A pretty strong consensus exists among employers on what’s hot to trot during an interview – and what’s definitely not. We did the round-up, and here’s what they have to say on the matter.
Jolly well done! You followed last week’s advice about applying for a job in all the normal and abnormal ways, and your irresistible dollop of poetry or baking secured you an interview slot. Hold your horses, though.
There’s more to signing on the dotted line than tweaking the ear-wagglingly broad smile and beefing up the winner’s handshake. Read on for interview tips to trump the best of ’em.
1) TAKE A LONG, HARD LOOK IN THE MIRROR
We’re not talking about tying a killer Double Windsor knot – this is much more simple than that; it doesn’t require a whole morning’s preparation. It won’t even take you an hour. All it requires is for you to ask yourself a question, and to be honest in response. The question is: do you genuinely care about the vacancy in hand? If the answer is no, the interview is likely to go with all the bang of a flaccid week-old balloon, and the follow-up question is: why are you bothering to apply at all?
Ian Baron of interactive marketing specialists Thumbtags knows the value of intangible dedication over concrete credentials, because “being passionate about the company, role or sector really shows, and we would rather employ passion than qualifications.” Fabulous. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Dan Garraway of video-tagging tool wireWAX agrees that the point of an interview is to establish whether a candidate is a good fit from a personality point of view as well as purely skill-based; something which calls for a tirade of genuine enthusiasm as well as integrity:
“The worst thing someone can do at an interview is answering with flat, sterile answers. You have to want to be in there, want the opportunity and have a passion. So inversely, the best thing people can possibly do is be open, honest and interested in having a chat. The first point of the interview is “do we get on, does this person fit in with our company”.
2) I KNOW YOU ARE, BUT WHAT AM I?
This one’s also pleasingly simple (but slightly more time intensive): do your research.
Opinion is unanimous here – if you rock up to an interview without having first done a bit of stalking to get a good idea of what makes the company tick, you’re a gonner. And you won’t get an ASBO for meticulously googling your interviewer to find out about their role in the company, but you will get your foot firmly (and non-criminally) in the door. Finding out which type of biscuits they like to dunk in their tea might be pushing it a bit (that said, we’d probably be rather impressed).
The other prong to your research involves knitting the old brows awhile and pondering what the role will actually entail. Not only does this show that you’ve done your homework, it also helps to give you and the interviewer an idea of whether you’re on the same page. Many a probation period has met an untimely end because someone thought the job would involve X, but in reality it involved Y, and for whatever reason, this never came to light during the interview.
Helene Mark, Head of HR at Football Radar told us about her strategy to prevent this from happening: she asks all candidates to describe the job as they would expect it to be. A short, sweet and neat way to minimise the grabbing of any wrong stick-ends.
3) TURN IT BACK ON THEM
If you’ve had your Weetabix for breakfast, you can take your research a step further by simmering the fruits of your detective labour into the jam of blistering proactivity. Ryan Perera, co-founder of skills marketplace SkillFlick, wants candidates to step outside their comfort zone and turn the interview into a meaningful and creative dialogue:
“The best thing they can do is be genuinely interested in your company, having researched it fully beforehand and ideally, tried it out. A really great candidate would be confident enough to suggest ideas of how they could add value to the company, e.g. marketing ideas or product ideas.”
In other words, you’re already demonstrating at interview stage that you are ready to dive straight in and help the company to get better at what they’re doing. How can they say no?
The side-effect of this is a nice one; imagine yourself in their shoes, conducting maybe twenty interviews over two days. A conversation about something other than the awesomeness of your A-levels or that one time you were totally the best at working in a team will surely come as a welcome relief.
1) DON’T YOU LIE TO ME, BABY
Don’t feel that every question you’re asked requires a sterling answer. It’s okay to not know everything, but it’s not okay to bluff. The sign of integrity is admitting that you don’t know everything, and the sign of an inquisitive mind is to seek answers. It can be difficult not to shoot blind when you feel you’re being backed into a corner, but the ability to hold up your hands and admit defeat is a worthy (and frighteningly rare) skill in the world of business.
Tiago Mateus, CEO of task management wizards Sooqini, explains that being honest and asking questions has the added benefit of helping you to figure out if that company is the place for you:
“Always ask questions. Talking to people is the best way to discover if the company is right for you. An honest “No, I haven’t heard of that. What is it?” is better than a made up answer, or worse, silence. Honesty is the best policy. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to certain questions.”
That’s all on the don’ts, folks! The more observant out there may notice that this a list of one – because there’s only one big no-go left to mention that doesn’t involve us repeating the above backwards, and frankly, that would be an insult to your cerebral prowess and a dashed waste of time.
THE SURPRISING GOOD NEWS
Although there’s no shortage of hiring managers who will admit to sometimes making a decision about a future hire within the first 30 seconds of meeting a candidate, fear not! For there is light at the end of the tunnel. While it’s relatively easy to hit on a resounding YES in the blink of a merry eyelid, this doesn’t mean that it’s as simple on the flipside.
If an interview gets off to a shaky start, hiring managers are nevertheless ready and willing to give candidates ample opportunity to shine; this means you get the full whack of the interview to make a good impression and turn the situation around. So take a deep breath, try to forget about that hairy moment when you called the interviewer “Mum”, and start knocking their socks off.
Things really aren’t as bad as you might imagine, according to Jamie Waldegrave – CFO of customer loyalty innovators Footfall123 – who explained that the sort-of-sad truth about the instinctive passing of quick judgments can work to your advantage if you make an effort to find out about the company’s office culture and dress code before the interview. However, if you do make a boo-boo in your choice of bow tie, there is still hope. “We do often hire people despite bad first impressions – it really isn’t the be all and end all!”
There’s significant weight behind this sentiment; every company previously mentioned is in agreement that first impressions are overrated. It’s official! It’s heartwarming! The employers have spoken! They just want to find the best person for the job, whether this is proved to them in the first 30 seconds or the last. Good news for bow tie enthusiasts far and wide.
More nifty tidbits to help you on your way:
By Corissa Nunn, European Development at Enternships