Congratulations, you succeeded a major hurdle. You beat a large pool of applicants and got shortlisted. The interview went well or so you thought. So why weren’t you invited back? Why didn’t you get that job?
We may never really know why, however there’s always room for improvement. Here are my top 10 tips for a better next interview;
- Be Prepared: The 2 most important things you should know prior to any interview are facts about the company and the role you are applying for. Find out as much as you can about both. Research on the company’s history, its vision, mission, values, structure, products, services and even recent trends in its industry. Having all this information depicts preparation on the part of the candidate. A candidate who does not spare time and effort to research the firm they are being interviewed by gives the impression that they are not interested in the position. I have seen candidates show up for interviews and say things like they did not have enough time to research the company. I have also heard some say they are not even clear about the role they applied for. The best candidates are prepared and the depth of their research is impressive.
- Manage Your Nerves: Being Interviewed can be nerve-racking for most. Unfortunately being nervous is not so much the issue but looking noticeably nervous is and could count against you at an interview. Some interviewers may overlook appearing nervous for lower-level roles but most interviewers will be concerned about nervous candidates for senior and management roles. So do whatever you can to help soothe those nerves. Some people find practising answering interview questions help them while others take some deep breaths or say a word of prayer before the interview begins, whatever works for you, do it. In addition, getting to the venue early can help you relax and get familiar with the interview environment. Arriving early is definitely worth your while.
- Maintain Eye Contact: This is one area that is often overlooked. Discomfort in maintaining eye contact sends signals of low confidence or self-esteem issues. Although not maintaining eye contact for some may be due to cultural nuances or being shy, in the corporate environment ‘shyness’ is often interpreted as under-developed interpersonal skills. If you struggle with looking at people in the eyes then try practising in front of a mirror or with a friend in person. When practising, try looking at their noses or between their eyes instead, no one will notice that you are not looking them in the eye.
- Dress to Impress: I remember years ago a friend of mine told me she had a power suit which she always wore for interviews. She never wore this suit to regular work, they were worn only for interviews. I must say, it is worth dressing to impress even when the dress code of the company interviewing is casual. You can rarely be overdressed for an interview but you can very easily be underdressed by dressing too casually. Even if it is a Friday, dress-up to an interview, not down. Try to keep to the dress code of the company especially if it is formal. If you are uncertain, dress formal, as it is better to be the best-dressed person in the room. Candidates have been rejected for roles for dressing too casual. I recently received feedback on an interview from a client and the first point raised was that the candidate was inappropriately dressed. The candidate was female in this case and had worn blue lipstick, casual pants and a body top. On speaking to the candidate to inquire why she had dressed casually, she explained to me that it was a Friday and her office had arranged a party, she also said that she had explained this to the interviewer prior to the interview. Despite her apologies, it still counted against her.
- Manage Your Body Language: Over 50% of communication stems from body language. Your posture in an interview speaks volumes. Be mindful of this as some of it may be sub-conscious due to personal habits built over time. Slouching, leaning forward, resting your arms on the table, all these can signal a lack of enthusiasm or energy. Some interviewers are assessing energy level. I heard of an interview process that included the walk from the reception to the interview meeting room. During that 3 minute walk with each candidate, the interviewer was assessing each candidate’s energy level as the role required a high level of energy. Be conscious, Big Brother really is watching.
6 Answer Questions: Prepared candidates are able to answer questions confidently and have ready examples if probed further. A lot of experienced interviewers use an interviewing technique termed ‘Competency-Based Interviewing’. This technique helps the interviewer assess candidate behaviour in areas that the company may deem important for success in the company and/or job. The questions may seek to assess behaviours such as Teamwork, Creativity, Drive, Customer Service etc. For example, a question on Teamwork may be asked as ‘Can you tell us about a time when you had to work on an ambitious project with a team, what did you do?’ The interviewer is expecting that you have ready examples depicting scenarios when you have displayed teamwork related skills and abilities. Research the company’s values and the competency requirements for the job applied for. This can give great insight into what competencies areas you may be assessed on. Practice your answers by preparing your scenario examples before the interview. There is a lot of practical information on competency-based questions online.
- Ask Questions: When asked by interviewers whether you have a question, seize the opportunity to showcase your enthusiasm for the role and reiterate your interest in the company. Perhaps there are some questions you wish you had answers to, this is the time to ask. I often tell people that recruitment is like a marriage, both parties are courting to assess if they at least like if not love each other. By asking questions, you display enthusiasm. Good questions are questions on the company and the role applied for. There are some questions that are inappropriate at this time especially if not addressed during the interview. Examples are questions about salary, or being overly confident and asking for your start date when an offer has not even been made.
- Show Value: Employers are looking for employees that will add value to their firm. When you have limited time for an interview, do the best you can do to showcase this value. Focus on your achievements in your past employment. What makes you a valuable player? How are you a better candidate? What is your value proposition, your unique selling point? Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, what kind of person would you hire? Be that person.
- Say Thank You: I honestly feel a thank you email goes a long way. Good manners can indeed be the icing on the cake especially when all the candidates are about the same level in the interview assessment. I personally have on several occasions invited back and even hired the candidate who sent a Thank you email. It does make a huge difference and I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
- Respect Your Current/Past Employers: Speaking badly about a current or previous employer never speaks well. If asked how soon you can start and you currently have a job, show respect for your current employer, focus on working your notice period. I remember being on an interview panel where the entire panel was shocked when a candidate said they were happy to resume immediately for a role despite being still currently engaged in full-time employment. The candidate was willing to leave without giving their current employer notice. We all loved the candidate up until that point. Whatever negative behaviour you show to your current employer at the interview, the interviewer will be thinking you will probably do the same to them. Respect your contract terms, it shows integrity.
If you have benefitted from any of these tips, please share with others what worked for you.
May your next interview get you your next job. Good luck!