Rather than thinking about an interview as a daunting audition, see it as a powerful catalyst for your future.
And when the inevitable tricky questions start, you’ll be ready! The book, Nail That Interview by recruitment consultant, Tim Vincent, (£9.99, Vermilion) spells out the perfect steps to interview success.
The right attitude
Having the “right attitude” is paramount in an interview. In fact, it is commonly perceived as the most important criterion required for job success.
It may seem obvious, but there is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance. When, inevitably, an interviewer asks how you plan your work, state how important being organised is to you. Say how you think about things before doing them in order to prevent mistakes and, when it’s unknown territory, you always seek advice and learn from previous examples. Knowing exactly what your priorities are is part of being organised. If you need to draw up a schedule in order to keep projects and tasks on track, this is a good thing. After all, it shows your creativity and problem-solving skills, and that you use your initiative.
What’s your core?
Many people are deluded about their own professional self-image. In Nail That Interview, Tim states that he came up with the “stick of rock” question to determine exactly what the interviewees are at their core. In other words, what would be the word running all the way through you?
His “core” description is helpful when it comes to considering someone for the job in hand. There’s always a temptation to elaborate on answers – a mixture of nerves and waffle. However, when you clear away all the clutter, it captures neatly exactly what you do in that industry. Stick of rock answers should be simple and to the point, ie: Salesperson; Engineer; Investor; Craftsperson; Leader.
Why hire you?
As well as you may do in an interview, the whole process boils down to why the interviewer would employ you. What have you got that other candidates don’t? It’s quite a brutal question,
but often one that’s included in every interview.
So, what are your unique selling points (USPs)?
These are attributes that you should be rightly proud of, and ones which the interviewer will find highly compelling, too.
You must also be able to get these specific qualities across in a clear, memorable way. Tim suggests you use the “elevator pitch”: imagine you just have 15 seconds or so to ride in a lift to the fifth floor, and deliver your USPs quickly and with confidence. If your interviewer leaves the interview and recalls your USPs then the “pitch” has been effective.
You are FAB
Features, Achievements and Benefits (FAB) are the heart of your personal “sales” message. The FAB sets out important information that you must weld into the interviewer’s mind during the interview.
A feature could be Team Captain at school, or gaining a degree in English. Your achievement is then something to do with the feature: you won an important tournament as Team Captain, or you won the year prize for a dissertation on creative writing.
The benefits are what you got out of it: that you’re great at team work and motivation; you’re naturally creative thinker who can self-analyse.
If you effectively communicate your FAB in an interview, you will subsequently nail it, as your capability to do the job will be a given.
These Features, Achievements and Benefits will really define you.
Research is key
The more you find out about the role before the interview, the more time you’ll have to express yourself when you’re there. You need a good understanding of the job you are being considered
for. Behind any job specification or advert, there will be a more detailed description. You can ask for this additional information, particularly where there is a recruiter involved, but internal human resources people can also help.
However, certain roles may be treated as confidential until you have reached the point of being an acknowledged candidate for the post.
When you reach the interview stage, before you step foot into that interview room, you need to know the three Ws. These are:
Who are you meeting? Where exactly do these individuals sit in the decision-making process?
What are they looking for? What is their style/approach?
Where will you be meeting your interviewers? What medium of communication will be used?
Fine tune your technique:
Introductions. You can only make one first impression, so make it count. Shake your interviewer’s hand firmly when introducing yourself, smile and greet them, keeping it formal.
Narratives. Surprisingly, stories are an important part of the interview process. You’re hoping to be the main part in the interviewer’s narrative. Stories engage people, and a well-told narrative relevant to the role you’re going for, will stay in the interviewer’s mind.
Time-keeping. An obvious, yet essential quality to have in an interview. Turning up late immediately screams “unreliable” and getting off to a bad start is far from ideal. If you’re unsure of where you’re going, plan your journey beforehand. If you’re running late, it is courteous to call your interviewer and explain the situation.
Examples. Being prepared for all questions shows initiative and organisation. Bringing along examples of relevant work to show as part of an answer will not only help the interviewer remember you, it will also prove that you already have these qualities. If the role doesn’t warrant examples of work, think about the questions you may be asked and be sure to have examples of answers ready in the form of a bullet-point list.
Research. Don’t be complacent: carrying out research for your potential role is vital. Going into an interview blind is a waste of everyone’s time.
You need as much time as possible to sell yourself, spending half the interview finding out about the company will show your lack of interest. Looking up industry-specific news and trends will be hugely beneficial.
Versatility. Employers, these days, are looking for candidates who can be versatile. Some roles require working across two or more departments or, if you’re in the media, swapping from print to online.
If you haven’t got experience in a certain area, explain that you’re a fast learner and eager to expand your skills.
Interest. Win over your interviewer by expressing enthusiasm about
the company or brand. Communication skills are important.
In addition to evaluating how good your answers are, the interviewer will also be assessing how well you communicate and how interested you sound. Don’t assume that the interviewer knows you’re interested in the position, even if it seems patently obvious.
Enthusiasm. This goes hand-in-hand with the point above. Monosyllabic, one-word answers are a huge no-no. Genuine, enthusiastic responses will stand out, as will a bubbly personality. It’s half the battle if the interviewer likes you as a person and feels they, and the rest of the team, will get on with you.
Work wear. Dressing smartly for an interview should be second-nature. Try to tailor your attire to the company you’re trying to impress.
Curriculum Vitae – Dos and don’ts
Designed as a summary and focussing on key points about you, your CV is the difference between getting an interview or not.
The temptation to oversell is huge, but these simple rules will help you stand out from the crowd.
Specifically avoid the following:
- Generic covering letter
And make sure your CV is not:
- Too long (more than two A4 pages)
- Too short (one page)
- Has spelling errors or typos
- Employment gaps that are not explained
- Not consistent in style or use of font
Make sure you:
- Put your name at the top in a large, bold font so that it stands out. There’s no need at all to put the words Curriculum Vitae on your CV
- Use a font size that’s at least 10pt, 12 pt is recommended
- Put your professional career chronology in reverse order, so that the most recent role is listed first. This section must be extremely simple yet rich in content
- Put education towards the end – it’s not usually a priority and is of less interest to the reader than your most recent roles
Words: Lynne Maxwell