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Seven Ways to Interview Well

Going for a new job?

Maybe it’s the next step in your career ladder: maybe it’s the first.

Maybe you’ve chosen to shop around: maybe circumstances have forced you into the job market.

Whatever your circumstances, the ‘job interview’ is going to be an important stage in the process.  For some it is feared, while for others it is a chance to show off.  However you feel about job interviews, you will need to use it to your advantage and do it really well.


1. Homework is not just for school

There may have been an excuse for not knowing all about your potential employer before you arrived at the interview twenty years ago, when a trip to the library and a review of the papers came up blank; but no more.  If you have not reviewed their website, checked out key people on LinkedIn, and searched for relevant press coverage, you are just preparing yourself to be tripped up at interview.

Don’t just focus your interview practice on yourself and how you will respond: learn about the people who may be interviewing you.

2. Look good – Feel good

Interview dressing is not about being fashionable or elegant, it is about showing that you know how to present yourself appropriately in the business environment of your prospective employer.  This will be different if you want to work in a retail chain, an architect, a fashion house or a law firm.

My top tip is to hang out opposite the entrance to where you want to work, or their local branch, or one of their top competitors.  Watch the people going in and out, to get a sense of the prevailing dress code.  If in doubt, when you call to confirm your interview, ask about dress code.

3. First Impression

Nothing conveys your qualities as quickly as your very first encounter with your interviewer/s.  A good posture, eye contact, a pleasant smile and a good handshake will say: ‘I am confident and looking forward to our meeting.’ On the other hand, slouching, evasive eyes, a frown or grimace and a limp handshake will say ‘I am fearful and I don’t want to be here.’

It’s all obvious stuff, but you’d be surprised how many people fail at this step.

4. Short and Sharp

Keep your answers short and sharp – around three minutes will create a good balance between terse and wordy, and will demonstrate you are in control of your thoughts.  Practise answers to obvious questions like:

  • ‘why do you want this job?’
  • ‘why should we hire you?’
  • ‘what are your strengths?’
  • ‘… and your weaknesses?’

A god way to control your answers and show structured thinking is to apply the ‘rule of three’ that make a good speech effectively:

  • ‘There are three reasons I what this job…’
  • ‘I think there are three things that distinguish me from the other able candidates you will be speaking to…’
  • ‘My three greatest strengths are…’
  • ‘The three aspects of my professional skills I’d like to develop most are…’

Then summarise each in around a minute.

5. Telling Tales

Human beings love hearing stories: it is the most powerful rhetorical form.  And if you are wondering how or why they are relevant in a job interview, the answer is simple.  When I conducted interviews, the most important thing for me was to hear evidence for the loose assertions most candidates offer.  I wanted to hear what had really happened and also get an insight into how candidates think and deal with challenges.  Package your experiences into compelling 60-90 second stories.

6. Structured Response

You are bound to get some questions you haven’t prepared for. – despite the presence of books that seem to offer a comprehensive list.  You need to think on your feet and structure your answer to show the rigour of your thinking and the flexibility of your mind.  Try the AREA approach:

  • Give a clear Answer to the question
  • Explain your Reasons for that answer
  • Cite Evidence or Examples to support your answer
  • Reiterate the Answer before you .

7. Show you are a 3G Candidate

Research by Harvard Business School guest lecturer and founder of Peak Learning, Dr Paul Stoltz, employers are really looking for a 3G mindset.  Your job is to figure out what that means for your particular prospective employer and to find ways to demonstrate it in yourself.  A 3G mindset, according to Stoltz, combines:

  1. Global: Able to think about the ‘big picture’ and look above the detail when you need to.  To understand the connectedness between parts of the job role, the organisation and the business/social environment.
  2. Good: The desire to do good, be good and serve.  This is about integrity and sensitivity to others – colleagues, partners and customers.
  3. Grit: The resilience, tenacity, and determination to persevere and see the job through, in the face of adversity.

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