Get rid of those nerves and get the job with these top five job interview tips.
Who am I to give you advice?
I’m not a career expert. Neither am I a recruitment consultant or HR professional. I’m not selling myself (ironically), very well am I?
A few years ago I received coaching from an HR specialist – she taught me some tricks. And since I have been through four career changes, I have had plenty of opportunities to put them into practice. I have learnt what works, and what doesn’t.
Also, having been in managerial positions, I have sat in the interviewer’s seat. It gave me an interesting perspective on what comes across well, and behaviours that are off-putting.
So here I am, humbly sharing the lessons I have learnt.
These job interview tips are largely based on face to face interviews. But you can apply most of them to an online interview, and telephone interview too.
1 Don’t Prepare Too Much
It’s safe to assume that you have the following in common with the other candidates being interviewed:
- You’re all qualified
- Everyone has researched the company
- All of you will sit in the hot seat and say how much you want the job and love the company
So how can you stand out?
A recruiter once told me, “your CV isn’t a document, it is your story.”
Once I got myself in this mindset, my whole perspective changed. I was no longer aiming to get as many words from the job description into my answers. Instead, I just aimed to tell my story.
Of course, you should know about the company, their vision, and their performance. But it’s important that you need to let them decide whether you’re a good fit for their company. After all, you may tick all of the boxes of their criteria. But, if you don’t let your personality shine through, how will they know whether you’ll gel with your potential colleagues or company?
In Nancy Collamer’s article in Forbes, she shares a great technique of storytelling. The SOAR approach, taken from the book Get That Job! A Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview by career coach, Thea Kelly.
Here’s how it works.
Introduce your topic with the where and the pain points. For instance: “At Company X I realised that our Virtual Learning Environment wasn’t helping teachers work efficiently.”
What obstacles were in your way? Remember, you are telling a story. And the best stories are the ones where the lead character (you) overcome major obstacles. James Bond does it all the time. And look at his cult following.
Here’s an example: “Management thought that investing in my suggested platform, ShowMyHomework was too expensive and that changing the mindset of all of the teachers would be too difficult. After presenting the results of a short survey I conducted and demonstrating how it would reduce teacher workload, I changed their minds.”
By this point, your interviewer is leaning in. He/she wants to know what happened next? Give your audience what they want. Think of a way to explain how you made it happen without going into the nitty-gritty.
Here’s how I continue this story: “I researched options and organised demonstrations for the management team. After we all agreed that ShowMyHomework was the optimal solution, I negotiated a price that worked for us, and coordinated the implementation.”
Finish your story on a high. You have set up the stage, and this is your mic-drop moment.
When telling your story’s ending, keep it concise. And it’s even better if you can quantify your results.
Here’s an example: “Within three months of rolling ShowMyHomework out, the time taken to set homework reduced by 30% and parent-teacher emails reduced by 50%.”
Show, Don’t Tell
Let’s go back to the beginning. You want to cram as many elements from the job descriptions into your answers as possible. But why should someone believe you if you say “I have excellent problem-solving skills”? SOAR stories demonstrate your abilities, instead of just stating them.
It’s a great way to structure your achievements on your CV too.
2 Your Interview Starts From When You Leave The House
It’s the classic story.
You have won the lottery. You tell your job to stick their job where the sun don’t shine. You quit your job in a magnificent fashion only to realise there was a huge mistake. You didn’t win the lottery after all.
Don’t be that guy or girl.
Imagine you are on the train, on your way to the interview. You’re nervous, so feeling a little uptight. The guy in front of you keeps bumping into you as the train jerks. You get irritated and tell him to “watch it”. You turn up to your interview and it’s him. From the train. Your interviewer.
It could happen. But I take your point, it’s a little far fetched. It isn’t however, unrealistic, that someone could be eavesdropping on your conversation while you wait for your interview. It’s also realistic that your interviewer might ask the receptionist who welcomed you, what they thought.
Just be polite, professional and confident. At all times. Treat everyone you meet as you would your interviewer.
3 Make Your Interviewers Prove Themselves To You
I love this tip.
One of the reasons why I never feel nervous for interviews is because I see it as a chance to decide if that company and that job is right for me.
It’s a great way to kill the nerves, but also a positive approach to instigating a two-way dialogue during your interview. Also, what better way to demonstrate your rapport-building skills?
Typically, your chance to ask questions comes at the end of your interview.
I recently read a great article from Big Interview where Pamela Skillings says to “avoid yes or no questions”. Extending this, I believe that a great way to prepare interview questions for employers is to identify what you want to know, and work backwards from that.
For instance, if you want to be able to visualise what this job will look like, ask “what are the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?”. If you want to know whether you would enjoy working for the company, you could ask “how would you describe the company culture?”.
You need to brave for this one, but Monster share some excellent question ideas. A particular favourite is to ask “what is the most important thing I can accomplish in the first 60 days?”.
4 Don’t Forget The Importance Of What You Don’t Say
We’ve all heard the classics of the do’s and don’t’s when it comes to body language. In case you need a refresher, I’ll summarise:
- Make eye-contact
- Sit up straight
- Don’t fold your arms
But, let’s go beyond the basics.
In Allan Pease’s TED Talk, Body language, the power is in the palm of your hands, he talks about how upturned palms is a sign of honesty.
My description doesn’t do Pease’s fantastic talk justice. Click below to watch it – you won’t regret it.
Let’s go through some more tips and tricks:
When I deliver my Presentation Skills training course, I always start by explaining how “let me tell you a story”, are the six most powerful words of the English language. Why? Because our brains engage in situations that trigger emotions. And naturally, we mirror.
Ever told someone a story and heard the response “oh yeah, that happened to me”? That’s because they were mirroring. They listened to your story, put themselves in your shoes and looked for comparisons.
The same concept is useful for actions. The Business Insider share that by “mirroring your interviewer’s hand gestures…shows them you’re on the same page.” The tip comes with a great caveat – “remember, it’s more understated than…copying their every move, which would…come across as creepy.”
Pause Before You Answer
The same article also emphasises the importance of taking some time before answering your question. If you gather your thoughts first, you will come across as being confident and articulate. I love what Tim Chi, a user of Quora says about it, “The vibe is that of someone who knows what they have to say is worth the extra wait.”
It’s Not All About You
Of course, it is important that you are aware of sending the right signals through body language and non-verbal communication. But, don’t forget to be aware of your interviewer too. Read facial clues – it might help you redirect an answer that might not be going too well.
Just don’t let it wrong-foot you. Your interviewer may not be that astute about body language as you would like him or her to be. If you are answering a question and they have their arms crossed, don’t automatically think that they aren’t happy with you. Go with your gut instinct. And do your best. You can’t do more.
5 Do I Need To Cover These Bases?
I couldn’t write a job-interview-tip-style blog post without mentioning the basics, could I?
- Appearance – dress smartly, even if you know that the company has a casual dresscode.
- Punctuality – don’t just be on time, be early.
- Prepare – know the job description, research the company and plan your journey, beforehand. Have a Plan B just in case your train is delayed or you are stuck in traffic.