Modern life can be extremely complex. Job interviews can feel the same. So it’s worth spending a few moments making things simpler for yourself the next time you prepare.
Here are a few practical ideas to “spring clean” your approach and to succeed at interviews.
1. First impressions start days before you enter the room
How you reply to your interview invite will make an “impression” on whoever receives it.
Think tactically about the words you use in the phone call, email, or online acceptance you send back to your prospective employer. You need to appear professional and as much like the organisation’s ideal candidate as possible.
Remember also to spell and grammar check everything you write. Clarity, correctness and attention to detail are paramount – especially if these are skills required in the job.
2. Remove any mystery before the big day
Take as much of the surprise out of the interview as you can by researching the organisation and asking well-crafted questions in advance of the day to ensure you know exactly what is expected of you.
Make a list of things you need to ask that will help you to be properly prepared. The answers should dispel the impression that this is some mystical process where they want to catch you off-guard. Generally they are not trying to do this.
Beside the ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘who’ questions you could consider some of the following:
E.g. How long should I expect the interview to last? Are there any tests? Can I prepare anything beforehand? Is it okay for me to refer to notes?
3. Key words and bullet points
Make notes in the days before your interview to help you structure your answers. Use single words or short phrases rather than sentences and paragraphs. That way you can keep your replies more natural and instinctive.
You’ll have to listen carefully to the question and, with only key words to refer to, you’re then more likely to talk conversationally and sound less like you’re reading a script. The result should be that your answers are more focused and sound more believable. The added bonus is that it ensures your answer will be different at every interview.
4. Take your notes with you
Most interviewers will allow you to use notes. They’d rather have someone who refers briefly to notes and answers a question, than someone who looks blank and struggles to know what to say. It also shows that you’ve arrived properly prepared.
Add to your notes a list of the questions you’ll ask at the end of the interview. In the heat of the moment, with the prospect of being near the end, you may forget what you were going to ask. It’s really important that you have questions because it shows you care about the job and it allows you to demonstrate the level of your motivation and the depth of your preparation.
5. Make it simpler for your interviewer too
Filling staff vacancies is expensive and time consuming. Make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to picture you in the job and also being successful in the role.
When explaining what you achieved in a particular project concentrate on the “so what?” factor. What happened as a result and how does your interviewer know that this was a great outcome?
If you can do so then give some facts, scale or context to help your interviewer. Use numbers or percentages where they strengthen your answer. For instance if you had great customer feedback or praise from your boss then mention that too.
Simpler is clearer
Keeping your approach simple will help you and your interviewer.
Spring-cleaning your preparation may take a little extra effort the first time you do it – although it should improve your overall technique and how you present yourself at your next interview.
Remember – they want you to be the perfect candidate for the job. If you’re the ideal person then their search is over and their vacancy is filled – simple!
Claire Jenkins is a specialist in interview technique. She coaches individuals and groups to prepare for job and university interviews by helping individuals to unlock their confidence, secure an impact and then practise what they will say.