Interviews can either be an opportunity to shout about what you are good at or an anxiety filled nerve wrecking experience where everything you KNOW you KNOW disappears and you are left stumbling over your words and panicking about your answers.
Whilst most people will never truly be comfortable in an interview environment, there are some tactics I have learnt over my decade in recruitment which may help you stay on track no matter what type of interviewee you are.
I hate silence. It makes me uncomfortable and I tend to want to fill it with waffling nonsense. This is a common error made in interviews. A simple question is asked and in order to make sure you hit every possible point, you babble and reach your point by going around in circles. The key to avoiding this is to first, BREATH. Take a breath in and out and think about your answer. Often the interviewer will be looking for a concise response which hits on a few main points. You can then ask if the interviewer would like further detail, or if there are any points, they are interested in discussing in more depth. This allows the interviewer to steer the conversation and find out what they need to know.
You don’t know the answer to the question… do you become the babbler, hoping to hit the right answer somewhere along the line, or do you freeze up? The simple solution to this is to assure yourself prior to the interview that there will 100% be questions you cannot answer. There are questions even the interviewers can’t answer. Its just a fact. So instead of freezing or panicking, admit you don’t know. However, follow this up with how you would find the solution or what you think the route to the answer might be. This illustrates the way you think and approach a problem. It also means you can quickly move on to the next question having shown a positive skill despite not knowing the answer.
I have often had candidates come out of an interview raving about their performance only to learn the client thought it went terribly. This is almost always for one reason. The interviewee was misunderstanding the questions. Clarity is very important when you launch into your explanation of why you have moved or what your responsibilities are. Consider before you begin – what are they REALLY trying to ascertain with their question. If you aren’t sure, ask! An interviewer would far rather you asked for clarity about what they are specifically looking for you to answer, than for you to go off on an unrelated tangent.
You should have done your research before your interview, know the interviewers background and all about the role and the company. So, when you answer the interviewer’s questions, always try and bring it back to how the experience you have had relates to the position you are going for. You can ask them frankly if you aren’t sure – ‘is this something which would be involved in this role? Or is this something you feel would be valuable in this role? If so… I can bring this to the table. ‘
The Six P’s
Last but not at all least…. the six P’s (Prior Planning & Preparation Prevents a Poor Performance).
So, to prepare:
- Know your CV. Be able to discuss in detail all the points you have made. Your CV is potentially the only information your interviewer has so they will use this as a basis for the conversation. Practice discussing the reason for your moves (always be positive about old employers), what you learnt, who you worked with, your level of responsibility, and where you added value.
- Know the company. Why are you interested in this company specifically? You will be able to answer this by looking through their website, recent news articles on them and looking at their competitors. This will also help you relate your experience to their company during your interview.
- Know your interviewer. How long have they been with the firm and in their current position, would they be your direct manager? What is their background? This will give you some points to use when you want to ask them questions.
- Questions. This illustrates your interest in the firm. Ask the interviewer about themselves – what are your visions for this team? Where do you think this role can add value? What is the culture of the team like? What would you like to improve in the next 12 months?
- Honesty. If you have concerns about the role/team/firm, be sure to bring these up in a constructive manner.
Most importantly, BE YOURSELF. They will find out sooner or later what you are really like so be honest and open. Tell them if you are nervous, they will make more of an effort to put you at ease. Be open about your worries and concerns, this is also an opportunity for them to sell the role to you. Building a rapport during an interview can be hard whilst also thinking about everything else but try and relax, follow the above advice and… GOOD LUCK!