Are you going for interviews but never seem to get job offers? If that’s the case, you need to think about what you may be doing wrong, or perhaps what you’re failing to do. Maybe you’re just not making a strong enough impression. But don’t worry – there are a number of things you can do to make sure you really stand out in an interview, for all the right reasons.
This is a must, but it’s amazing how many people neglect to do comprehensive research before heading into an interview. You need to research all the available information about the employer – this includes going through the company website in detail and doing a thorough search on Google, LinkedIn and in the news. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to ask intelligent, informed questions, and impress the interviewer with your keenness.
An employer needs to see that you have a very clear understanding of the role and that your skills and experiences are aligned to the job. They also need to feel that you will fit in well with the company culture.
Begin by reviewing the position description in detail. Highlight key points and think about the type of questions you could be asked. Expect general questions as well as questions relating to the organisation’s values and mission statement. Be prepared for questions specific to the role, which may be behaviourally based. Behavioural questions revolve around past behaviour and are thought to be indicative of what you would do in the future. These questions are usually based on the key selection criteria and often start with, ‘Tell me about a time …’.
The trick to answering these types of questions is to use the ‘EAR’ technique:
I also recommend identifying what you learned from your experience. Make sure you keep the focus on YOU – an employer does not want to hear about what ‘we’ did – they want to know what YOU did. You don’t need to remember your responses word-for-word. Just write down some key points and roleplay your responses with a friend.
Also prepare questions to ask the interviewer. This will show that you are enthusiastic, interested and have thought ahead. For suggested questions, see our questions to ask during an interview.
It‘s a commonly cited fact that up to 93 per cent of our communication is non-verbal. In fact, 55 per cent of communication is visual (body language and eye contact) and 38 per cent is vocal (pitch, speed, volume and tone of voice). That means that in order to communicate effectively, you need to pay attention to every facet of your communication.
During the interview, be conscious of your body language, remember to smile, make eye contact and sit up straight. It’s also a good idea to get feedback so you’re aware of what you’re doing.
When you are roleplaying the interview, ask your ‘interviewer’ to let you know if you have any bad habits such as saying ‘um’ and ‘you know’, or if you are a pencil or toe-tapper. This way you can work on changing some of your bad habits prior to the interview. For more body language tips, see our article.
Make sure you plan what you are going to wear, and always err on the side of caution (be conservative). Tailor your outfit to the position. My tip is to dress like you already work there! Also see our tips for dressing for success.
From the moment you enter the building, be polite and friendly and treat everyone you meet with the utmost respect. You don’t know who is in the bathroom or in the lift with you – it could be the CEO, or the CEO’s PA.
First impressions matter, so be early, but not too early. You don’t want to appear over-eager but you do want to show that you are punctual and reliable. It’s ok to be nervous, but the more you have prepared, the less nervous you will be. What an interviewer wants to see is genuine passion and that you really do want the job.
The first 30 seconds are your chance to shine. Shake hands firmly, and greet your interviewer by name. Don’t just take a seat – wait to be offered one. There’s nothing worse than sitting in the interviewer’s chair by mistake!
An interview usually starts with a warm-up stage. This is when you get asked questions like, ‘Tell me about yourself’. Speak clearly without rushing and keep your answers under two minutes; if an interviewer wants to find out more they will prompt you. Make sure your responses stick to the point and are directly relevant to the question.
Ensure that you always use positive language – no ‘buts’ or ‘I’m just …’. Focus on your transferable skills and find ways that you can tie your past experience to the present job. When asked that dreaded question about your weaknesses, focus on something that isn’t too important for the job – for example, don’t say you have poor communication skills if you’re going for a marketing position! When you state a weakness, also emphasise what you are doing to improve it so they know that you’re proactive and striving to grow.
When the interview starts to wind down, ask about the next stage of the process. Thank your interviewer/s for their time and reiterate your interest in the role. A thank you email following the interview will show your interest and good manners.
In an interview, your job is to connect and show them that you are exactly the person they are looking for.