Job interviews are stressful affairs at any level. One particularly worrying statistic from the marketing consultancy Come Recommended suggests that 33 per cent of hiring managers claim they can make a decision about you within 90 seconds.
But knowing what to expect and how to prepare can make the process less daunting. The interview represents an opportunity to flesh out your skills and experiences to a human face, rather than through the medium of a CV or recruiter, and to show your potential employer that you would be a good fit for the company and job.
The Interview Format
Depending on the employer and the job, you may encounter a number of different interview formats. A competency-based interview, for example, focuses on addressing your abilities by providing examples from your past. A technical interview, meanwhile, will put more emphasis on role-specific technical knowledge. Case-study interviews are usually reserved for more senior roles. These require you to review a business problem case study, and inform the panel on how you would evaluate, manage, and complete it.
But on the whole, interviews typically look to establish three criteria:
- Can you perform the job to the required standard?
- Do you have the necessary motivation to persevere with and enjoy the job?
- And will you fit in with the company culture?
Your answers to all three need to be yes – for both your sake and the employer’s.
Techniques For Success
A technique that you may find useful is to discover what problems the employer is hoping to solve by hiring you for the position. Then demonstrate how you can do so. These problems may be apparent in the job description, but could potentially require some investigative work of your own. The more you know about the position you are applying for, the better prepared you can be on the day.
Clear communication is vital. Don’t leave the interviewer in any doubt of your skills, experiences, and what you can bring to the company. And it is not just about what you say. James Borg, the business consultant and psychologist, has argued that only 7 per cent of communication consists of words. The rest is body language and how you speak. Make a connection with the interviewer by smiling and maintaining eye contact, and avoid using too many hand gestures or fidgeting.
When asked competency-based questions, structure your answer by setting out a challenge you faced, the action you took to resolve it, the resulting outcome, and, if appropriate, what you learnt. When preparing for these questions, do not learn scripted answers, as this will seem false and does not give you the flexibility to adapt.
Technical interviews are usually held to test your practical knowledge, with varying levels of breadth and depth depending on the position. Be honest about gaps in your knowledge – if you are a good fit for the role overall, then the company may invest in training you up to the required standard. These interviews are also designed to evaluate how you approach problems. Warm up beforehand with some puzzles and brainteasers to get your brain thinking logically and creatively.
The Follow Up
After the interview, immediately note down the areas where you feel you performed poorly. Follow up with a letter to thank the interviewer for seeing you, being sure to reinforce your competency in these areas and stressing your motivation to be hired to the post. Over the coming weeks, follow up regularly. Remember, the job will often go to the person who wants it the most.