As I regularly speak to groups of unemployed people, I often ask them how they feel about job interviews. While a few look forward to them with genuine enthusiasm, most tell me they dread them. Given that an interview of some kind takes place before hiring, let’s look at what an interview is, the purpose it serves and of course how you can perform best.
So what is an interview? Do you see it as a mandatory meeting called where you’re to be drilled, interrogated, the truth sweated out, then evaluated, judged and ultimately rejected as undesirable; sometimes with no explanation whatsoever provided where you went wrong? Gee, no wonder you dread the interview process!
A job interview is really conversation between two or more people, where everyone agrees the discussion will be focused on an opportunity. It is an opportunity for both you the applicant and the employer to see if you’ll be a good fit for the job and equally if the job and the employer are a good fit for you. Sure they’re offering a job, but you’re offering yourself as a solution to their needs. If they had no needs, there’d be no job to apply to.
The purpose of the job interview then is to find the fit. To have received the offer of an interview, you must have impressed them enough with your résumé and/or cover letter. So this meeting is really about finding out what’s not on the résumé. Your attitude, personality, beliefs etc. are all of interest to the employer to decide how you’ll impact on the chemistry in their workplace and with the team of people you’ll potentially work with. It’s also a chance to elaborate on your experiences, so the employer can gauge how you’ll do in the future.
If you want to improve on your interview performance, do your homework. Research the company, find out who the interviewers will be ahead of time and look them up on the company website and/or their LinkedIn profiles. Find out how the organization is performing, current challenges, recent successes and something of their culture – what it’s like to actually work there.
Now this is going to put some people off because this sounds like a lot of work with no guarantee of a positive result. Consider however that if you do put in this effort, you’re ahead of those who don’t bother and it will show in the interview answers you give, and the comments and questions you pose yourself. Imagine putting a lot of time into researching ahead of 4 job applications/interviews; 3 of which don’t turn into a job offer, while the 4th one does. You’ve had fail, fail, fail followed by success. This investment of your time sure beats the energy and time you’ll put into applying for 40 jobs, doing no research and wondering why no one will give you an interview. That’s fail x 40.
Now you can improve your chances of performing well in a job interview if you go into it ahead of time having prepared yourself with specific examples that respond to the questions you’ll be asked. You CAN predict with a high degree of accuracy what you’ll be asked before you even step in the interview room. How? Read the job posting, highlight what it is they are looking for, what you’ll actually do in the job and especially look for anything that is repeated in the posting. If problem solving comes up 3x in a posting, it stands to reason that’s a significant part of the job.
Okay so you’ve highlighted what they want. Great start! Now, to prepare yourself, start writing down the details about times in your past work experiences where you’ve actually done the things this new employer is looking for. In other words, write out a specific time when you solved a problem, making sure you include how you sized up the situation, what you actually did and include the positive outcome such as keeping an angry customer, getting praise from the boss or selling something in addition to the original purchase. Don’t generalize how you usually do things; specific examples are so much more believable.
Of course your answers are huge, but don’t overlook the importance of making a strong visual presentation. In other words, let’s not overlook your appearance. Do what you can NOW to improve on your looks. Get a haircut, shave, get into proper fitting clothes, the type of which would be a step up from what you’d wear to the job. Your choice of clothes tells the interview at a first glance how seriously you take the interview and a degree of your intelligence and respect for the process.
Walk with purpose, stand with both feet equally planted on the floor, not off-balanced on one leg. Sit slightly forward, show interest and enthusiasm for what’s being discussed, smile, look people in the eye, extend your hand and be friendly. Basics for sure, but not to be overlooked and assumed as common sense.
A conversation with an employer about an opportunity is again how I suggest you go into the interview. This should be a positive exchange of information. You’ve got more control in this whole process than you might imagine, right up to deciding if you want the job or not. Your performance influences the outcome, and in a nutshell, that’s the point of this meeting.