1) Be self-aware
Analyse your strengths and weaknesses for the role. Before the interview, take your time to work through the job advert again and identify the areas you think you’re strongest so you can emphasize them to an interviewer. But equally important is to identify the areas where you’re weaker, so you can prepare a succinct and effective way to address these concerns.
Even if an employer doesn’t explicitly mention your weaknesses, they will have noticed them and may ask questions about them. Being acutely aware of what your weaknesses are, gives you the opportunity to spot when you’re inadvertently being asked about them and to confidently address them.
2) Be specific, direct and considered
Depending on the style of your interviewer, you might find yourself being asked some rather broad questions. Similarly, you might find yourself being asked some surprisingly specific questions. The key to answering both is the same – and it’s never about giving a broad, vague answer.
It’s always worth remembering that one of the key outcomes of an interview, is for the interviewer to assess whether you could be successful in the position. The best way to do this is by showing them you have had specific and measurable success before.
Without rambling, take some time to layout detailed and targeted answers that help to show them you are a candidate that succeeds. Instead of just saying “I’m a team player”, give them a specific example of when you were a team player and the results that had.
3) Remember your adapted application
Wouldn’t it be great if an interviewer started the interview by telling you exactly what they were looking for in a candidate so you could be sure to show them that you fit the bill? They pretty much do.
Think of the job advert as your cheat sheet for the interview – they’ve told you exactly what skills and qualities they are looking for. It’s unlikely that these will be reiterated in the interview process.
You should make a note of the words and phrases used in the job advert (which ones did you use to tailor your application?) and be using them to describe yourself when it’s appropriate to do so in the interview.
4) Read the social cues
Of course, your interview is a time to talk … appropriately. You may feel like you’ve got a lot to say and not much time to say it in, but talking too much really can harm your chances.
Rambling can make you look disorganized. Keeping talking can make you look like you’re not paying attention or not able to respond to social cues. Talking about your personal life can make you look unprofessional.
Having said all that, saying too little can be just as damaging as saying too much – it’s more about being personally aware than anything else.
Listen to each question carefully and consider your answer – it’s better to take a second before you answer than start to answer and realize you’ve misinterpreted the question or not used your best example. When giving long and detailed answers, be sure to keep looking to your interviewer for clues that they’re looking to move on (e.g. Do they keep taking a breath to start to speak? Are they watching a clock?).
Don’t feel rushed, just be aware when they are trying to move things along. Don’t ever get sidetracked and start talking about your personal life. Your spouse, your home life or your children are not topics you should delve into, no matter how warm and welcoming your interviewer may be.
5) Keep an eye on body language
Even if you say everything right, you might still give an interviewer the wrong impression. Similarly, even if an interviewer is saying positive sounding things, ignoring their body language could mean you miss important clues about their doubts about you.
No one expects you to become a body language expert overnight but it’s useful to know the basics. Present yourself well – make a confident entrance and offer an equally confident handshake. Maintain good posture, use “open” body language and keep an appropriate level of eye contact.
6) Don’t badmouth past employers
When you’re asked hard questions, like “Tell me about a time that you didn’t work well with a supervisor. What was the outcome and how would you have changed the outcome?” or “Have you worked with someone you didn’t like? If so, how did you handle it?” never fall into the trap of bad-mouthing other people.
It’s sometimes a smaller world than you think, and you just never know who your interviewer might know. You also don’t want the interviewer to think that you might speak that way about his or her company if you leave on terms that aren’t the best. And, most importantly, it’s just not professional.
Instead, review how to answer difficult questions. You want your interviewer to know that you can work well with other people and handle conflicts in a mature and effective way. If you have to explain a difficult situation, keep it factual. Keep the explanation as succinct as possible and focus more of your answer on explaining how you went about finding a solution.
Keep it positive. The best advice is only to speak about people like they are in the room.
7) And don’t become too familiar
Getting on well with your interviewer is a positive thing, you should work to build rapport and come across as someone they would like to spend time within a professional setting. Just don’t get caught in the trap of becoming too familiar – it is still an interview.
Becoming too relaxed in an interview setting can be just as dangerous as not relaxing at all – letting your guard down and answering questions without proper thought, using less professional language or making jokes are all things to stay away from. Always remember where you are and what you’re there for.
8) Don’t just sit around waiting
Sometimes things really do just take time, especially in recruitment – there are many things that can hold the process up. But if you’ve had your interview and not heard anything back, you shouldn’t just sit back and wait indefinitely.
It can be difficult to know what’s for the best – you’ve got to be careful that you don’t ruin all your chances by being seen as annoying with continued, unsolicited contact. Do try to avoid this headache altogether by agreeing on a plan for follow up whilst you’re still in the interview – ask when you should expect to hear, suggest that you’ll call on a certain day for an update if you’ve not heard.