Career management – 10 top tips for job interviews.
Job interviews can be very stressful situations if you are not used to them. The worst part is that even if you are fully qualified for the position on paper, an unconfident or unorganised interview performance will effectively prevent you from getting the positions you apply for. With proper preparation and knowing what to do you have much better chances of making a good impression and getting the position you are applying for.
Interviews are influencing situations, and as in most interactions, your behaviour and how you deliver your message can be more important as what you actually say. Even though many interviewers may claim to remain objective and focus on the facts, their decisions are influenced heavily by all the signs and messages that are delivered between words. For many jobs, there are dozens or qualified candidates, if you look only at their skills. The ones who are picked are those who interviewers like, trust and feel good about. This is just the law of all human interactions.
Here are my top 10 tips for job interviews to help you to prepare and perform well
- Always prepare well for the interview. Gather information about the company and the business they are in.
- Make sure that you understand the requirements of the position and prepare a presentation (or speech) on how your current skills and expertise would fit the requirements. Write this down for yourself.
- Write down a narrative about your career thus far and pick a few highlights (or achievements) to expand on in more detail. Choose things that are related to the position you are applying for and would be beneficial for it. When an interviewer asks you to tell him something about yourself, go through the narrative you prepared. If he asks instead that you walk him through your resume, you will go through the same narrative, as it can be used to answer either one of these very common questions. I recommend that you start your narrative from the earliest job related to the position you are applying for, and quickly move on to your most recent positions, discussing them more thoroughly. Always highlight the skills, experience, or achievements that could be helpful in the position. You should have a few relevant achievements and problem-solving, conflict-resolution, and leadership scenarios prepared, as these are the most commonly asked “tell me about the time when you…” questions.
- While telling your back and answering questions, focus on the future value you could bring to the company and how your skills and experience would match the position in question, for example: “I have managed these four complex projects, and I believe this would be of great benefit while managing projects in the role of X in your company.” Don’t get stuck on your old work successes that aren’t directly relevant to the position you are applying for. If you are applying for a higher position, you must demonstrate your ability to think on the required level of that position. As an example, if you are stepping up from an IC role to a management role, you should explain how you would help your team to solve problems rather than talking about how you personally would solve them. For a higher-level job, you have to have a higher-level mindset.
- Prepare questions you can ask about the company and position. A list of example questions is available at this article: Impactful questions to ask in a job interview. The questions can be as important as your answers, as they tell a lot about your thinking, interest in the company. Well thought out questions about the business and work itself will also tell a lot about your expertise and experience. You should write down several questions to ask to the interviewer and have the notes with you in the interview.
- Relax and try to turn the interview into a discussion as much as possible. If you want to have a bit more fun, ask the interviewer if you can take turns asking questions after your initial story to keep things interactive and interesting. This also serves the purpose of making it clear that you are not “easy to get” but consider your choice of employer carefully and want to know as much as possible before accepting any offers. When you are relaxed, this also makes the interviewer unconsciously more relaxed and positive towards you.
- There is one very strong ending you should always conclude your interviews with: Ask the interviewer if anything is unclear or if he has any doubts that would prevent them from hiring you. Say that you want to make sure they have all the information they need to make a decision. You can also ask for immediate feedback from the interviewer on how he sees the situation and how you will proceed. This approach will naturally shift the power balance of the situation a bit more to your side and leave a very strong last impression.
- If you are invited in the interview, you can be confident that your skills and experience are on the required level. You would not be invited otherwise. The interview is to check you face to face, see your social and influence skills, and get a feeling if you fit to company culture. Another thing they will be checking is that you really do want the position if they were to offer it to you. You can balance how you play this situation with playing hard to get, but in the same time convincing the interviewers that you are really interested in the position and their company – of course depending also on their answers, and if they really please you.
- How you present yourself here is the key. Speak slowly, clearly and keep enough eye contact with all the interviewers and remember to smile now and then. Be organized in your answers, and use any additional material that you have prepared, if you need to. If you have some good appropriate jokes or are good in situational comedy, you can judge the situation and drop a few funny words to lighten the mood and show that you are not afraid of the situation. Depending on the time, it can be that the interviewers have had already 10 interviews before you, and they are bored and need a bit of wake up. You must stand out from the crowd, as for the best positions you will be competing with dozens of other applicants.
- Timing: Try to time your interviews either in the morning from 9 to 11 or right after the lunch time 1-2PM. This is when people will naturally react more positively on anything around them, including you. This is a scientific fact, and now that you know it, you can take advantage of it. This is also the best time to discuss salary raises and promotions with your current management.
Extra tip that works in any influencing situations: Warm hands, warm drinks: warm feelings. All of these will actually make people associate positive feelings towards other around them. So, warm your hands before the first handshake, and if there is coffee and tea on the table, ask if the interviewer would share a cup with you.
These have helped me to get almost all the positions I have ever interviewed for. The key is a good preparation, understanding the company and position you are applying for, and being confident that you have the skills and experience needed for the job. When these are in order, it is easy to relax in the interview, and enjoy the discussion while you figure out if this job and company are the right choices for you.
Summary: 10 top tips for job interviews
- Do your research about the company
- Do your research about the position and requirements
- Write down a good storyline about your career to match the new job
- Focus on showing what value your experience and skills will provide to the company
- Prepare relevant questions about the job and company
- Relax and try to turn the interview into a conversation
- End strong: Ask if there are any doubts left on hiring you
- Be confident, if you are in the interview, you have all the necessary skills and experience
- Focus on clear and organized presentation
- If possible, time your interviews in the mid-morning or just after lunch
Extra tip: Warm your hands, and share a warm drink with the interviewer
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