I shudder to think of the amount of time I’ve spent interviewing over the last twenty years, every role from the C suite, through Managing Director and profit centre heads to technical specialisms and seasonal workers. Every interview is different, but there are some things I universally see in good interview candidates. Here’s what they do:
1 ) Answer the question you’re asked – I want to start with this, because whilst I know it sounds a little obvious, you’d be surprised how many people fail to do so and talk about something completely different. Most recruiters won’t be fooled and we will be wondering whether you didn’t understand or couldn’t answer. If you’re not sure what to say then…..
2) Don’t be afraid to pause – Some of the most impressive interviewees I’ve seen are willing to take their time. They have the confidence to hold the room for a moment whilst they think of a good answer. I don’t have any problem with people using a couple of stock phrases to buy time, “that’s an interesting question” or “there are a couple of ways I could answer that”, but a pause is always better than a babble – every single time.
3) Seek to understand – If you don’t understand what is being asked for, say so. If a question could be interpreted in a couple of different ways, ask for clarity. You’re probably only going to have one shot at a specific interview (although I have asked people to go away and come back again in the past when I’ve felt they’ve been unprepared) so don’t be afraid to make sure you have the very best chance of succeeding. Good employees ask for clarity and clarification, so why shouldn’t candidates too?
4) Think through scenarios in advance – In most interviews you’ll be asked a variant of the, “can you give me an example of….” or “tell me about a time when…”. In advance of any interview think through a few scenarios that could represent one or two different things – leadership, persuasion, decision making, influence etc. By thinking it through in advance you can make sure you’ve got a variety of different options on using them and you don’t use your most obvious one first up and then keep on referring back to it.
5) Be positive with your language – People want to work with people who are positive – its as simple as that. That doesn’t mean you need to bounce around the room and high five the recruiters, but choose your language carefully. Think about examples that show you acting in a positive light and especially think about this if you’re asked about scenarios where you’ve faced difficult situations or people. Don’t get dragged back in to the emotion of the moment, but rise above it and prevail!
6) Remember who you are – If you’re not right for a job, you don’t want it. We have all had moments when we’ve had to take on work that we didn’t want for financial or personal reasons. But in general the rule of thumb should always be that that interview is two ways. So don’t be afraid to be yourself, express yourself and avoid trying to be the person you think the company wants to recruit. Not only will you probably get it wrong, you’ll only be happy if you’re right and it isn’t who you really are.
7) Ace the beginning and end – Whether people like it or not we all have biases. Many of these you can’t do anything about, that’s down to the recruiter. But you can impact the primary and recency bias. Everyone will tell you to get to an interview on time and compose yourself, but this is really important – make sure you have a couple of lines planned for when you’re introduced. And similarly, close the interview well, thank people for their time, wish them a good day, whatever. It isn’t really the content that matters, just the impression. Don’t, as I once did, stand up and fall straight over – you’ll literally be taking a dive….