As a Recruiter, our job is primarily to source candidates for roles and should they be successful in securing an interview, prepare them sufficiently [fairly] to increase their chances of success.
I often divulge a few interview tips but equally love being asked the question. Lately, I’ve been asked this by a few people that weren’t necessarily active candidates, and besides humbled, have felt a degree of responsibility to give them accurate and reliable information. Thankfully, I’ve had my fair share of successful and unsuccessful interviews and have picked up a few things along the way.
Here are a few questions I was asked recently and my responses, based purely on what’s worked for me and subsequently, worked for others.
Firstly, what are your top tips?
1. MINDSET – approach the interview knowing that you’re interviewing them as much as they are you. You can be absolutely ideal for the role but if the company’s values don’t align with yours then it will likely have a sunset date should you commence with them. By viewing the interview this way, as a chance to assess and understand the opportunity, it will give you a slightly adjusted perspective and inevitably more confidence as you feel more in control
2. PREPARE – it’s so obvious but yet performed inadequately all too often. Of course, familiarise yourself with the company across ALL platforms but look for points and features that will likely be relevant for your role and ask questions around this in your interview. Seek out points beyond the main pages of the website – seek to stand out. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of your interviewers or key people within the business whom you’ll likely be working with or reporting to and understand their career journeys. At the very least it gives you an insight in to the culture and types of people they attract.
3. NOTES – in a similar vein to preparation, an interview isn’t a closed book test. There’s no rules stating you can’t bring in notes with you. Therefore, prepare some questions that you’d like to ask or topics you want to know more about and take them in with you. Similarly, write out the dot points to commonly asked questions and take them in with you too. This will benefit you in 3 ways a) doing this in advance helps convert it to memory, b) you’ll be less nervous knowing the answers are in front of you and c) if you do need a reminder you can just look. In EVERY single instance I’ve recommended someone take notes in to an interview with them, both they and I as the Recruiter have had positive feedback about it.
4. S.T.A.R. – this is a common technique to answering behavioural interview questions and refers to Situation, Task, Action & Result. If you follow this technique you will easily craft flowing, comprehensive answers to questions such as “tell me a time you’ve had to deal with a difficult customer”. The technique is as follows:
- Situation – explain the situation or event that you were in
- Task – explain the task you had to complete
- Action – describe the specific actions you took to complete the task, overcome or address the problem etc
- Result – close with the results of your efforts including what you learnt or accomplished
5. ACCEPT THE WATER – you’ll often be offered a glass of water – take it! Doing so will indicate you’re comfortable in the environment. Secondly, you’ll likely be doing a lot of talking so it’s nice to refresh your mouth every now and then and thirdly, it can be used to give you a moment to collect your thoughts without necessarily looking like it – simply by having a drink.
6. MANNERS MATTER – it’s still an opportunity to put your best foot forward and make a good impression. Plus, there’s subtle little things the interviewer is picking up on, even subconsciously. Be sure to make eye contact with everyone in the room, shake hands with everyone and get eye contact when you do it too. Try not to fidget as it’s distracting and displays restlessness. Remember the names of your interviewers and use them at the end when you thank them for their time. They’re small, simple things but if your interview went well (and if you did the above then it likely did) it will drive home your suitability. If it didn’t, then you’ll still finish on a positive note which may cause them to rethink their earlier judgements.
What about group interviews/interviews with a panel? Should any of your approach change?
There’s definitely a different approach that should be taken for each of these scenarios.
There’s a fine line here between trying to make yourself standout and overreaching for attention. And one large, often forgotten element of these style of interviews is about how someone conducts themselves with the other candidates. If someone makes a good point it’s OK to agree with them and even acknowledge this. It shows confidence, maturity and selflessness. Trying to be different for the sake of being different is a poor and often transparent tactic. There’s no point being rude or talking over other candidates just to get your point across as this is a true reflection of what you’ll be like in the role and how you’ll interact with your colleagues.
It’s always nice to know it will be a panel interview before you arrive but it’s not always the case. The same level of preparation should occur regardless but when in the interview, there’s a few tips to help get you through. Get eye contact with the entire panel when giving an answer, not just the person who asked the question. Again, make a point to remember their names and use them at the end of the interview. Try and strike a chord with each person on the panel by directing a question at each of them if possible.
How important is what you wear? Should you tailor it for the potential job?
In short, VERY important and YES. It’s perfectly fine to ask the dress code prior to the interview – again this isn’t a test. Try and replicate what the most formal of the interviewers will be wearing. It can be tough but if in doubt, err on the side of caution and dress up instead of down. You’ll regret being under dressed but if overdressed you can easily remove a tie and/or jacket. On that note, in the interview ask if the interviewer would mind if you removed your tie or jacket. It’s polite and shows respect, however, don’t do this if they’re dressed the same as you ie: if they’re wearing a jacket and tie, don’t take off your jacket and tie! Receptionists can be a great friendly ally in this regard too so it might pay to pop a call in and ask them about their dress code. Frame the question accordingly of course and mention you’re going for an interview and are a tad unsure.
Another great tip is to wear your favourites. If you have a preferred suit, favourite socks or underwear – wear them! It’ll make you feel good, comfortable and you’ll feel more confident within yourself too!
How can you know what to prepare ahead of time? Can you ever ask your interviewer?
This can be slightly tricky because you don’t want to be seen to be asking for answers or that you’re uncomfortable about the process. But if done correctly it shows a degree of confidence and willingness to prepare. Often, if you ask a broad question such as “Is there anything I should bring or prepare?” the company or interviewer will likely divulge the format of the interview and potentially the types of questions that will be asked. Obviously if they’re expecting you to prepare a presentation and deliver this then they’d need to let you know in advance. There are some basic things that you should know about every interview before going in, such as:
- Time, date, location etc
- Who will be interviewing you (if not names then at least positions, or visa versa)
- Details and responsibilities of the role (ideally you’ve been provided a PD or thorough brief by the recruiter but it’s not always the case)
- The format of the interview (coffee meeting, panel interview, presentation of business case etc)
- Dress code (not always divulged but there’s no harm in asking)
The above, through feedback, trial and error have all held me in very good stead for the interviews I’ve participated in and also those my candidates have attended too. Your recruiter is a great source for similar tips and tricks and would be all too happy to share with you not just what’s worked for them in the past. Good luck!