In the modern business world interviews take many forms and can consist of multiple stages. Phone, Skype, Zoom and even FaceTime (other video calling services are available) are all becoming widely accepted approaches to first – and sometimes second – stage interviews.
Especially if the employer and candidate are far enough apart that travelling would be impractical. Indeed, for a first stage interview, these approaches help businesses and candidates to discount one another early on without considerable investment by either side.
Regardless of the method, for a candidate preparation is key to a successful interview be it first stage or final stage.
It doesn’t matter how qualified or experienced you are, if you don’t come across well then chances are, you’ll get rejected.
This may seem a little unfair as not everyone makes a great first impression or is an extrovert. There are some that question the validity of interviews for this very reason. Any hiring manager you care to ask will have at least one story of how a great candidate slipped through their fingers because they didn’t interview well.
But short of a radical shift in hiring best practices you – the candidate – are stuck.
Therefore, preparation is everything. Especially if you struggle with anxiety or are naturally introverted.
Cover the Basics
Most articles about this kind of thing extoll the benefits of researching the company, reading the job description and dressing appropriately.
This is the absolute minimum you should be doing.
The employer expects you to turn up looking smart and having researched the job you’ve applied for. Anything less is a little insulting and you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Similarly, it’s etiquette to arrive in plenty of time for the interview. If you’re running late or if there’s a hold-up, let your recruiter know as soon as you become aware.
Delays happen and are sometimes unavoidable. An incident on the road, a delayed flight or an unwell dependent – as examples – are all outside your sphere of influence. Letting us know rather than trying to achieve the impossible and failing is the better option.
Don’t forget, we’re here to help you get the job and it’s much easier for us to smooth any ruffled feathers caused because we manage the relationship with the employer.
If you really want to make an impression you need to have your research nailed. That means reading the website thoroughly. Not just skimming the About Us page.
This company could be your employer, so you need to make sure that they’re culture, ethics and direction matches your own career and life aspirations.
It doesn’t matter how great the opportunity is, if the company doesn’t seem like the right fit, you’re far better to establish that before you get too far down the process.
But – if the organisation does match your values and you do feel you’d be a good cultural fit then you’ll go into the interview with the level of enthusiasm that the average candidate simple won’t match.
Once you’ve finished that you need to start on industry research. What innovations are happening in the space? Who are their main competitors? What are their competitors doing that may give them an edge?
Research may seem arduous and irrelevant but be under no illusion – most companies care as much about you being a good fit as your ability to do the job. Knowing exactly who you could be working for is a big part of that.
Interviews are an inexact way for a company to get a measure of a potential employee. That means they need to know if you can do the job just by having a few relatively short conversations with you.
The problem is they can only base your competence on your CV and what you tell.
Make sure you have thoroughly revised your employment history. It’s not uncommon for a potential employer to ask you to recite your employment history. There could be a few reasons for this (one being they can’t remember your CV after a day of interviews), but you need to be able to talk them through it. Including why you left positions or why there was a gap in your employment history.
No one will begrudge you spending 6 months travelling the world, they just need to know.
More importantly you should be able to recall and explain in detail a number of examples where you have made a real impact. It can be a specific project, hitting targets, directly contributing to business growth or profit.
Equally – what didn’t go so well? What was a learning experience for you? How did that make you a better leader or team member?
Whatever it is you need to be able to speak with confidence about each of your examples. And draw on more information if the interviewer has questions.
This is your chance to show your future employer your best self. The person who gets things done and delivers results. Because you are that person. Or you wouldn’t be at the interview stage.
But go deeper than that. Think about how these examples could translate to your potential new role. Whether it’s leading a team, smashing your targets or solving a technical challenge – consider how this will make you an effective team member.
Finally, don’t be afraid to make notes to refer to. The same goes for any research you carry out regarding the business. It won’t count against you. Quite the opposite, as it will demonstrate your commitment.
Communication is Key
You don’t need to be an extrovert to succeed at interviews, you just need to get the basics of communication right.
For one thing, most communication (in the range of 90%) is non-verbal. So making eye contact, smiling, sitting up straight and avoiding things like crossing your arms all help to present a friendlier image.
Although it may seem harsh to be penalised for not doing these things, but humans are a social species and we unconsciously pick up on them.
Like it or not these are social norms and if you consider yourself a little awkward on that front then it’s something you’ll need to practice.
If you have a learning disability or mental health issue that makes this a challenge for you, let us know and we can manage the interviewer’s expectations. Remember, you can’t be discriminated against on those grounds so it’s far better to be honest about it.
If you are concerned that you will struggle it may be worth running through some mock interviews with someone you can trust so you can feel comfortable being asked questions and practising eye contact etc.
Keep your trusty notebook handy so you can write down questions. It’s easy to lose your train of thought when you’re nervous or if you’re prone to going off at a tangent.
Writing the question down will help to solidify it in your mind making it far less likely you’ll forget it. And if you do…you have it to refer to.
This will make you more confident when answering and likely result in a better answer.
Remember – you’re there because the business sees something in you. They want you as part of their team. Enjoy that idea (without being arrogant or complacent) and enjoy the opportunity meeting with these people represents.
You never know, it could be life changing.
After the interview, follow up as soon as possible with your recruiter. Let them know how it went – what was good, what could have gone better. Also let them know what your thoughts are around whether you’d take the job.
Strong commitment from you only helps your chances or success. No one wants to hire the lukewarm candidate who will treat it like ‘just another job’.
Depending on where you are in the world it is etiquette to send a thank you note. It doesn’t need to be poetry, just an (ideally) handwritten note thanking your interviewer for their time and it was nice meet them.
If the country you’re potentially working in has a strong culture for this, they will be keeping track of who sends a note and who doesn’t. Equally, if – like in the UK – the practice isn’t established doing something like this distinguishes you from other candidates.
Note this only really applies if you’ve had a face to face interview. If – dude to distance – you won’t have a physical face to face interview, then do your best to send an email to the same effect. It makes all the difference.
Whatever the role the important thing is that you have a recruiter you can trust to advocate on your behalf and keep you in the loop as you progress.
KDC Resource are a leading engineering and technical recruiter operating in the aerospace, defence, space, emerging and disruptive technology and cyber security markets.