Reaching the interview stage is a mark of success in itself. It means your CV has already identified you as a serious candidate. Having convinced the interviewer on paper that you are capable of doing the job, you now have the opportunity to demonstrate your suitability in a face to face discussion.
Don’t think of the interview as a test. You are not simply there to answer questions. You are there to discuss the role with the interviewer and explore the extent to which your abilities and aspirations match the company’s needs. It’s as much about compatibility as competence. The interviewer needs to find out if you are right for the company, and you need to find out if the company is right for you.
What should I do at the interview?
Bear in mind that the interviewer may be just as nervous as you; they want to select the best person for the job. If they get it right, the company prospers; if they get it wrong the company will suffer. Your objective is to impress the interviewer by projecting a professional image and demonstrating your suitability for the job.
Greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake and wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Be aware of your body language: sit up straight, maintain eye contact and avoid fidgeting or twiddling your thumbs. According to research, the interviewer will decide within just four to nine minutes whether to consider you seriously for the job. So, making a good first impression is vital.
Show a real interest in the job. Speak clearly and confidently and make sure that everything you say is factual and sincere. During the interview, bear the following guidelines in mind:
- Concentrate and listen very carefully to the questions. If you are not sure exactly what is being asked, don’t say “Could you repeat the question?”
- This could make the interviewer feel that you haven’t been paying attention. Instead, rephrase the key words and ask the interviewer to clarify: “Do you mean..?”
- Avoid answering with a simple yes or no. Support your answer with relevant information from your experience and relate everything you say to the job you are applying for.
- Do not speak negatively of other people or companies. It makes you look unprofessional.
Stay calm. Maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview, speak with energy and enthusiasm, and feel free to pause when you are thinking of appropriate replies.
Keep your answers relevant and to the point.
A good interviewer will do more than just establish your competence: he will explore your compatibility with the company – your attitudes, beliefs, personality, response to pressure and so on.
To this end, he may ask you deliberately provocative or difficult questions, such as:
“Why haven’t you found a new position before now?”
“What do you think of your boss?”
“Don’t you think you’re a bit overqualified for this role?”
“Why should I employ you when I could fill this vacancy from within the company?”
“What was your biggest mistake or error of judgement?”
Ideally, you’ll have anticipated and prepared for difficult questions relating to your experience and capabilities. If you are asked an unexpected question, pause and think before giving an answer, and always offer a positive response that relates back to the position you are applying for. For example, “Am I over-qualified? I don’t think so. Strong companies need strong people, and I believe that a growing and energetic company like yours will make the best possible use of my skills and experience. That’s why I applied for this job.”
Usually the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. The worst response is “Can you tell me a little more about the job?”
Be specific and ask questions that have not already been answered in the job description. For instance:
“What would my first assignments here look like?
“From where you’re sitting, what are the greatest challenges of this role?”
“I understand that the company is about to enter the health care market. Will that development have any impact on my role?”
“What reservations do you have regarding my suitability for the role?”
At the very least, ask the interviewer when he will be making a final decision and whether he needs any further clarification about your experience.
Leaving the interview
Don’t let your guard down yet. You want the interviewer to remember you positively, so thank them for their time and consideration and tell them how much you enjoyed discussing the job with them.
It’s important to convey that you really are interested in working for the company, because – all other things being equal – the job is likely to go to the more interested candidate. For example, you could say: “Mr. Jones, I find this opportunity very interesting. Your company is clearly doing exciting things and I believe that with my background and experience I could make a significant contribution to your team.”
Tell the interviewer that you look forward to seeing him again, shake his hand and leave.