Interviews are a nerve wracking experience for most candidates, but ensuring that you are properly prepared and suitably presented is half the battle. Whatever job you may be applying for the rules are the same: make the best impression that you can and ensure that the interviewer knows you are the right candidate for the job.
Appearance and body language
I’ve grouped appearance and body language as both in combination affect how we are perceived immediately on entering the interview situation and then throughout the interview. Research shows that 55% of another’s perception of us is from visual cues. This can be separated further into the following criteria: posture, facial expression, gestures, clothing and hygiene.
Clothing: It is important to understand the dress code of the organisation you will be interviewing at and try to match this level or come in slightly smarter i.e. if their dress code is business casual then a suit and tie would be appropriate. If they are smart casual than business casual or suit and no tie could be more appropriate.
Hygiene: Be clean. Don’t cover yourself in aftershave or perfume. The usual.
Facial expression and gestures: You need your facial expression and gestures to be consistent with the tone of the point you are making. If you are talking about how passionate you are about a particular aspect of the job you are interviewing for then you need your facial expression and gestures to show this. You can’t talk about how excited you are without smiling. It will immediately signal a red flag to your interviewer who will question your true motivation. Avoid pointing, too aggressive.
Posture: Too far back in your chair and you are lazy and/or arrogant, too close and you are too intense/aggressive. Sat back and upright in your chair is ideal, leaning forward occasionally to show you are engaged in key parts of the interview (especially when the interviewer is talking about the vacancy).
Preparations / Research
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
This one seems obvious but so many people don’t take it seriously enough. To be fully prepared your need to be able to answer the following:
- Why this industry?
- Why this company?
- Why this role?
Furthermore, your preparation and research should inform the transferable skills you will be highlighting when running through your CV. You should take the time to thoroughly review the job description, research the company online and try to understand its core values. If the job description includes ‘high energy’ phrases like ‘fast paced’ or ‘ambitious’ you should have relevant examples of this from your work history ready to go. If however the job description contains phrases like ‘attention to detail’ and ‘consistent’ then you should have examples of displaying these attributes prepared.
You can see therefore that preparation / research goes beyond what the company does and should also inform how you approach the interview itself.
Know your CV
Being able to talk through your CV in chronological order, picking out the most relevant transferable skills and elaborating on the impact made by your successes, is the best way to stand out. If you are prepared than you will already have selected key milestones or achievements that you will want to share in interview if asked to run through your CV. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes for a moment. If you have several things you want to learn about a candidates and questions prepared accordingly, what would impress you more than several of these questions being addressed without the question having been asked directly.
Other important things to note are examples of working in similar structured companies or departments, covering a similar volume of work (i.e. accounts you manage or internal clients) as this will show you have worked successfully in a similar environment previously. If you don’t have examples of this, don’t worry, you will just need to demonstrate an understanding of the demands of the role when discussing why you want to work for the company in that position.
Also you should be able to let the interviewer know what led you to leave each of your previous positions. This is your chance to demonstrate your motivations behind these changes and ensure they make no negative assumptions on your behalf.
What a lot of people don’t realise is the importance of time management in an interview situation. Candidates tend to want to talk about all their successes in detail but this can cut down valuable time to discuss more directly relevant transferable skills and also eat into your time for questions. First, make sure your find out how long the interview is scheduled to last beforehand. Then when preparing for the interview ensure that you practice talking through your various milestones and successes in a succinct manner, only focusing on those that demonstrate the most relevant transferrable skills for the vacancy.
Interviews are a two way process, don’t forget that in the heat of the moment. You need to learn as much about the opportunity as possible to inform your decision making. However, while doing so you get a further opportunity to demonstrate you are the right person for the job by asking informed and relevant questions. By asking about opportunities for career advancement and how the interviewer finds working at the company, you will show that your interest in the company is greater than just the immediate job and that you are looking to secure a longer term future with your next move.
On the other hand immediately asking about how much the role will pay, the benefits and the working hours doesn’t give the right message. Don’t misunderstand: you will need this information but it’s best not to lead with it.
Finally, if you get the chance to ask questions at the initial stages of the interview take advantage of this. You can ask the interviewer what they think the key traits of a successful employee will be; ensure you make a note of the answers and use this to highlight parts of your personality or experience that demonstrate the traits that the interviewer mentioned.