ACING THE INTERVIEW: Interviewing tips by Emma Scott, Matt Moloney and Sachin Sama As newbies here at Head2Head, one of the things we found ourselves discussing was the fact that no matter how old – or how successful – you get, you can still remember that cringe-inducing interview for which you didn’t properly prepare, had the wrong information, went off into a digression about model airplanes that left the interviewers goggle-eyed looking at their watches… But it doesn’t have to happen to you! Following, some tips to ensure you ace the interview:
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH: We’ve put this in all caps because it’s the most important thing you can do to ensure you have a great interview. Make sure you know as much as possible about the company, the individuals you’ll be meeting with, the type of role you’re interviewing for. The internet is your best friend here, of course, but it never hurts to ask around, too. You never know who you know who might know not-so-public info.
Try to find out who you’ll be meeting with, their titles, and how they would interact with you in the role if you were to get the job. This isn’t always possible, especially if you’re interviewing for junior roles, but there’s nothing wrong with calling the recruiter or hiring manager back to ‘double-confirm’ names. Then let your fingers do the walking right on over to Google, LinkedIn and Twitter to see what you can glean about them. Remember, everyone likes to be flattered: It never hurts to be able to mention a blog or article they wrote, a funny tweet they twittered…and it shows you’re a keener.
Bring a copy of your CV – and, ideally, copies for yourself (to refer to) and for the people interviewing you.
Ensure you know your resume inside-out – if you look like you’ve forgotten bits, or can’t account for gaps (“I went to Europe for 6 months, I took some time off to go to school…”), you run the risk of looking like you’re not being truthful – which is an interview-killer. Dress one level up. In other words: Dress for what you want to be, not for what you are. Even in this age of flip-flops, it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
When you’re asked for real-life examples from previous positions, remember to include your whole career. Many people, when asked for examples of projects, situations, challenges, etc., focus on their current or immediately previous position. If you accomplished something great 2 positions ago, include it! (It’s always a good idea to think of these success stories in advance, by the way, so they’re top-of-mind in the interview.)
Make sure you understand the question – and the competency they’re looking for. The questions you’re being asked are designed to elicit information about your competencies, so take a moment to figure out what they’re trying to get at – and how you can best answer it.
Use the STAR formula to answer questions concisely and completely. STAR = Situation, Task, Action, Result. The biggest mistake interviewees make? They talk about a situation and what they did – but forget to talk about the result they achieved. It’s the most crucial part of the STAR formula – especially in this market when everyone is looking for people who are going to deliver real results to their organization – but the one most often left out. (Wouldn’t hurt to practice your STAR stories with a friend before the interview, either!)
Make a list of the questions you want to ask – if you’ve done your research, you should have a number of questions about the organization and/or the role. Write the questions down – you probably don’t want to pull out a sweaty piece of notepaper in your interview, of course, but writing them down will help you remember them when you’re ‘in the room’. Keep in mind: We’ve seen people turned down for roles simply because they had no questions for the interviewers. The reason? “How can they make day-to-day decisions without asking for more information?”
Be positive! Even if you hated your last job/boss/everything about every day at work, don’t talk about it. How you handled your last position, good or bad, and how you speak about it now gives the interviewer insight into how you will speak about him/her and their organization when you leave. (This is a big one in fields like IT where the turnover rates are 2.5 years – or less – per role.)
Know your audience. Using jargon or acronyms when you’re talking to the HR gatekeeper isn’t going to make you look like you’re an expert – it’s just going to make you look like you can’t communicate appropriately. The person you’ll report to, heads of departments and business stakeholders will all expect a slightly different vocabulary; using it will demonstrate you can communicate across the organization.
At the end of the interview, make sure you ask when you can expect to hear from them and/or what the next stage will be. This will allow you to gauge interest and timelines – and without it, you won’t be able to judge how to approach other opportunities.