Job interviews can be daunting, and for many, the process of preparing can be a significant source of anxiety. Employers are going to greater lengths to screen employees. Yet, with a decent amount of preparation, there are ways you can excel at interviews and stand out from a pool of similarly qualified candidates.
Good planning and preparation is the key to a successful interview; it’s important to maximize the opportunity that has been presented to you. You need to give yourself the best chance of getting a job offer. Your resume has helped you get your foot in the door; you now need to actually demonstrate why you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Essentially, being fully prepared for an interview is paramount to your success.
The phrase, “knowledge is power” has never been more applicable as when it comes to interviewing for a job. The more research you perform and the more information you have about the company with which you intend to apply, the better. It is tremendously important to understand the job description and have a working knowledge about the company and its services and products. Review the job requirements so that you can demonstrate how you precisely meet those needs.
Essentially, going in to an interview, you must know your target audience in totality. Beyond knowing the company’s needs and goals, it is crucial to know how you plan to make a difference within that company. Additionally, it’s imperative to know how to “sell” yourself. Taking a self-inventory of personal skills, prior to the interview, is vital. Yet, the true key to selling yourself according to your skills is providing real-life instances where those skills were exemplified.
Often times, individuals applying for a new job tend to amplify their skills. This is acceptable, as long as you truly possess those skills. However, discussing personal skills is not about misrepresentation. It is about knowing personal strengths that are relevant to the job at hand and highlighting those.
The STAR Principle is highly recommended by most interviewing experts, and it allows you to follow a certain structure when answering interview questions. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Achievement and Results.
The STAR principle is based on the notion that previous behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, which is why the best strategy is to answer each question by describing what you accomplished in a specific situation and explain how the results benefited the company.
Know your resume or CV inside out. As a standard, you should know the information on your resume like the back of your hand so that no question takes you by surprise. For example, if you have stated on your resume that you’re an avid reader of blogs, be prepared to answer questions about your favorite blogs and the last interesting article you may have read recently. Furthermore, make sure there is a synergy between the job requirements and characteristics that the recruiter is looking for, and your resume.
Punctuality. This should go without saying. Arriving late is the worst possible start for your job interview. If you live some distance away from the venue of the interview, leave at least an hour early or consider arriving the night before and staying at a nearby hotel. You will feel more refreshed and confident, a lot better than how you would feel after a long drive or train journey.
Research the company thoroughly. It is important to research the company to understand its values, mission statement, leadership principles, products and services, culture, etc. Use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, news articles and everything else you can find about the company.
If you’re working with a recruiter, they will have some of the best resources on the company than you could ever find by yourself, so take advantage of that to get as much detailed information about the company as you can. You will need to identify specific reasons why the company is so attractive to you that you want work for them.
You should have all of the information to show that you’ve done your homework about the company. You need to revisit this information because your knowledge of the company is likely to be tested in questions like “What do you know about our company?” or “why do you want to work here?”
Show your enthusiasm and passion for the role. It is absolutely essential to demonstrate a high level of passion and enthusiasm for the job, the industry, career, or company mission. According to Workopolis, 9 times out of 10, it is not the most qualified candidate that gets the job, and a lot of times, this has to do with passion. Potential employers like to see that you are motivated and passionate about the role you are applying for. If you are genuinely passionate about the job you’re interviewing for, the interviewer will feel it. Your eyes will light up and your excitement will be genuine because it comes from within. This attitude will take you a long, long way.
Connect with the interviewer by researching him or her beforehand. Another major reason why the most qualified candidate doesn’t often get the job is down to likeability. No matter how qualified you are, likeability will always play a major role in the hiring process. This is why it is important to connect with the interviewer on a personal level. Addressing interviewers with their names and showing them that you’ve done your research on them (their careers, achievements, interests, etc.) shows respect and genuine interest. This will give you an advantage during the interview because you’ll have a better chance of connecting with them.
Your aim should be to connect and build a rapport with the interviewer(s) by engaging in a two-way conversation rather than a question-answer session. You may also be able to get an insight into their interview style, and LinkedIn and Twitter are the best sites to find the information you need.
One Word of Warning: Don’t overstep your boundaries by getting too familiar with the interviewer. Find out enough information to impress him or her, but don’t cross the line. You need to be friendly, engaging and personable not familiar. The interviewer is a person of authority, always keep that in mind.
Adjust your style and tone to match the role. It is important to adjust your overall appearance and manner to match the role you have applied for. Beyond obvious things like mannerisms and clothing, be sure to use words and expressions that are common in the industry. It is also important to be conscious of the impression you make on the interviewer. He or she will be quietly observing your personality and overall attitude to determine your suitability for the job you’re interviewing for, so it is important to display a personality that is well-suited to the role you’re interviewing for.
E.g. if you are going for a community management role, you might want to come across as warm, engaging and personable, whilst an insurance executive would be expected to be more thoughtful and serious. If you’re interviewing for a sales role, the interviewer will be looking at your communication skills, especially your ability to persuade, your presentation skills, enthusiasm, persistence, etc. Regardless of the role however, your composure should display leadership, interest, engagement, and friendly open-mindedness. Avoid showing familiarity as that may be misconstrued.
Study the job description and person specification carefully. It is important to read the person specification and job description thoroughly so that you can match them to your skills. These documents hold vital information about the job you are applying for. By analyzing them thoroughly, you can determine what the company is looking for and how qualified you are for the role. Highlight the keywords that represents specific qualities, skills or experience being sought.
Examples include attributes like “strong interpersonal skills”, “Good oral and written communication skills” or “Excellent team working skills”. Prepare real-life stories from your previous work experience that you can illustrate as examples to demonstrate that you possess these skills.
Keep up-to-date with developments in your industry. It is important to keep up-to-date with the latest news and developments in your industry. When reading though, don’t simply passively read – test and apply what you are reading – where are the opportunities? Interviewers commonly ask questions about current industry events, popular blogs and thought leaders to test your knowledge of the space and their industry.
Be familiar with any changes that have come in recently in legislation, or any that may be pending. You should also become a member of relevant groups on LinkedIn as you may be able to tap into good conversations by industry leaders.
Reviewing your online reputation. In all likelihood you must come to expect that you will be googled by your potential employer. Make sure that the first few pages of Google are full of positive information about your personal brand including your tweets, Google+ profile, LinkedIn profile, blog, etc. In addition, make sure that your social media profiles are active and free of any type of content that may be misconstrued. It is essential to create a strong and memorable impression.