The first point I usually make with career clients is that an interview is like a meeting! A meeting where there will be an agenda, questions asked, points made, discussion allowed and an outcome that can be influenced by you. It is always more effective to go to a meeting well prepared and so it is with an interview. However many people go with hope in their heart and little rehearsal or thought to what might be needed at the interview.
Research the company or department so you can ask good questions and/or demonstrate your preparedness for the interview.
Prepare your responses to as many standard behavioural questions as you can. Most good interviewers use behavioural questions so prepare your responses to such questions that start with “Tell us about a time when you had to ……” These questions require specific examples so be prepared.
Go online for lots of examples but if you are in need of some finessing, book in with a career coach. There is nothing like the advantage you gain from professional feedback regarding your style, content and presence.
Prepare the questions you will ask of them. This is the analogy to the meeting. Remember you want to know that the job and company are a good match, choice for you, just as much as they are judging your match to them. Both parties want to leave the meeting knowing they are making an informed choice.
You can take a folder into the interview (as you might a meeting) in which you can include your resume, maybe some references, evidence of qualifications and courses, relevant examples of your work and maybe your list of questions.
There is no point just practising in your head if you want to be the best you can be. Improve your confidence by practising your responses aloud. Speak to the mirror, the dog, the cat, your friend or partner but speak the responses aloud. Hear your voice, intonation and expression. Know what your body languages is saying to the receiver. Eliminate waffling, improve the clarity of structure in your responses, and know what is required. This is not meant to imply over-rehearsal so then you don’t come across as natural but there is nothing like good practise to instil confidence.
Presence – Your Image
Know that you are judged in the first 30 seconds, it is subliminal and we all do it, so the panel will be assessing you as soon as they meet you. So make a good impression. Your confidence is read in your handshake, your stance, your smile, your eye contact, your demeanour, your movements and mannerisms. Visualise yourself looking confident and winning the panel over but make sure you are sincere. Put yourself in their shoes and think “what is it they need to see and hear”. Visualising for a few minutes daily in the week leading up to the interview will help greatly.
Your clothes should be suitable for an interview, there is an expectation that you will make an effort to be dressed appropriately.
Warm up. There might be some small talk and just a settling in period. You might be asked about yourself. Make sure this is kept brief and relevant.
If it is a panel, you need to engage them all. Often the panel take it in turn to ask you a question so let your gaze go to all of the panel but focus on answering the question directly to the person who has asked.
Sometimes if only one person is interviewing, he/she might not be as well prepared as you are. The interviewer might even be nervous or not sure of the right questions. Be prepared for this if you are going for a position in a smaller or family business. In this case it is an opportunity to lead the conversation into areas where you can make a good impression. Your prepared responses matched to the job description or advertisement will stand you in good stead and you will put the interviewer at ease.
Remember to speak clearly, listen attentively and ask if you need a question repeated. Do not try to fill silences, sometimes the panel is just reviewing the last response or preparing the next. Always finish your responses on a strong note, not trailing off as though you have run out of something to say. This won’t happen if you have prepared your responses around a structure. It is like telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
Finally at the end of the interview, when you have asked general questions make sure you include a question about next steps. You want to go away understanding whether they are shortlisting for second interviews, their expected timeframe before they will let people know, how they let people know e.g. phone or email, letter. When do they hope to appoint someone and so on? Having some answers to this follow up procedure will lessen the waiting anxiety and will allow you to continue with your job search understanding the process.
My final tip is not to put all your eggs in one basket. You can waste a lot of good job search time if you sit and wait for results from an interview. It can take 3 to 4 weeks, more sometimes and that is time in which you can be applying for other jobs. Far better that at the end of the waiting time you could possibly have more than one job on offer. It does happen!