It is said that these days, the average employee will have anywhere from three to five different careers before they retire. This is a far cry from our parents’ generation where you stayed at one company and left with a gold watch when you retired. While our parents’ advice is genuine and well-intentioned, it is not always adapted to our current reality.
One thing is for sure: no matter what you want to do, having strong interviewing skills will serve you well. They can give you the possibility to seize an opportunity if you are headhunted on LinkedIn or the flexibility to leave a company if you find yourself stagnating. Who am I to be telling you this? I was a recruiter for the past 10 years. I began my career at an agency then transitioned onto corporate Human Resources where I spent most of my career. I have hired in a wide variety of fields ranging from Fashion Design to Corporate Finance to Manufacturing, so you could say I know a thing or two about what makes a good impression in an interview.
I know that you have already Googled the interviewing basics such as arrive on time and follow-up with a thank you note, but I want to go above and beyond with you to help you nail your interviews.
- Do you
It goes without saying that an interview is a formal setting where you have one shot to prove yourself. It doesn’t matter if you are interviewing with a start-up or a corporate giant, the interviewers’ time is precious and you won’t be asked back just so that they can get to know you better. One of the worst thing you can do is be a forgettable, middle-of-the-road, “I would like to join your dynamic organization” candidate. You have to do you. If you are analytical, be that. If you are type-A, be that. If you are friendly and bubbly, be that. We have all been told that we should be more one way and less another way. While it’s good to take feedback, you can’t go around pleasing people by being someone you are not.
You want to be yourself because you truly don’t know what the interviewers are looking for. Think of it this way: let’s say the interviewers already have a loud and outgoing person on their team and they are looking for someone more quiet and introverted to balance things out. What if you are naturally more reserved but you put on a bold front for the interview? What if they pass on you because they wanted someone more… like you?!?! Is this not a horrible scenario to imagine? Do you.
Being well prepared for your interview will help you to feel more confident that you can handle anything the interviewers throw at you. Here are a few ideas for what to prepare:
- When you are scheduled for the interview, ask if you should bring anything specific, especially if you are an artist. You may need to bring a portfolio or work samples and you want to be sure you are bringing what they want to see. For all professions, it’s also a good idea to ask what the attire is at the office so that you can know what to wear for the interview.
- Research the company. Many managers take it as a personal insult if a candidate doesn’t research the company before arriving to the interview. Considering that we can Google or ask Siri virtually anything, there is no excuse for not knowing what the business does, what industry they are in, where they are headquartered and whether or not they are publicly traded. An added bonus is that if you have the name of the interviewers, try to look them up on LinkedIn. It’s good to know what their backgrounds are and, in a pinch, it can help you to make small talk at the beginning or end of the interview.
- When practicing your interview questions at home, answer them using the acronym SAR, which is short for Situation, Action, Result. Often times, candidates answer with what they “would” do in a situation, and when the interviewers probe further, they become flustered and scramble for a response. When you answer questions fully by summarizing the situation, describing the action you took then stating the result, it helps you to stay composed and sail on to the next question.
- Don’t lie
The kiss of death in an interview is if you are caught in a lie. It happens more often than you think and it makes for an awkward situation to say the least. As I mentioned at the beginning, the interview is your one shot to establish yourself with the employer and hopefully make it to the next step in the process. They don’t know you well enough yet to give you a second chance.
A common lie people tell is that they have graduated with a particular degree or have a certification that they don’t. When companies do background checks, they contact schools and professional associations to confirm the information that the candidate has provided. This is increasingly becoming standard practice in many companies as they are required to do their due diligence.
If you have an uncomfortable truth to share, like you have not finished college or you were let go from your last job, it’s best to state it factually, explain it briefly then move on. You don’t want the interview to center around this uncomfortable truth by rambling on about it nor do you want to be so vague as to prompt the interviewers to inquire further. Your best bet is to be honest and if possible, talk about what the experience taught you. For instance, you could say: “I left college in my second year because I felt that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I spent the past year volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia instead, and this allowed me to learn another culture as well as familiarize myself with the administrative side of the organization.” As long as you are factual, concise and flip the situation into a positive by saying what you learned, you can handle any uncomfortable question that may arise.
I hope that this article has been helpful and has given you both food for thought and guidance for you to do great in next interview.