A version of this article originally appeared on our website in April 2012 (when 10Eighty was in its infancy) and has become very popular over the last few months.
We think that’s because during this uncertain period many of us are brushing up on interview skills to help us navigate the choppy waters of Brexit and snap General Elections. And becoming an exceptional candidate is something you definitely can take control of…
Interviews are an inprecise art. Most people don’t take the effort to become ‘interview ninjas’ and most interviews don’t go very well because most people are bad at them.
In addition to this, many interviewers can find it difficult to be totally objective (unconscious bias is a whole other blogpost) or good at interviewing either.
Statisticians tells that the coefficient of correlation between successful interview and successful job performance is 0.3. Barely better than chance. So the good news is, good interviewees have the odds stacked in their favour.
For a good interview performance, you need to consider the 3Ps: planning, practice and positive psychology.
Think of an interview as an audition. During your performance, you should project yourself as the candidate that the interviewer wants to hire, someone who would slot easily into their team.
Plan: Find out what makes your interviewer and organisation tick
Don’t just research the organisation, understand why the organisation is hiring.
If they are looking for a resource to solve an identified problem a quick skim of their website, annual report and accounts is not enough. (But make sure you do that, don’t come across as a toe-curlingly poor candidate from ‘The Apprentice’)
Understand the organisation’s needs and how you can add value. Discover their challenges and opportunities and how your experience and expertise can address these issues. Explore their marketplace, competitors and the changes in their sector.
Your network may be able to provide information about the interviewer and their preferences, the company and its culture. For intelligence gathering check out their LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other relevant social media channels.
Practice: Learn your script
You don’t need to be word perfect. Just think about how you and going to respond when you are asked ‘What do you do’. ‘Why did you leave?’, ‘What have you achieved?’, and other classic interview questions.
Can you talk about yourself comfortably, with confidence, concisely with clarity? Rehearse your answers and then you won’t get flustered, talk at a steady pace and know when to stop. (Don’t ramble or waffle!) And always be mindful that words and body language are in sync.
At interview you should be able to answer a question about your CV in a heartbeat. Know exactly what you are going to say and how you are going to big yourself up. Good interviewees learn their lines in advance and focus on delivery, not off-the cuff responses.
Expect an inquisition about the perceived challenges faced by the role. Be able to evidence what you have done in similar situations previously and give demonstrable positive business outcomes.
Be interactive. Use the 70/30 rule
Make the interview interactive! Use the 70/30 rule. This means the interviewer talks for about 30% of the time allotted and the candidate talks 70%.
However, smart candidates should aim for a 50/50 dialogue – a conversation that allows you to play to your strengths. The interviewer can only go with what you give them.
You’re aiming for positive interaction. Help the interviewer by asking: “Have I told you all you need to know on that subject”? “Can I give you more detail?” Build rapport, find some commonality. But remember, do not allow the interview to descend into a monologue, ensure it’s mutually interesting dialogue throughout. At the end of the day we hire people we like. So seek areas of mutual interest.
Be positive: Believe you can fly!
Henry Ford famously said “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”. You’re motivated, you’ve done the prep and you have the drive to succeed. Now imagine yourself being successful.
You can call it confidence, self-esteem or self-belief. To shine at an interview you need to show that you will make a good employee. Show that you are good at interacting and reading your situation, good at selling yourself and your ideas.
If you practice your interview technique it will make it so much easier for you to shine. Don’t be nervous. Believe you are a good candidate. If (without sounding too much like that R Kelly song…) you believe you can do it, then you can do it. Your confidence is emboldened by your preparation. You’re practiced, now you’re ready to show what you can do.
After the interview send an email to thank the organisation for seeing you. Reiterate how interested you are in them and the role. Review the key points of the interview when you discussed challenges and opportunities and outline how you can help them meet these.
There are no guarantees. But if you work at becoming a better interviewee you’ll definitely give yourself the edge over the competition during what could be a difficult few years ahead.