Everyone can benefit from practising. Here’s how to hone your interview skills, be yourself and yet still come over in your best light.
Smile-power: It is highly effective, and everyone can do it
Being professional doesn’t mean always remaining serious. A fellow human being is interviewing you, and just like you, they appreciate a cheerful face. The smile factor is a vital part of human chemistry, and it does turn us on and off. However, there’s more. The Listening Partnership tend to employ people we like as long as their skills match the role, and smiling makes people a whole lot more likeable.
On the other hand, you should take care not to over-smile. Be careful this is usually a strain to keep up and other people sense that it is not genuine.
Along the same lines, make your handshake a nice, firm, strong one. Research proves it matters, particularly for women. Rightly or wrongly, a limp shake can mean you do not get the job.
Preparing well – Making an excellent first impression
It is no good turning up for an interview knowing nothing about the business in question. Wherever possible, research the company. The internet makes things easy. Every company worth its salt has a website, and most companies use that website to portray in some detail what they are about and who they are. Your research should include company culture – even if they do not talk about their culture, assuming they have done a good enough job of it the website, and the blog, in particular, should reveal all.
You can also set up a Google alert for news about the company, the sector or anything else appropriate and relevant. Once you know more, it is easier to tailor your interview accordingly.
Praise the company
Generally, people do not respond that well to over self-promotion. However, it is always a good move to be enthusiastic about the company interviewing you, their products, style, culture, website, anything else you can think of asking. Being interested and enthusiastic goes a long way towards making friends and influencing people
Harness the power of positive thinking
You go into an interview sure you will fail and lo and behold; you do exactly that. Top athletes use powerful mental images of success to get where they want to be, and it is just as potent in other areas of life. Stay positive, imagine yourself getting the job, use the considerable power of daydreaming to set your desires in your mind and you should also find the entire interview experience a lot less stressful as well as more successful.
Know what you have to offer and how your skills apply
Take a good look at the vacancy. Then take an equally long look at your skills and your CV. Hopefully, they will dovetail nicely. However, if they do not match 100%, you will need to prepare yourself in advance to answer some potentially tricky questions. It is fine to admit to the fact that you have a skill gap, but you also need to express a strong willingness to learn. A will do, can do attitude helps no end.
Know that every touch point matters
It is important to understand that when dealing with a recruitment firm, and with the company you are being interviewed by, every piece of communication is vital. Every encounter is equally important, helping all parties form an impression of you. Treat every phone call, email, message and letter as a mini-interview, giving it your best shot, and you will stand more chance of making the right impression.
Look the part
You are unique. We are all unique. However, your uniqueness is not what attracts an employer to you. It is your skills, your personality, your experience. Dress to suit the role, not your tastes. Dress for professionalism, not uniqueness. Is everyone working at the company in suits, or do they all wear jeans? If it is not clear what’s expected, you can always phone the company’s HR people and ask what kind of clothing they are likely to respond to best. It matters when plenty of new media and creative companies wear jeans and Ts at work, and suits are not always the done thing in The City either.
Clean up your social media presences if necessary
Your Facebook account is full of personal stuff, including perhaps, some fairly outrageous statements, party photos and eccentric selfies. Apparently, over 90% of today’s employers will search your social media pre-interview for clues about what makes you tick. Luckily there’s no real reason why you should give a potential employer access to your personal Facebook account, something a lot of us only use for friends and family.
If you are unsure, it is probably best to set up a Facebook page to use professionally, separate from your account, and use the network’s privacy settings to hide your account from anyone but your friends.
If there’s no choice and your prospective employer demands access to your Facebook timeline, clean it up first. The same goes for any other social network sites you have a presence on; clean it up. You can always use the Social Sweepster app to detect things you do not want a potential employer to see.
One more thing: if necessary, tailor your LinkedIn account to the vacancy in question to make a perfect fit.
How to handle yourself at interview
Whether the interview is taking place over the phone, in person or via Skype, there are a few key ways to make sure you create the right impression. Be concise rather than rambling on. Be aware of your body language, keeping it open, relaxed, confident and attentive rather than nervy or distracted.
Keep eye contact when meeting face-to-face and when you are on video. Be honest and open without spilling out your entire life story. Moreover, avoid asking hard-hitting questions about holidays and salary right at the end of the interview, unless the interviewer brings it up themselves. Instead ask a couple of intelligent questions about the role, or where they see the team or company in the future, or what their long-term ambitions are. You should find clues on the website, and by searching Google for news about the company.
Be responsive and appreciative
It can be just as unnerving being the interviewer as it is being interviewed. Bear this in mind, and the person talking to you will appreciate your sensitivity and professionalism. An interview is a two-way process. You want to know if you like the company and fellow team members, and they need to know whether they like you, and how well you will fit. Be very aware of your gut reactions concerning how much you would like the job and why. Also be aware of any niggles that make themselves felt. These might be significant and be giving you some longer term predictive clues about whether this role is right for you or not.
Be honest if you experience ‘brain fade.’
With the best will in the world, sometimes someone will ask you a question, and you go completely, horribly blank. You might not be able to think of an answer. It might be so bad that you forget their question or lose your thread part way through replying.
As a suite of politicians has recently illustrated, it is far better, to be honest, and admit to brain fade than try to fudge things to get away with it. “I am sorry. I have completely lost my train of thought. This interview means a great deal to me. Can you give me a minute to regroup?” The same goes if you do not know the answer to a question. “I am not aware of that, but I can come back to you about it by email later today” might be a better response than blind panic followed by lies and evasion!
Prepare for the inevitable
You might be asked what your weaknesses are. It is sensible to be just as honest about your weaknesses as you are about your strengths.
You might also be asked if you have any questions of your own. It is best to prepare a few beforehand, so you do not go dry. Alternatively, at the very least say something like, “No, you have done a great job of making it all clear, but is it OK to email you if any questions occur to me on the way home?”
Stay positive and keep things in perspective
If you are anything like most people, you might not get the first job you apply for. It is important to try and stay calm and positive, no matter what. Develop resilience about the job opportunities and remember that you only need one offer from people you like and respect at a place that suits you. If it is not this one, it might well be the next one or the one after that. Don’t put all your emotional eggs in one basket, or you could quickly end up easily demoralised by the job search and interview process.
Make a great job of saying goodbye
After the interview express your sincere thanks, even if you already know you have not got the job. Ask for feedback on your performance. You may or may not get it, but if you do, decide what you can learn from it, digest your learnings, move on and do a better job next time. There are always more opportunities out there.
We can help you polish up your interview skills. Our transition coaching sessions will result in you being able to explain more confidently and succinctly who you are and what you have to offer. If you are interested in exploring this with us, please do get in touch.