You’ve been invited for a job interview – now what? James caan gives his sage advice on how to nail it and get the job!
Is it important how I dress for an interview in this day and age?
I personally believe that presentation ranks very highly, because first impressions are hard to change. Whether you like it or not, people will judge you on the way you look. And you have to accept that sometimes that judgement can go against you. My question is always, “Why would you take the risk?”
Everything about you acts like a shop window. How you look, sound, present yourself, walk, speak – even what briefcase or bag you are carrying when you walk into the interview room. Every one of these forms part of the overall display. If you aren’t prepared to invest in the way you display yourself at such an important meeting, why should you expect to be successful?
Some workplaces are more informal than others. Should I adapt how I dress for the interview?
If I was preparing to attend an interview, I would go straight back to the website for the company concerned – having already researched it for all the information I could find on what the business does – and find the section about their team. I would scroll through the photos of the key staff members and look at what they’re wearing, as those are likely to have been quite carefully selected images.
That exercise, as part of your overall research and preparation, will tell you a lot about what you should be wearing for the interview. The key for me is to be within the range of their look – few companies have a dress code as such, but they do have a distinctive image. When you walk into any organisation, you can tell what that image is.
What are the key things I should think about at the interview?
Anyone sitting in the interviewer’s chair is subconsciously trying to work out, “Will this person fit in?” The question you should be subconsciously asking yourself is, “How can I demonstrate I will fit in?”
The answer is something that you may have to convey yourself, because it’s a question that doesn’t always come up as part of the interview.
Put yourself in the interviewer’s position. In their head, they’ll be asking, “When I put this person into this department, will they be a good match?” Therefore before you walk into the interview, you should have asked and answered these questions:
- Have I done my research?
- Do I know enough about the company and their competitors?
- Can I demonstrate my ability to do my work?
- Do I look the part?
- What have I done that demonstrates I am competent for the job?
How do I stop feeling so nervous that I can’t perform in the interview?
Confidence at an interview comes from knowledge. If you haven’t done your research – if you haven’t studied the company, or made an effort to understand the market it operates in and who the competition is, if you haven’t done a Google search on the person who’s interviewing you – your confidence is going to be very low. Conversely the more knowledgeable you are and the more thoroughly you’ve done your research, the more confident you will feel.
If you combine that detailed preparation with having thought carefully about how you will present yourself and have taken time to reflect on the key messages you want to get across during the interview – and on how these messages match the job specification as well as what you believe to be your prospective employers’ expectations – then you will be feeling confident. It’s show time. You should think of your job interview as putting on the best performance of your life.
What is the one thing most interviewees don’t do that you think they should?
If you’re able to maintain control of the interview, chances are you’ll get the job. Most people think that taking control can come across as too arrogant – that it might intimidate the interviewer – but in my opinion that’s absolutely not true.
The way to do it without intimidating the interviewer is to get in with an early question after the initial small talk and before the interview can slip away from you. Say something like “I understand the position is for a marketing manager. It sounds really exciting. Could I ask you a question? What are the five key components of this job that are really important to this organisation?”
The interviewer will be obliged to give you an answer and in doing so they will have told you exactly what they want from the job and what you want to know. You can then ask about the person who is in the job at the moment or who last performed the role, and what were the things that impressed the interviewer about them. Once the interviewer has laid it on the plate for you, all you have to do is match your skills to their wish list.
What is the best thing to say when an interviewer asks “Have you got any questions for us?”
I always ask that question towards the end of the interview, as do the vast majority of employers. In my experience, 70% of candidates either say, “No, I’m fine thank you,” or come up with a couple of very woolly questions because they haven’t done their research thoroughly enough. On a scale of one to 10, I would say the average question I get asked scores no more than a five.
If you say, “Actually, there are a couple of questions if you have two minutes,” and then ask something along the lines of, “Recently you launched a new product – how’s it going?”, immediately I’m impressed. At that point of the interview, the quality of your question has a bigger impact than you may think on the decision to hire you or not. It may seem like a generic question you get asked in every interview, but the way in which you respond says a lot about you. You know you’re likely to be asked it, so make sure you have something to ask.
So much success in getting a job is down to preparation and rehearsal. When you step on to the interview “stage”, I want you to be in as good a shape as you’ll ever be.