence from the fact that someone has requested an interview, and let this dispel any nerves that might prevent you from expressing yourself to your fullest potential. Try to condense and communicate the most attractive elements of your natural abilities, learned skills and acquired experience into a coherent proposition for your potential employer, and let your personality do the rest.
Know more than your interviewers do
One of the most important common traits of a successful interview is the amount of research a successful candidate undertakes prior to the interview itself. It sounds obvious, but many prospective candidates will carry out only the most superficial levels of research, giving you a distinct advantage if you are prepared to dig a little deeper. The Internet is a powerful tool for this purpose, so use it to check out your prospective employer’s business, the markets within which they operate, and the types of corporate values that they hold. All this will come in very handy.
The ultimate realisation of accomplished research is to know more about certain aspects of your prospective employer’s business than your interviewers do. If you can demonstrate a depth of knowledge about the employer, this will enable you to have a much more sophisticated conversation about the ways in which your candidacy can help them achieve their commercial objectives. It will impress them with your initiative, allow you to ask intelligent, informed questions and go a long way helping you to secure your new role.
Match yourself to the role
Once you’ve done your research, you should have a pretty good idea of why your prospective company is keen to recruit, and also of the types of professional skills and experience that they might require in order to be satisfied that they made the right choice of employee. Because you now have a clearer idea of what they are specifically after for a particular role, you can then try to highlight areas within your own personal experience that match these criteria in order that you can communicate these during the interview.
Make a few notes about the role’s requirements, and then add further notes regarding your own skills and experience that meet them. In this way, you will be accentuating your suitability for the role, and thereby heightening your chances of convincing interviewers that your candidacy ‘ticks all the right boxes’ on a practical level. On a personal level, look back on your research to tell you the type of personality, ethics and working values that your prospective employer promotes. This will give you an angle on the types of characters and personalities that they would wish to employ too.
The moment of truth
Once you are actually conducting the interview itself, there is very little margin for error, so any preparation beforehand is time well spent, including perhaps even practising your technique with a friend or family member. During the interview, it is important to strike a balance between different instincts: you must remain alert enough to think on your feet, and yet at the same time be relaxed enough to remember to breathe and not trip over your words when giving answers,
Any answers that you give must be concise and considered, although expressive enough to allow the clarity of your thoughts to shine through. You should also take a notepad to jot down any thoughts or questions that you might ask your prospective employers at an appropriate moment during the interview. Your interviewers will have little choice but to make fairly quick judgements about what you have to offer, so it is important that you keep your nerve, remaining positive and professionally impressive throughout.
As the interview concludes, be sure to enquire as to what the next steps are, and ask whether there is anything further you can do to support your bid for the role.
One of the most important things to do after any interview is to obtain some feedback on your performance. In this way, even an interview in which you did not land the role can be successful in providing quality tips and advice that will only improve your abilities over time.
If you are working with a quality recruitment consultant, they will be able to talk directly to the employer on your behalf after the interview and gain some valuable insights into how well you were perceived.
The Basics – Regan & Dean Interview Check List
The following quick tips may sound obvious but…
- Don’t be late – always allow extra contingency time to get to the interview unflustered (and if you are running late, ring ahead to let them know)
- Dress smart (ask your Consultant for any guidelines on this depending on the type of role)
- Ensure you’ve got all required details of the address/map/who you’re seeing, etc. with you, and take a copy of your CV (and portfolio if you have one)
- Review the job spec and the company’s website thoroughly in advance, discussing the position in depth with your Consultant if necessary
- Check websites of competitors too, in order to get a good general feel for their market
- Make sure you can confidently and succinctly explain what your current and past roles have involved (a well structured CV is a great basis for this)
- Prepare for any competency-based questions by identifying examples from your own working life that illustrate your skills/abilities. These examples must be prepared in advance, so that they readily spring to mind during, rather than after, the interview!
- Develop a robust case in advance of why you think you’d be good for the role, and what key skills and attributes you have to offer your prospective employer
- Take a list of questions about the role/company to the interview
- Make sure you listen carefully to the interview questions, and focus your responses on directly answering their enquiry – you can always check with them to see if you have answered a question to their satisfaction – don’t waffle.
- If you’re nervous, remind yourself to take deep breaths – it can often lighten the atmosphere if you explain to your interviewer that you are feeling nervous
- Round up the interview by asking if there are any areas that your interviewers feel you haven’t covered fully enough for them, or areas of concern
- Give a good positive end to your interview by restating your strong interest in the role, and thank them for their time
- Phone your recruitment consultant asap after the meeting to give them your feedback