In the world of job hunting, there is nothing more daunting than the job interview. Everyone gets nervous when faced with being put on the spot. With all the build up to an interview, many people go in feeling like one misplaced word will be enough to lose them the opportunity. It doesn’t need to be so hard.
Here are seven things you can do to improve the impression you give in an interview situation. These apply equally to agency interviews and interviews with the potential employer.
Be prepared, but not over-prepared
There is often a lot of emphasis placed on the need for interview preparation: research the company, research the people, research the favourite colour of the boss. In truth, while some research is a good idea, going to excess can be detrimental. The interviewer is more interested in you than in what you know about the organisation, so consider spending more research time reminding yourself of your own background, and particularly achievements you may have forgotten about.
Get the simple stuff right
There is no point doing any research if you don’t do the simple stuff right. Present yourself smartly – with clean shoes. (I’m amazed how often the shoes are overlooked.) Be on time. Introduce yourself with a confident handshake and look the interviewer in the eyes. And smile! A smile can really set the interview off on the right track.
Listen to the questions
This is one area where over-preparation can be a trap. It is easy start waffling on in answer to a question you anticipated rather than the question that was actually asked. This has the same effect on the interviewer as sending a form letter: it leaves them wondering if you really want this particular job or would be happy with anything.
Pause. Think before you answer
There is nothing wrong with taking your time to answer. Again, in preparation, we can convince ourselves that unless we have the right answer on the tip of our tongues, we will look unprofessional. In fact, taking the time to think looks far more professional than shooting with the first thing that comes to mind. After all, in most cases, the ability to think will be a requirement of the job.
Treat the interview as a conversation
It will be easier all around if you can play your part in making the interview a conversation rather than an interrogation. So think about it as that – a conversation – before you go into the interview room. Remember that an interview should be about you testing the suitability of the job to you as much as it is them testing the suitability of you to the job. It’s a two-way street.
We sometimes get so caught up trying to present ourselves as what we think the interviewer is looking for that we forget to be ourselves. Don’t fool yourself: interviewers can see through this and they will quickly discount you if they don’t feel they are getting to see the real you. In the end, if you can’t get the job by being yourself, why would you want the job in the first place?
Forget the opposition
Another trap is worrying too much about the other applicants, especially towards the end of the interview process when you know you’re down to the last two or three. This can be hard to avoid but it is essential. If there is a better candidate than you, there is nothing you can do about it. On the other hand, if you are the best candidate, the only way you’ll miss out is if you don’t make that clear. So focus on your own achievements: not the achievements you imagine others might have.
Interviewers see a lot of people every day. They are often disappointed by well-qualified people who forget some of these basics in a vain attempt to present as the perfectly prepared candidate. This makes these people very hard to consider seriously. Don’t make the same mistake yourself.
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