Aug 6, 2013

How to Make the Most of an Interview

By Shaun Carpenter

Being interviewed?  Here are 7 tips for your next big one.

  1. Always dress the part.  A good rule of thumb is to be one degree more formal in your attire than the audience you’re presenting to…and don’t be mistaken, you’re always presenting.  You can never go wrong with a dark suit (both for men and women) and a crisp white shirt.  Save your quirky fashion statement pieces for cocktail parties and make sure your shoes are always polished and in good shape.  You can tell a lot about a person’s character from the condition of their shoes.  I could write a whole column on clothing alone but lets move on to other important considerations…
  1. Know when to start talking and also when to stop.  Nerves can be amped up in an interview situation and you may be keen to jump into prose because you see where the question is going and you have the perfect response in mind.  Slow down, keep eye contact with the interviewer to ensure all the words are out before sharing your best example.  Provide a complete and succinct answer and then say no more. Usually there is a whole slate of questions an interview committee will want to ask and you should always be cognizant of the time.
  1. We want proof.  Avoid answering questions with “I would do this or that…” because…well, it sounds like you’re speculating.  Interviewers are looking for answers to their questions which provide specific examples of how you’ve done things in the past and what success you had.  Use, “I experienced that when…”, or “An example which could be relevant was…”
  1. There is no “I” in Team.  I’m sure you’ve heard this before but it warrants pointing out because its one of the most common comments made in the debrief session after an interview. There are bound to be a number of wonderful things you’ve done in complete isolation but unless you can walk on water you’ve needed colleagues, clients, direct reports and supervisors to help accomplish the objectives in your quarterly plan.  You’ll never be criticized for being too modest by saying “we”.
  1. Stop moving around.  Incessant fidgeting is just as distracting for an interviewer as it was for your grade 2 teacher.  Whether your habit of choice is flipping a pen, making sewing machine movements with your foot, or constantly glancing out the window, try to take a deep breath, calm your body down, and let your accomplishments and ideas be what gets noticed.
  1. Silence can be golden.  Don’t be afraid of taking a pause required to think of a real example.  Behavioural based interviews are the norm and a good interviewee will ask some thought-provoking questions beyond….”What are your key strengths?”  Take a minute to probe your mind rather than providing a response that just touches the surface or even worse, responding with, “I can’t remember a time when that has ever occurred”. If you’re totally stumped, at least offer to come back to the question later in the interview.
  1. Be yourself.  You won’t want the job, and certainly won’t be successful in it if the Selection Committee chooses the person they see in the interview and that person isn’t the real you.  Be genuine and true and it will be the right outcome whether you’re selected or not.