Sunday, 2 September 2012

My Top 7 Interview Tips


Source: uv.edu.eg via 윤재중 on Pinterest

To progress your career most of us have to go through job interviews. Pretty much. Few of us are lucky enough to be offered a new job without attending an interview. Even if you are applying for a role internally most companies have a process where you need to interview for the role. The problem with this is that most of us attend job interviews so infrequently, we don't get a chance to get good at them. And often being good at a job interview, has nothing to do with being good at the job. Tricky. I have just been through a job interview process that consisted of 3 different interviews, which I think is fairly standard now-days. My first interview was via Skype, or video conference. The second interview was face-to-face, and the third via phone. They are different types of interviews and you need to consider different things for each. So here are my top 7 tips for any type of interview:

1. Be. On. Time
Yes this is a pretty simple one but lots of people turn up late for job interviews. Being on time for your interview is really the first test. If you can turn up on time for the interview, perhaps you can also be on time if you get the job? For some jobs this is more important than others but its still a good measure of how important you think the interview is. There are times when you can't help but be late. In this circumstance you should ring your contact, aplogise and give an indication of when you will arrive. It's polite. It's not hard.

2. Be focused. 
In the first place, only apply for jobs that interest you in companies and industries you like. Internet job boards such as Seek make it very easy to apply for any job you see, but I encourage you to be picky. For example, I"m not sure I would be a great fit for a Financial Services company. I might be, but I tend to like businesses and industries that are more practical and that do or make things that are tangible. That's just me. Nothing wrong with Financial Services companies. My husband Arran loves working in Financial Services. Whatever floats your boat.

The times I have interviewed at companies who operated in industries that didn't really interest me, was a complete waste of time for all concerned. If I was really honest with myself I didn't really like the company or the role and I didn't enjoy the interview. I felt like I was on the wrong planet and I don't think the interviewers thought I would be a good fit either. On these occasions they didn't even give me the courtesy of letting me know I had been unsuccessful. I knew anyway.

3. Be you.
I'm really rolling out the hard stuff now! I know this sounds simple but sometimes it's hard to accept that you need to be true to you and your purpose, specially when you really just need a job! I know what that's like, but there is nothing more miserable than doing something you hate. It's good to remember that a job interview is not (or should not) be a one way process. A good interview will be a conversation between you and the company representatives. It's an opportunity to find out if the company and the role is going to be a good fit for you and your purpose. For the company, it's an opportunity to learn about you, how you will contribute to the business and how you will fit the culture. You are going to spend a lot of your time with these people if you get the job, so be yourself and ask questions that are important to you.

Of course you should hold a little back. One of my favourite interview experiences was with a candidate who threw the most amazing "tanty", because we were having difficulty getting the video conference technology working for his interview with a Manager in India. Anyone who has travelled or worked in India would know that things working there consistently is unusual. While trying desperately to get things working he threw his "tanty" saying that he couldn't be expected to interview under such conditions. Unfortunately the technology working intermittently was a realistic experience of working on the project, for which he was interviewing. He gave a little too much of himself. I couldn't get him out of the building quickly enough.

4. Be prepared.
Most companies are looking for a mix of experience, skills and knowledge as well as cultural fit. Some will weigh in heavily on experience while others will look for cultural fit first. So before you head off to the interview have a think about what they might be looking for. If you are invited for an interview there is obviously some stuff in your resume that is a match, but at interview you will need to articulate your experience in more detail. If the role is a customer service type role you might need to talk about when you have given excellent customer service and use a real example. Or you might need to talk about how you have dealt with conflict or an unhappy customer. 

You should also have done some research about the company. Google is your friend. Use it and have a bit of an idea of why you might like to work there.

5. Be thoughtful
When answering interview questions you can be much more successful with answers that you have given some thought to, and can demonstrate some self awareness. Companies are not looking for perfection. They are looking for honesty, awareness and actions that are consistent with your personal and career goals. Most people will ask you your strengths and development areas. You can really derail an interview here.  I have seen a colleague fail to successfully gain an internal role because she couldn't articulate her development areas. These were development areas that she had been given feedback on in performance reviews for the prior 3 years and had a development plan in place to address them. They were also very evident to the Managers who interviewed her. A little thought before the interview and she should have been able to answer this confidently and have a better chance of securing the role.

An external candidate I once interviewed told me the same development need for every role on his resume.This showed to me he was either stupid, had no self awareness or had learnt nothing during his career. Do you think he got the job?  

6. Be well presented
This is not just about what you are wearing, although that is important. First impressions count, and even though an interview should be about learning about you and what you can offer, if you arrive and you are not dressed to suit the company or the role, you are going to get off to a bad start. This counts for face-to-face interviews and interviews via Skype. I spent some time thinking about what would look good on a computer screen on the other side of the world for my recent Skype interview. I did my hair and make-up and my top half was dressed as if it was a face-to-face interview (only my head and shoulders were going to be seen on the computer screen). I was at home during the interview so the bottom half I had on jeans. I found out later that some of the other applicants for the job looked like they were wearing pajamas during their Skype interview. Didn't make a good impression.

You should be yourself but I would caution against wearing anything too distracting. You don't want to be remembered just for the massive diamonte bow in your hair (which matches your brooche and your belt and your ring and your shoes) , or the VERY VERY BADLY FITTED SUIT you are sporting (yes I have had seen both of these examples).

Being well presented is not just about what what you look like.  It's also about what you say. Completely bad mouthing your previous employers makes you look very bad and is a complete turn off. You know the saying, if you can't say something nice? It applies to job interviews.

It's also not a great idea to attend an interview if you are sick. I went to an interview really early in my career with an awful case of the flu. During the interview I did a massive sneeze and ended up with a handful of ...well...snot. There is no other way to say it. The poor people interviewing me had to scramble to get me a fistful of tissues. I was mortified. I'm guessing they were fairly disgusted. I didn't get the job.

7. Be confident
I haven't met a person who enjoys interviews. Most people find them very nerve wracking and unsettling. My mum was telling me a few weeks ago that she hates them. And then added that she got the job at every interview she has attended. Hmmm...they can't be that bad can they? 

I'll let you in on a secret. Unless the people interviewing you, run interviews all the time (like recruiters and HR people), the interviewees are often very nervous themselves. So just settle in and try to relax. If you prepare and try to be yourself you will perform well. 

Inspire me

Job interviews are just one style of interview, and as I was writing this blog I thought about interviews you often see on TV with celebrities or public figures. Many of these types of interviews are not that interesting and poorly thought out, on the part of the interviewer. Many are just opportunities to promote something, a movie or a new line of product, and are tightly controlled by Publicists. But there are a couple of excellent interviewers around. My two favourite are Andrew Denton on Enough Rope and James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio.

They have completely different styles but still get the best out of their "subjects". They both start with meticulous preparation and research. Andrew has a gentle, genuine and curious approach that puts people at ease, so they are willing to share more of their story. James Lipton is the opposite. He has a direct and staccato like questioning style but sticks to the actor's history and experience. No gossip and no dirt. 

 You can take some inspiration from both these masters. Be prepared and curious, and focused.
 

Develop me

Want to learn more? One of Australia's online job boards Career one, has some great resources here.

Just for me

Have you discovered Pinterest yet? So addictive. It's a visual pinboard. Check out this great graphic on job interviews:

Source: visual.ly via Giovanni on Pinterest




When have you had a really good interview? Or do you have a horror story?



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