In order to prepare properly for a job interview it is critical that you appreciate that there are two goals that will drive successful actions. If you focus your actions around these two goals, your chances of securing the post dramatically increase.
Those two goals are:
- Gain Rapport With The Interview Panel
- Sell Your Skills To Match The Employer’s Needs
If you want to succeed, consider ways in which you could gain rapport:
- Try to remember the interviewer’s name and use it during your conversation.
- Eye contact and smile rate are the body language features that consistently correlate strongly with a successful outcome at interview – if you struggle to look people in the eye, then look them in the ear or at the nose – they won’t know the difference! Smile with your teeth – even if you’re nervous.
- Keep your answers to about 2 minutes in length. Shorter than 60 seconds and you have given up the chance to sell yourself. Longer than 180 seconds and the interview panel will be getting bored.
- Be on time – mentally rehearse the route and anticipate problems, print off the maps, ensure that your car is filled with gas the night before.
- Be polite – from the moment you step out of your house, treat everybody you encounter as if they were your mother’s best friend.
- Talk clearly – talk as if you were talking to a slightly deaf aunt – slow enough for them to understand you and loud enough for them to have heard you from the back of the room. When candidates are nervous, typically they talk too fast and swallow their words – guard against this!
You must also develop a plan to sell your skills:
- Identify their needs – read the person specification and job description, talk to the current employees and bosses, look at their websites – what are the problems that you could solve?
- Identify your skills – the most important part of your preparation – bar none – is to spend 2-3 hours understanding your product – you! Know the skills that you have to offer this company and write them down. Brainstorm all the times that you have demonstrated each skill – ask yourself when, where, with whom and what you did to demonstrate these skills. Choose one or two examples to develop into sales pitches for the interview and spend some more time going over these. Consider the skill itself and ask yourself how did you perform the skill in these circumstances. Be specific.
- Identify the benefits that your skills could bring to the employer – remember that a benefit only counts if it is a benefit to the employer and be prepared to stress this aspect of your skills.
- You will have prepared about 25-50 skills and have stories describing situations where you have demonstrated every one. Now, many of the times in which you have performed well will allow you to demonstrate 2 or 3 skills through them. So in effect, you may have to develop 12-15 stories.
- In your interview, you will get the chance to talk about some of these stories – maybe 5. The challenge is you don’t know which 5 stories will be useful in the interview – so you have to prepare all 15. So now when the chance comes to talk about a skill e.g. handling stress, team working, prioritisation, etc. you will bring up a story and sell your skills by describing how you performed in that situation. This will allow you to sell your skills far more effectively than if you merely state I am good at handling stress, I am a very effective team player, I am able to prioritise tasks appropriately.
Best of luck in your interview. Remember the harder you work – the luckier you will become.