The first 30 seconds of an interview form a lasting impression. People say this time and time again, but actually it's a lot more than just the first 30 seconds. Yes, that influences the first impression you give, but you have a whole interview to influence the opinion formed of you. Once you've made it through the pile of applicants and CV's to interview stage, you want to make sure you give it your all and not only create a great first impression, but make sure it's a positive lasting impression. You can read my previous blog for hints and tips on how to craft the perfect CV - link.
In competitive markets, this is even more important. Employers are looking for the best talent out there, and will really put you through your paces in an interview. But it's not just for their pleasure. As an organisation, they need to ensure that those they hire really fit in with their organisational culture, as well as having the skills, capabilities and experience required for the role. More and more often, I'm seeing employers asking me to qualify candidates in terms of their fit in the organisation. This means I'm looking at the softer skills and personality of an individual just as much as their skills and experience - a real shift from a few years ago. With this in mind, interview technique is changing.
My colleague Jason Collins previously shared a blog giving 5 tips to improve your end-to-end interview strategy - from preparation to follow up, which you can read here. This blog however is focussed solely on the interview itself, giving advice on your technique in the critical interview.
Read your interviewer. A key element of interviewing is about understanding the type of person your speaking with, and adapting your style and the content to them. For example, if you're interviewing with a Director, they might be more interested in hearing the facts and figures of projects closely relevant to the, rather than all of your experience in the area. You can usually tell by a person's body language whether or not they're interested in what you're saying, so be conscious and pick up on these queues. If you can sense the interviewer's attention is wandering, or they're not asking for further elaboration on a particular point, think about changing tact.
This also extends into the type of person the interviewer is. There are some individuals who like to be challenged - even in an interview. But be careful doing this - there's a fine line between challenging and being rude! It's down to you to read the interviewer and quickly understand their personality, which can be hard - particularly on a phone interview. If you can't, then don't risk it. But if you can and you think the individual is open to debate make sure to give your opinion and stand by what you say. Don't be argumentative, but put your point across in a clear and concise way, and back it up with facts and statistics, proving validity.
You need to know the company inside out and drop names and pieces of information when you can. Try referring to the latest news about the organisation, speak about what competitors are doing well or not well, and point to references on social media. In most cases you'll be asked what you know about the organisation. The interviewers aren't looking for a perfect answer, but they expect you to know something about the company and what they do. Being able to elaborate on your answer by providing reference points through the extra research you've conducted will give you a step up against the competition. Speaking from experience, few do this, and it really does make a difference. It shows you're committed, and if you refer to the culture and belief system the organisation has, and show how you fit into it - even better!
You can extend this research and knowledge into the company further and really stand out though. Get to grips with the industry. If you're not already working in that particular market, make sure you do some intensive research. You need to understand how the market operates, the key players and suppliers. Look at the previous trends and predict how this will affect the market in the future and how the organisation might need to adapt. You may not need all of this information in the interview, but it means you're well equipped to answer any question that comes your way, and you can drop this insight into your answers.
The next step is showing off your personality. This really is key. You want to show of your personality, that you can get along with the team and can bring something to the environment. One way to do this is to find a connection between yourself and the interviewer after the initial introductions have been made. For example, you might have seen on the website that your interviewer recently took part in a CSR initiative. Think about whether you've done something similar and mention it to get conversation flowing. You might have noticed that you have a mutual connection on LinkedIn - that's a perfect conversations starter to discuss how you both know the individual. Finding that common ground can help to show your personality, and ability to communicate in a human way.
Finally, work on your storytelling skills. In any job this is key, so being able to show off your storytelling skills in an interview will help you in the long-run. Storytelling is all about initiating emotional engagement in a story, to win the heart of your interviewer over according to Forbes. It's your chance to tell your experiences in a way that is interesting to your audience, and present it in a way that appeals to their human side. Remember, your interviewer is human, so you should communicate accordingly! Your interview shouldn't be the most boring hour of your life. Use storytelling to bring your experience to life. Stories sell - they help interviewers relate to you, empathise with you and most importantly process the information you are communicating in a way that is more digestible and memorable. Ultimately ensuring you create the lasting impression you're aiming for.
My final piece of advice would be to prepare for any kind of question. This blog has been focussed around how you present yourself in the interview, but preparation is equally important. You need to have answers ready to a variety of questions, and there are some do's and don’ts my colleague Sam Cushing has previously written about (read here). I'd really encourage you to familiarise yourself with the interview questions Sam has written about, to make sure you have answers prepared to all of them, ensuring you're completely prepared!