No matter what kind of interview you face, the secret to success lies in preparation. Clemmie Gleeson finds out how to stand out at interview for all the right reasons.
Interviews are still the primary method of selecting candidates for jobs with the interviewer generally wanting to spend about an hour getting to know each candidate.
As well as filling job vacancies, interviews might be the chosen method to choose recipients of awards, grants or acceptance onto training schemes. Whatever the ‘prize’ on offer, the advice of how to prepare and make the best of the opportunity is much the same.
Increasingly, phone interviews and Skype are used after shortlisting to select the most appropriate applicants they would like to meet face-to-face.
Sarah Milburn, agricultural recruitment consultant with De Lacy Executive, says she uses phone interviews to get to know candidates before putting their CV forward to a client.
She says: “I am looking to get a picture of what the person is like – are they polite? Do they ask questions? Do they appear to be answering questions honestly or avoiding certain issues?”
Skype may then be used for preliminary interviews if, for example, the candidate lives a long way from the company, she explains.
“If you are using Skype, make sure you check your camera and microphone are working in advance and be ready five minutes before your appointment time in case someone dials in early.”
Larger companies may use personality tests and assessment days. Machinery companies particularly like to set candidates practical tasks as well as the straight-up one hour interview, says Sarah.
“I am increasingly seeing this for jobs in the food supply chain and grain sector too.”
Taking a test or shadowing an existing employee after the interview are likely too, depending on the role.
She says: “Most commercial jobs will involve a presentation – this is normally in a second interview.”
...particularly when interviewed by a panel, and can be worried about being able to sell themselves.
We all know what we say is just one small part of how we communicate with others.
We make judgements and inferences on others from their ‘non-verbal behaviour’ (body language), which can heavily influence who we choose to work with.
But social psychologist and professor and researcher at Harvard Business School Amy Cuddy says this non-verbal behaviour affects how we feel about ourselves which can alter our behaviour and success in situations such as job interviews.
She says: “Our bodies change our minds, our minds can change our behaviour and our behaviour can change our outcomes.”
In her talk given at a TED global conference in 2012, which has since been viewed online more than 27 million times, she says adopting more ‘powerful’ body language triggers hormonal changes which make us feel and act more confident.
A ‘high power pose’ is one where the body is opened up, made bigger and takes up more space, for example standing with hands on your waist.
The opposite is also true – a ‘low power pose’ (for example, shoulders hunched, legs crossed and arms folded) will trigger hormonal responses in the body which makes us feel powerless.
Just two minutes of holding a ‘high power pose’ could result in a 20 per cent increase in the dominance hormone testosterone and a 25 per cent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, she says.
“Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”
She advises spending two minutes before stressful situations in a power pose – out of sight of others if need be.
She says: “Configure your brain to allow it to cope the best in the situation. Do not leave the situation feeling like, you didn’t show them who you are. Leave the situation feeling like, ‘I really feel I got to say who I am and show who I am’.”
Fake it till you make it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalise the process.
Learn as much as you can about the organisation and the role you are applying for. Do not just read the company’s own website, show some initiative by getting information from elsewhere too. Know what the employer is looking for and how your skills, experience and personality traits can deliver it.
While preparing for the interview itself, do not forget the practical issues.
Make sure you know where you are going and how long it will take you to get there. Does your suit need dry-cleaning before the interview? Where are you going to park? Do you need some cash to hand?
Have a few questions ready to ask your interviewer to demonstrate you are interested in the organisation. Also use the opportunity to establish whether the job is what you had thought. Is there anything you need to know in order to be able to accept a job offer if it is made? Ask about the work itself, training and career development, not about holidays, pensions and season ticket loans
Image is not just about making a good first impression, it also has an affect on how we feel about ourselves which can boost our confidence and performance. Style consultants refer to it as the ‘cycle of success’.
Make sure your outfit and footwear are appropriate for the interview, fit well and make you feel good about yourself.
Maintaining eye contact and a firm handshake affect the all-important first impression. Good posture, a smile and positive and open body language not only influences how you come across to an interviewer but how you feel about yourself too.
Top sports players use visualisations when preparing for matches, and similar techniques can be used when preparing for any situation you need to be on form. Imagine yourself being confident and competent, delivering concise answers and brimming with enthusiasm.
Ask a friend to quiz you on your CV and your motivations for applying for a new job and your future goals. Make sure you can explain concisely why you want the job and why you want to leave your current job. Practise confident body language, maintaining eye contact and your handshake.
If appropriate, take your training records, certificates and so on in a folder ready for your interviewer’s perusal.
Is there anything else the employer has specified as vital for the role, such as a clean driving licence? If so, take a copy with you.
Be passionate about the industry and particularly the sector you want to work in. Give recent examples of occasions you have pursued your passion or successfully used your skills.
If you are unsuccessful, try not to be disheartened for too long.
Ask for feedback as it may help you prepare for your next interview.
It has often been said liars give themselves away by non-verbal clues such as looking away, fidgeting and scratching their nose. But recent research has shown there is very little evidence for this, although they do tend to be signs of being emotionally uncomfortable. People who are lying tend to talk with a higher pitched voice, give fewer and less precise details, and repeat words more often.
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