This guide on interviewing successfully is part two in a series aimed at supporting people to navigate job search processes authentically. If you are interested in reading our tips on preparing your CV for your RIGHT next role, click here.
A lot of advice on how to prepare for interviews is centered around landing a job, but the important thing to focus on is landing the job that is right for you. Your RIGHT next role is a role where you have the opportunity to be successful, and which also meets your personal criteria. Remember, you have to actually do any job that you land, so there’s no point in seeking one that you can’t do well or don’t want to do.
At the point in time that you’re preparing for an interview, you generally know very little about the opportunity. Your best chance of ending up in that right role is to be honest about what can bring to a role and about what you’re looking for. Be you at your best. Then trust in the process to progress those who have the closest alignment to the needs of the employer.
Being ‘you at your best’ may sound too simplistic. It’s not. However, interviews can be daunting, nerve-wracking experiences. They are often not reflective of situations you would usually find yourself in at work. So, to improve your chances of successfully being your best self under pressure, take the time to prepare properly and give thought to the way you present yourself and your experience.
Below is a series of do’s and don’ts for your next interview to make sure you improve the chances of progressing for the RIGHT roles:
DO: your homework! Find out who you will be speaking to – their name(s), position(s), and their relation to this role. This information should be available to you ahead of the interview. If not, it is perfectly fine to ask. Before you speak with the organisation, also seek to understand as much as you can about the company, the industry and the opportunity. This information will help you to prepare relevant examples. It also means your questions can be more meaningful than simply “tell me about the role” – a perfect question to ask, if you don’t want the role!.
DO: understand as much as you can about the format of the interview and familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions or exercises you will be asked to complete. The point of an interview is to demonstrate that you have the experience required for the role. If you do have the experience, don’t miss out because you didn’t understand how best to demonstrate it. You also want to avoid, where possible, being caught surprised or mentally unprepared for anything thrown at you.
DO: think about what you want to say. Be ready to talk about your experience and achievements that are relevant to the role. Back up what you say with specific examples where possible. Also think about your true reasons for being interested in this opportunity, rather than what you think the interviewers are expecting to hear. It is obvious when someone is not being authentic.
DON’T: ask obvious questions just to make yourself look better. Having questions to ask is a great way to demonstrate you are interested in a role. But if you are genuinely interested in the role, you should have genuine questions to ask. Think about the information you need to make an informed decision on whether this role is right for you and use the opportunity for questions wisely. It is obvious when someone asks a question purely to demonstrate they did research on the company. It is also obvious when someone asks a question because they were told they should and are not actually interested in the answer. Prepare questions to ask that you are genuinely interested in the answers to and listen to the information given.
DON’T: assume your application speaks for itself, or that you will be able to wing your way through. If you have met with the interviewer(s) before, don’t underprepare due to an assumption they will already know your experience. This is really important if you are an internal applicant.
DO: showcase your strengths! Look for opportunities to talk about your relevant experience and career achievements. Support your examples with important details as evidence.
DO: Get to the point! Make sure that you use the precious time you have the floor for to give relevant and meaningful insights into your experience and strengths. Be structured in the way you present your examples – give relevant context, be specific about your actions and then make sure you cover your results, outcomes and/or learnings. But only include the information that is needed to demonstrate your point.
DO: Keep all answers to professional experience relevant to the role and the question. If you have general questions like, “Tell be about you”, then make sure you give information about your relevant career highlights, rather than your childhood and family life. Use your time wisely.
DON’T: Rely on cliché buzz words to sell yourself. You will have plenty of great experience that you can refer to if you prepare properly. If you did “take people on a journey”, or “kicked some big goals” talk about HOW you did that, what you contributed to the process, and the specifics of what you achieved. Be prepared to go deeper.
DON’T: Wait for follow up questions to share useful insights. If you have reflected on, for example, why you made that decision, what you learned from the experience, or what you might do differently next time, why not include those insights for the interviewer(s)? If you’re not sure whether it is relevant, it is OK to ask. But if you think it’s important to share, don’t risk missing that chance to share it.
DON’T: Overplay or underplay your role in team achievements or oversell your experience. Be clear about your role. There is a strong tendency when speaking about work completed with a group to talk about what “we” did, when often it is what “I” did as part of a team. If you owned it, claim it. On the other hand, if you just witnessed someone else within the team deliver something, be honest about your responsibilities. You can discuss the learnings you took away from the experience.
Present your TRUE self
DO: be honest about your motivations. What is the true reason you are seeking a new opportunity now? What are the deal breakers for you? What is it about this opportunity that really did pique your interest? Be thoughtful, professional and respectful in the way you express the things that are important to you. If you are truly interested in getting the role that is best for you then be prepared to be honest to these questions.
DON’T: assume you know the answer the interviewer would like to hear. Don’t give a rehearsed or standard response to a question when it does not really represent your situation. The fact is, there is no universally correct response, so stop trying to give one.
Present your best self
DO: Show in your physical presentation that you take this opportunity seriously. Of course, presenting yourself in a way that mirrors the organisation is more likely to make a better first impression on the interviewers. But presenting yourself in a way that is authentic to you and your values will more likely result in you being placed in the organisation that is right for you.
DO: Aim to make a connection with your interviewer(s) at the beginning of the interview in a way that is authentic to you. This not only helps you to feel less nervous, but also helps the interviewer(s) to get a feel for you beyond the questions. The most common way of doing this is to make eye contact and/or shake hands. But this is not always possible, such as in virtual interviews or due to social distancing. It is also not comfortable or natural for some people. You may prefer to connect by using the names of the people you are speaking to as you address them. Thanking the interviewer(s) for their time. Or perhaps it is appropriate and natural for you to use humour or interesting conversation openers to lighten the mood. A follow up email to thank interviewer(s) for the opportunity to meet and expressing your interest in the role can be another way to go.
DO: Bring your best energy in to the room. It is natural to feel nervous, and anxiety or nerves can take away some of your energy. But presenting your best self means you on a good day. Try to relax and be yourself. Answer questions in a way that shows any genuine enthusiasm and passion.
DON’T: Feel that you have to speak before you are ready to give your best answer. It is OK to ask for some time to process the question. This is far better than rambling to fill space until your brain catches up.
DON’T: Feel that you have to answer questions that are inappropriate or irrelevant to the role. It is unusual these days to experience these kinds of questions. We don’t see that with the organisations we work with. But if you do get asked something that makes you feel uncomfortable and you’re not sure of the relevance to the role, it’s OK to clarify the reason for the question. If the response does not justify the question being asked, it’s OK to decline to answer. An organisation with different values, or one that does not respect your boundaries, is not going to be an organisation you would want to work for, is it?
Following up the interview
DO: make contact with the interviewer(s) and/or recruitment contact if you would like to provide your feedback on the opportunity. You can also use this to clarify next steps and timeframes if these have not been communicated already.
DON’T: assume that an unsuccessful outcome means you’re not a great candidate. We see a lot of fabulous candidates with so much to offer. If they are unsuccessful for the role they’ve applied for it doesn’t mean they don’t still have that wonderful experience. It just means they’re yet to find their RIGHT next role. Don’t give up on you. Take any learnings and feedback from the experience and channel that into your job search.
Your ultimate goal going into an interview should not be to get a job offer. It should be to present yourself and your experience as clearly, confidently and authentically as possible. If you come out feeling like you put your best foot forward, then you should trust in the process to move forward the people who are ‘the most right’ for the role.
If you’re preparing for an interview with us, we’re always happy to answer any questions you have. You don’t need to worry too much about formalities for any discussions with us. But our advice for any interviews with the organisations you’re applying to is that you take the time to prepare, then try and relax and be your best self.
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