How to prepare
Research beyond the basics
In a difficult economic climate, it’s not good enough to merely look at the home page of a company website and recite a few facts back during interview. Look at all the company and career pages of the site, so you are familiar with the company and opportunities. Read any press releases they’ve issued and Google the company to see how they’ve been reported in the media or online chat rooms.
First and second interview tactics
In terms of preparation, the order of the interview is less significant than the person who will be leading it. An HR person will probably lead the competency-led piece of the interview and any discussion about company culture. A department head is likely to focus on your technical or role-specific skills and experience, and your personality. They will be trying to work out whether you’ll fit into their team.
Know your interviewer
Check whether the person who is due to interview you has a public profile on Linked-In or Facebook. It will give you a measure of the person if you know their career track record and interests. Treat this information as valuable intelligence and don’t make the mistake of disclosing it all or of being overly familiar. But if you drop in a comment that shows you know something of their professional life, they’ll likely be flattered.
Think of personal examples
You will probably be asked about your past achievements both in and outside your working life. It helps to already have these in mind as they are difficult to summon up on the spot. Pick examples where outcomes can be quantified, if possible, such as ‘I improved customer satisfaction ratings by x%’, or ‘I organised the department’s social events that helped keep morale high’. Reflecting on your achievements will also put you into a positive frame of mind that will spill over into the actual interview.
Prepare five questions
And take them with you and type them out. It looks professional and you can use them as a prompt, rather than as a script that you read off. So if three have been covered off, ask the two remaining questions. It not only shows you in a good light but is also valuable due diligence. You want to ensure that this company is the right fit for you and that you’ll be happy there. Good questions will help you make this assessment.
Make contact early on
Talk to the PA of the person interviewing you or better the person interviewing you – find a reason to call….confirm the location and timing details, ask if there is anything specific that they would like to see or hear. This early connection will be the start of a relationship and will differentiate you from others.
Rehearse the interview
Do a role play with a friend or colleague in a safe environment with someone who will give you objective and honest feedback. It will always be of value and is likely to change something about your engagement strategy
How to perform
Sort out the logistics
Aim to arrive half an hour early to remove all the stress of traffic and parking problems. Remove all distraction such as mobile phones, bags and any other clutter so that 100% of your attention is on the interview and interviewer.
Find out about the culture of the organisation and the dress code – if they are California casual and you turn up as a pinstripe banker there will be a mismatch. The right attire will not seal the deal but a sartorial blunder will scotch your employment chances. Fussy jewellery or low-cut tops are no-go for ladies while dishevelled shirts and bad shoe choice are non-starters for the men.
You are on show the minute you enter the building and probably before if there are smokers outside, watching and listening. Be courteous to the receptionist or any staff you have dealings with both pre and post-interview. Any interviewer worth their salt will ask the receptionist or PA for their impressions of you, anyway. Use professional language and don’t be over-friendly or call anyone ‘mate’.
Use positive body language
Body language is the most important factor of an interview. Albert Mehrabian discovered that it accounts for over 50% of the impression made, compared to the words you use (7%). So smile – it helps you to relax - and walk with confidence and purpose. Offer a firm handshake and look your interviewer in the eye in a friendly kind of way. Wait to be asked to sit down and then sit up with a straight back and don’t slouch.
Mirror your interviewer
Psychologists know that mirroring a person’s speech and body language generally makes them feel more relaxed and open. Seek to do this in as natural a way as possible. Establish the temperament of the interviewer: are they formal or relaxed, are they outgoing or reserved? Try and map your style to theirs: talk at a similar pace, use similar body language and a similar level of detail.
Ask questions at the end
Apart from the initial impressions made in the first few moments, these 5- 10 minutes at the end are the most vital of the interview. Some candidates are relieved that the interview has gone well and make the mistake of rushing off. But demonstrate your interest, in the form of questions, and it will show that you care and are passionate about the opportunity.
After the first interview send an email to the interviewer, or the agency, thanking them for their time, and you even provide a summary of the meeting. Or send an invitation to connect to your interviewer, briefly stating that you enjoyed meeting them today. Don’t overdo it – the invite alone will impress. Make sure you understand from the company or agency what is expected of you in the second interview. This is an important point, one of expectations. You need to know what is expected of you at each stage, so ask!
Andy Dallas, associate director, Robert Half International
Roger Philby, CEO and founder of The Chemistry Group
Jason Atkinson, Russam-GMS
Ian Mills, chief executive of Transform People
• “One person brought his mother to the job interview and let her do all of the talking.”
• “A job applicant came in for an interview with a cockatoo on his shoulder.”
• “The candidate sent his sister to interview in his place.”
• “After answering the first few questions, the candidate picked up his mobile and called his parents to let them know the interview was going well.”
• “One candidate sang all of her responses to interview questions.”
• “When asked by the hiring manager if he had any questions for him, the candidate replied by telling a knock-knock joke.”
• “One candidate handcuffed himself to the desk during the interview.”
Source: Robert Half survey