How do I improve my chances of interview success? It is one of the most frequent questions we get asked by delegates on Chiumento outplacement programmes.
It is important to realise from the outset that there is no “silver bullet”. No one thing that determines success or failure.
You can’t ignore the maths
First thing to remember is that recruitment is a numbers game. You could be one of ten being interviewed or the only one. An employer faced with lots of good applicants has a lot of choice. As a consequence they can be very selective.
By contrast the less choice a hirer has at interview stage the more flexible they may need to be. The desire to hire a perfect candidate balanced against the fear of not hiring at all.
Success is a relative and absolute thing
In general, interviewers will be looking for candidates to prove that they already have at least the minimum skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. How high that bar is set depends on a number of factors including the employer’s ability to provide training and development.
You have to get over the bar to progress. The good news is your CV provided enough evidence to get the employer interested in meeting you. Now the claims you made will be put to the test.
The challenge is that there’s a relative part to this too. Other candidates may be able to demonstrate more compelling evidence than you. No matter how well you do, someone else, by comparison, could do better. You can’t control that. All you can do is put in your best performance.
“Fail to prepare = prepare to fail”
Going into an interview without preparing is setting yourself up for a fall. Research today is comparatively easy. You can read up about the people you are meeting with on social media. What they publish and comment on can give you a lot of insight. By the same token you can be sure they will be checking your social media presence.
Regardless of what you think you know about a business, do your research. Everything from company websites to news channels can give you new insights into a business. And potentially help you think about potential questions you might be asked.
The job description and the person specification will give you some big hints. Especially about the “essential” attributes the hirer is looking for. With this in mind, think about the most challenging things you could be asked. For example are there undeniably gaps in your experience? If so how will you balance those with other strengths?
Story-telling is a key skill for interview success. Make sure you have some great case studies that you can use succinctly and impactful. Practice them until you are fluent. You might only get to use one or two in any interview but they’ll score big points. Avoid meandering stories that burn up time but fail to get to the point of answering the question.
Is it just about skills and knowledge?
Many candidates spend the bulk of the preparation time thinking about the technical questions they might be asked. Thinking about great examples of problems they’ve solved, situations they have managed or customer issues they have overcome. That’s good – but interview preparation doesn’t end there.
Interviews are invariably about more than technical prowess. Your technical supremacy over other candidates will therefore be balanced against your personality too. For example your behaviours and motivations and how those might fit the culture of the organisation.
If you are being interviewed by your future boss you have to expect them to be thinking “do I want to work with the candidate in front of me?” Building a relationship – not just making a sales pitch – is therefore key to interview success.
Know why you are in the room
What interviewers inevitably want to hear is why you want their job. Not just any job. Make it clear why are you are here today. For example is it about gaining new skills or experience? Or maybe you love the brand or the culture of the organisation.
It is surprising how many candidates trip over this. They talk about what’s wrong with their current job – without doubt that’s a faux pas. Or they focus on how this job is closer to home or pays a bit more. None of which is what the interviewer really wants to hear. They need to hear that you are committed to their organisation and their job. Explain what excites you. And how can you make a difference.
Do you have anything to ask?
This is the part of the meeting where you get to manage the discussion. How you tackle this will unquestionably tell the interviewer a lot – not least about your enquiry and facilitation skills. For instance, prepare questions that get the interviewer to tell you what they are really looking for. Or what success looks like to them.
Why not ask the interviewer to describe their ideal direct report? What behaviours would they have? How would they operate? That gives you a great platform to talk about how you are a great fit. It may also tell you this manager’s style isn’t right for you…
Ask them about how their success is measured. Then explicitly explain how you’ll help them to succeed.
What are their major concerns in making this hire? In other words, what could go wrong? There’s inevitably risk involved in bringing someone new into the team. Your challenge is ultimately to make the interviewer feel you are the candidate most likely to succeed.
With this purpose in mind, your answers should make you memorable and generate a level of confidence that in appointing you they will be making a great choice.
We’d urge you to think about four key ingredients in interview success:-
- Confidence – that is grounded in quality preparation.
- Openness – be your genuine self. Authenticity is important. Be clear why you want this job.
- Memorable – ask great questions and tell powerful stories that interviewers remember.
- Engaging – build a relationship with the interviewer. Remember, they are looking for someone they want to work with.
If you are an existing Chiumento delegate you’ll find a wealth of resources on Chiumento24. Alternatively to find out more about how we can help prepare individuals for interview success contact us.