The Perfect Interview Technique
You’ve just got the phone call you’ve been waiting for. They want to see you. You’ve been called in for an interview and that dream job is one step closer to being yours. So, what can you do to prepare for that meeting and how can you give yourself the best chance of success on the day?
I’ve worked with hundreds of clients and thousands of candidates over the years, so I’ve seen the same issues time and again rob great candidates of the jobs they deserved. The list below comes from their experiences – our 11 top tips for the perfect interview technique for hungry candidates looking to make the best impression at that all-important dream job interview.
- A little knowledge can go a long way. Interviewers expect many things from an applicant and chief among these will often be how much you know about their company. A good applicant will have done their research – they will know what the company does, when it was established, the founder’s name and its bestselling products or services. A great applicant will know something topical to slip into the conversation – a new offering, office, or something in the news that’s relevant to the company or their clients/customers.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. A traditional line of questioning that interviewers use is still the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ one. While it’s important to have great answers here, you should consider the fact that the interviewer is probably looking beyond your words to the personality traits hidden beneath them. Are you bashful or a bragger, are you hard on yourself or do you let yourself off easy, do you raise anything of concern in your answers or quash any concerns the interviewer identified in your CV? Strength and confidence backed by evidence is always a good starting point.
- Know your expectations and aspirations. An interviewer will almost always ask what you’re looking for from the position, what you understand the position requires of you, or what you hope the position will lead to. Through this line of questioning they are looking for your understanding of the role and job specification and how your skills and attributes match their needs. They will be looking for you to provide them with evidence of past experiences that back up your claims of relevant competence. And, that you have an appreciation of the natural direction of the role you’re applying for – i.e. that your aspirations are great enough to evidence commitment, but not so grand as to rapidly outgrow them.
- Check your social media. Modern-day recruitment agencies and employers utilise all the access the digital world has to offer up. If your social media profiles are full of profanities and pics of you partying, this will be taken into consideration. Make sure that you ‘sanitise’ your social media account to show the real you, perhaps toned down a little if you’ve been overly free with your digital sharing of late.
- Practice makes perfect. Rehearse in in front of the mirror or friends, family or colleagues you trust. Get them to ask you tough questions, to respond to you in different ways, to put you in all manner of situations so you will not be surprised no matter what comes up in the real interview, because ‘practice makes the perfect interview technique’.
- Make the right first impression – be on time (in fact, be a little early) and be smart. Do not be late. Seriously, just don’t – it looks bad, it tells the interviewer you have more important things to do, and it’s a poor start to the interview. Preferably you should be there a little early. Dress for the job – they want to check that you would fit in. Be friendly to everyone you meet there from the receptionist onwards – smile, say hello – more often than not the interviewer will ask them what they thought of you.
- Make the right second impression – strong handshake and eye contact. Confidence is an important characteristic for any candidate to show in an interview. The firmness of your handshake and your willingness to walk forward hand outstretched, as well as the eye contact you have with your interviewer(s) throughout are both clear signs of your confidence. But don’t overdo it – arrogance does not play well in an interview.
- Humour, likability, smile. This is how you create a strong bond with the interviewer. You want them to like and remember you so, smile, it will lighten the mood a little. Look for opportunities to connect with your interviewer on a non-business level – a love of food, sport, authors or hobbies (we like people who are like us), but once again keep this subtle – you want them to like you, not worry about whether you’re going to stalk them afterwards! The same goes with humour. People like those they feel comfortable around and if you can inject a little humour into the proceedings this may increase the chances of them liking and remembering you (though be really careful not to take this too far as it can go wrong very quickly).
- Don’t fake it. Everything about your interview technique must come across as genuine. If you pretend to know about the company and fail to answer a simple question about them, if you claim an achievement that your references do not back up, or if you embellish your CV and cannot prove this knowledge in the interview, your credibility will be shot. It is better to say that you don’t know, honestly and with humility, than to pretend you do and be found out.
- Take a copy of your CV. If a printer goes down or someone else has picked up the copy by mistake, your interviewer might not have your CV to hand. If you take a copy with you for each person you’re due to see that day you could save the interviewer some stress and embarrassment, which could give them a positive initial impression of you. Having a copy to hand for yourself is also useful because you’d be amazed how often an interviewee’s mind goes blank when facing an interviewer. Also, take a copy of the job spec marked up with notes to prompt your interview technique throughout. This will not only give you a little more confidence on the day, but a highlighted and noted job spec says to an employer that you’ve put in some planning time.
- Prepare an insightful question. This is often where people lose track and can’t think of what to say, especially if they have been given the opportunity to ask questions throughout. You could ask something insightful about the future of the business, or something you have read about the company, its products or services. Smaller companies tend to like team-based questions such as ‘what types of personalities make up the team that I would be joining’. To close an interview, you could finish with ‘you’ve given me a great insight into the job role today, is there any further information you need from me to help you assess whether I am the right person for you?’. If an interviewer says yes, and tells you what they are missing, then it gives you an opportunity to potentially turn the tide of an interview. Be warned though, such questions only work well when asked in a relaxed and confident way. If you come across too pushy these questions could have the opposite effect.