What You Need to Know About Job Interviews
Are you a first-time job seeker who’s just left school or college or is in the final stages of university? Perhaps you’ve been in the same role or at least with the same employer for ages and you haven’t had to go through the job search process in all that time. If we find ourselves in any of these scenarios, our impression of what a job interview is may be very far from reality. We can all benefit from a reminder of what a job interview is by definition, what we can expect from interviews, and what’s expected of us.
A job interview is just one type of interview and it’s really worth reflecting on it as such – an interview. It can help to strip down to the basic definition of the word “interview”. An interview, in its simplest form, is a conversation where there is a common purpose between those being interviewed and those interviewing. In terms of job interviews, the common purpose can be described thus: both parties are trying to sell and both are trying to buy. Both also have equal status and equal rights in the conversation.
Yes, you are equal to the interviewers in a job interview. If you ever have any sense of under-confidence in a job interview, don’t forget who needs whom most. There is a talent shortage, with employers giving their eye-teeth for the chance to unearth talented individuals to join their endeavour. If you’re really good other employers will want you. This vacancy, this interview isn’t the be all and end all. Don’t allow anybody to mess with you or treat you disrespectfully in an interview because that is not appropriate. Walk away and go and find someone else to work with and work for.
Whatever job you’re interviewing for, remember that you got this interview on the strength of your job application. Just as you have hard data on the employer, such as the size, location and quantifiable achievements of the organization, the employer will also have hard data on you. They will know from your application form or CV where you’ve spent time in your life, what you did there and what skills and qualifications you have.
It’s useful to know what stage you’re at in any recruitment process. Job candidates may go through many sub-processes that might consist of multiple interactions. There will be different types of interview – not just your traditional face-to-face interview, one-on-one with a single interviewer but also phone interviews, video interviews, panel interviews and assessment centres. Do you know where you are in that overall selection process? Also, do you know what you’re trying to achieve in that process? There is no point going to the first round interview if you think you’re going to get everything you want out of it by convincing the interviewers to give you your dream job there and then. All you want to do in a first interview is to earn the right to have a second one.
If you do find yourself in a selection process where you have to attend different types of interview, think about how you’ll need to adapt for each interview. For example, in a video interview where the Skype connection is low quality or keeps cutting out, you have to display your listening ability much, much better than you might do otherwise. If you don’t understand something the interviewer says, ask if you can just repeat back to them what you think they said.
The better your pre-interview research, the better you’ll look in the interview. For example, read up on any mentions of the company in the press. It shows you’re following what’s going on. By showing the interviewers your research work in your answers and your own questions, you show them just how deep and wide and strategic your research has been. Asking a powerful question can mean more in the interview than anything else you’ll say. The question you ask can mark you out as unique more than what university you went to or what brands you’ve worked for.
Also, get some background on the people interviewing you. It will give you some conversation fodder for when you go in to talk to them. When you walk into an interview it’s not always a linear thing; it can potentially go off piste. If you’ve got plenty to talk about because you’ve learnt about the interviewers from their LinkedIn profile or press mentions, you can skilfully glide downhill whatever tangent you’ve been lucky, or otherwise, to find yourself on. As the Roman philosopher Seneca said, ““Luck” is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Preparing well is also about what you do through your social media interactions, through personal networks, through making contact with analysts who write papers for people looking to invest in various shares such as the company you’re being interviewed by. The more preparation you do, the more confident you feel in the interview room.
There’s a lot of emphasis put on “unique selling points” when people talk about selling yourself in an interview. Of course, we all have a USP but the key is being able to match yours to what it is the interviewers see as unique. It could be that you’re of a particular nationality and you know that the company is currently expanding into that geographical market. It may be that you speak a language that’s relevant to the organization, its stakeholders, its partners, its products and services or its operations. Think about how your USP aligns with what the employer needs.
Handle fear before an interview by making sure you look after yourself. Make sure you’re stress free on the day by knowing how long the journey to the venue is and having a plan B if your transport plans go belly-up. Eat properly on the day of the interview. It’s critical that you’re well hydrated if you are to feel well within yourself so drink plenty of water before the interview. If offered tea or coffee at the interview, don’t have any if your water levels low. These are all tiny, tiny factors but if you take them all into account you will be in a far better position to put your best foot forward. Face your fears by asking yourself what’s the worst that can happen. Worst case scenario – you don’t get job. It’s not the end of the world.
By Position Ignition (www.positionignition.com) and the Career Ignition Club (www.careerignitionclub.com), the UK’s leading career change and career development company and platform. Also the author of 125 LinkedIn Job Search Tips (http://www.positionignition.com/100-linkedin-job-search-tips). Follow @PosIgnition for more help with your career challenges.