Is there anything more daunting in the job-hunting process than the interview? Just a few unknown questions that supposedly decide whether or not you’re suited to a particular role. How can you possible convey your wealth of experience and knowledge in just a few minutes?
Well to help you on your career’s journey, we’ve compiled the top 5 interview tips to help you on your way to ace that next interview, and, kickstart that dream career!
1. Preparation is Key
This may not be of much comfort if you are skim-reading this article on your way to an interview, having done no prep work whatsoever, but preparing in advance is absolutely key to acing an interview. If you are skim-reading this article on your way to an interview in a vain effort to prepare, stop reading and use the ten minutes you have left for the following (and then come back for the other tips, obviously!):
- Company Website; as this will likely contain the organisation’s beliefs, values and goals
- Information on your interviewer; whether it’s through LinkedIn, the news or on the company website
- Your own CV; memorise the key achievements of your career, especially the ones that line up to the job description
- The job description; there’s no point shooting off ideas randomly if you have no idea where you’re aiming
But preparation doesn’t stop at what you know. Preparation means researching and planning your route. Allowing plenty of time. Choosing your outfit in advance. Ensuring you eat ahead of time. The old saying says that if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. And job interviews are no different. But if you succeed to prepare, then prepare to succeed; which may not be a real phrase, but this doesn’t make it any less true.
2. Control Your Breathing
This is a physiological trick and is something that can even help our poor interviewee who is already on their way with zero preparation. Your body and brain are dependent on the consistent and controlled supply of oxygen, and this is achieved through breathing. So if you find yourself beginning to panic or stress, focus on the breath.
By doing so, you’re giving your brain the fuel to deal with the situation in a rational manner, and, as a side benefit, distracting yourself from your concern. You are giving yourself the best possible chance of solving the potential problem,
3. Interviews are a Two-Way Street
Never forget that an interview is a two-way street. This means that, while the company has asked you in to evaluate your suitability to their organisation, you are also there to evaluate the company’s suitability to your professional needs.
Now, no recruiter is going to thank you for asking them what they can do for you; you’ll be robbing them of their power, and interviewers will not respond kindly.
This is simply an exercise to help you stay calm and to remember that, should you not receive the offer, that is not to say that you’ve failed. It’s just they felt your goals and personality was not in alignment with theirs, not that it was worse or anything like that.
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve interviewed who I’ve warmed to and knew instantly they would have a bright professional future ahead of them, but we just weren’t the right company to help them realise that. So take comfort in this, and hopefully you will feel more relaxed going into an interview, which in turn gives you the best possible chance of doing well.
4. Use the Opportunity to ask Questions
It’s a common trope for an interviewer to ask, ‘so do you have any questions for us?’. Recruiters love this question for two reasons. 1. It’s an easy one that gives them a break and 2. it’s a test of your preparation (see point 1 of this article). If you’ve done your research and have not only understood but been engaged with what’s been said, then you’re likely to have questions. Whether it’s about the role, the company or simple clarification on something discussed earlier. It shows you listened, engaged and have an analytical mind.
Now, plenty of people have these things and want to show them off, but still don’t have any questions in mind at the end. There are various ways to approach this question.
- If the interview prompted a question you wanted to ask, ask it (obviously)! Just ensure it’s relevant and appropriate.
- When performing your research, have some questions ready before you go in, in anticipation of this scenario unfolding. It could be to do with the firm’s current direction or what an average day would look like. You will then be prepared.
- If you have questions prepared and they have since been answered naturally prior to you being asked if you have any questions, be honest. You can say ‘well, I was going to ask about ‘X’ but you’ve explained it nicely’. This will show you were still engaged with the conversation and thinking of things to ask, and might even make them feel good as they have been informative enough to answer your queries without meaning to. If this is the case however…:
- If in doubt, ask about the next steps. This will likely come at the end anyway, but is a nice transition to this part of the conversation without awkwardly admitting you have nothing to say. Simply say ‘I think you’ve covered everything, so I guess the only question I have is what the next steps would be?’. This is not you asking if you got the job or not. This is simply enquiring how long you will have to wait before hearing, if there is a follow-up interview or an assessment etc. It naturally ends the conversation on an action point.
Hopefully this helps guide you when that dreaded self-referencing question about questions is asked!
5. Tell Stories
This may be slightly more industry-dependent, but generally speaking, recruiters respond well to stories. Chances are that your CV will inform the interviewer of your skills, talents and (ideally) some stats proving this. They will read, enjoy and forget this information quickly, as it will likely be similar to the million or so other CVs they have read that day.
What will be different are the stories you can tell. A story, in this instance, is just a clear example. Rather than just saying you problem solve and rise to new challenges well, concisely go on to give an example of when ‘X’ client had ‘Y’ complaint and you found ‘Z’ solution. These stories don’t have to be entertaining or funny (most won’t/shouldn’t be), but they will more likely stick in the brain of your recruiter.
As I say, this can be industry specific, and may not be relevant to every question you’re asked. But a few well-chosen examples can help you stand out among the croud
That’s it for our Top 5 list. If you think of any other tips or have any questions, leave them in the comments below. Otherwise, good luck at those interviews folks!