Mastering job interviews is not easy, but it’s proven that focused preparation will help you to amass and polish a set of interview techniques and skills that will help you to deliver a polished account of your self in any job interview.
Proper preparation in the form of careful reading about your prospective employer, and linking their requirements to your skillset, as well as methodically ticking every box, from what you wear to what kind of pen you carry, will also help you to minimise some of the stress that can often derail your performance.
So let’s take a close look at eight interview techniques that you must try to master, ahead of your big day. This is a process, and serious focus on each of these interview techniques will make your candidacy one that the interviewers cannot ignore. Good luck.
1. Be Limitless
When you’re on the hunt for an ideal job, and if you’re organised enough and fortunate enough to receive a number of calls to interview, NOT being fussy about which ones you attend is among the most underestimated of interview techniques. If you limit your search to a job that matches only your expectations, not only are you prematurely slamming the door on the unexpected opportunities that can arise, but also foregoing valuable practice at the interview techniques that will help you summon a winning interview performance when it counts most. A job interview offer is a gift. Don’t pass it up. You never know what can arise, and there is nothing to be lost in attending for any interview.
2. Be Prepared
Increasingly, recruiters can depart from the traditional interview ‘script’, so it’s important that you be ready. You may be expecting a formal inquisition, but it’s possible you’ll encounter a relatively casual initial conversation that lasts little more than a few minutes, followed by a more formal meeting. There might be a series of interviews, in differing degrees of intensity.
Regardless of format, however, the best way to ensure that you’re on point, regardless of circumstances, is to ensure you are solid on the substance. You need to know about the company, in detail, and be able to draw links between your skills and the company’s needs in order to make the best case for your suitability for the position advertised.
Before you start, get the very fine details out of the way first — prepare your clothes, resumé (call the company and find out how many people will be interviewing you, so you can prepare sufficient copies of your resumé for the panel), and ensure you have the correct directions to the venue so that you make it there 10 minutes early, to relax and ensure that you are composed before going in.
A good start for research is to note down the specific requirements or duties listed by the company in the job spec, then search for specific information on those aspects of the company, and then finally, note which of your skills relate to each of these areas.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Study the standard interview questions, craft responses to these that highlight your skills as they relate to what the company is looking for, and ask a friend to pose as an interviewer and ask you these questions.
It’s also recommended that you read up on non-verbal communication and study your own body language to ensure that you are not underselling yourself or inadvertently undercutting what you say during the interview.
During the preparation phase, it’s also important to review your references. Make sure that your references are relevant to the job you’re applying for, and inform your referees that you have been called for interview, and that they may receive a phone call in relation to this. Referees might also be in a position to give you useful advice, so these are important calls to make.
3. Create an Engaging Story
One of the most common interview questions is, “Tell me about yourself.” The person interviewing you will probably not know anything more about you than what is on your CV or resumé. So, during preparation, it is a good idea to create a compelling narrative from your life and professional experiences to date, and to practice delivering it in a way that gets your interviewer on side quickly. Telling a story about yourself, one that you’ve plotted and thought about carefully in advance, is a brilliant way of tapping into the basic human appreciation for a well thought-out story; one that touches upon you, your personal and professional motivations, experiences you have had, lessons you have learnt, skills you have amassed, and how you would like your personal and professional narrative to continue.
There’s another advantage to preparing this carefully during preparation. It helps to reinforce your own sense of self worth and therefore bolsters your confidence, and so counts as one of the key interview techniques that can really set you apart from the other candidates.
When you’ve developed this story, practice it, telling it aloud, firstly to yourself, but most ideally to others. This is not a story that you want to debut to interviewers that you’ve never met before. When you tell your story to others, ask them for honest feedback, and return to your draft and improve it accordingly.
It truly helps you to put your past, present and future into perspective. There is nothing random about the story of your life and career. Framing the key moments of your life and career so far is also one of the key means of getting to the next step of our preparation…
4. Join the ‘Skills-to-Requirements’ Dots
Organise your over-arcing story or series of stories in such a way that they all relate to what the company is looking for, as set out in the job advertisement. Again, think about those apparently insignificant stories that illustrate your ability to plan, to achieve, to solve problems, and other aspects that are regarded as crucial in the modern workplace.
Never be tempted to ‘wing’ it or improvise. That is a gift with which very few people are blessed. You’re best off sticking to tried and tested methods here: diligent research of the company’s profile, and inside-out familiarity with your own story.
Keep working on these stories and linkages during the preparation phase. Editing a story truly hammers it into shape until there is no vagueness and the precision of each point is maximised.
5. Research Answers to Common Questions or Techniques
While there are questions common to every interview, one particular technique employed by interviewers (which can really throw candidates who haven’t prepared properly) involves the use of behavioural questions to build a picture of a candidate’s motivations, methods and personality. These questions might require you to describe a project in which you didn’t succeed, and outline how you handled it, for example. You could also be asked to recount a situation where you encountered resistance and had to persuade your reluctant team members to follow your instructions. Candidates might also be probed on their problem-solving skills by talking about changing a problematic situation or system, how you identified the problem, and how you went about solving it.
This is where your preparation will come in really handy, as it is unlikely you will get away with a single-answer response. There will undoubtedly be supplementary questions. So, once again, for emphasis: review a list of your key attributes; match those attributes to the needs you’ve identified in your research of the company and the position. Then, write yourself a series of sample interview questions that you would regard as most likely to give you a platform to talk about your key attributes. Finally, create a series of answers for each sample question, and base this on the three-point template:
- Action/What I Did to Address It
Finally practice, and practice again, your responses to these questions, to give you an indepth familiarity with situations that illustrate your strengths and competencies.
6. Research Common Questions to Ask
Don’t forget to come to the interview armed with a handful of great, pointed and well researched questions to ask at the end of the interview, because in 99.9 percent of cases you will certainly be asked if there is anything you would like to know about the company and the position advertised.
This is an opportunity to show the interviewers how well prepared you are, and also how self-aware you are; how conscious you are of your weaknesses as well as your strengths.
7. Foreground Your Social Skills & EQ
People skills can really make your candidacy shine for any job vacancy. This is a matter of emotional intelligence, social skills, the management of emotions in positive ways, to enhance empathy with other, and better communicate with them. EQ is becoming just as significant as IQ for employers. EQ can be managed and controlled: at the very least it is about being emotionally aware: conscious of your own emotions and of the emotions of other people.
Being emotionally aware puts you in a strong position in the job interview, particularly if you can research throughly enough to discover things about the interviewer(s) beforehand. And within the interviewer, always listen closely, and take the opportunity to demonstrate how you have listened to and understood what is being asked of you. Be conscious of your surroundings and details—there may be clues for establishing common ground between yourself and the interviewer. It’s important to do this kind of thing subtly. Barraging an interviewer with questions about him or herself is not really a good idea, so remain alert for the fine details that crop up in conversation, and be ready to highlight any common interest.
8. Manage Stress
Of course, stress is part and parcel of the interview process. But the trick is to not let stress get out of hand, and overwhelm your capacity to think and communicate during the interview. Always try to remain calm, and remember, the preparation work that you have put in has all been geared towards what the interviewers are looking for. Read up on stress relief techniques beforehand if you think it is really going to be problematic. One useful way of managing stress in the moment is to keep your mind in the alert, focused, engaged zone. You’ll be amazed how energising that can be. Your stress will melt away.