A job interview is quite an ordeal.
You spend ages preparing for the interview.
You stress about what you wear.
And there is the slightest chance that you will show up at the wrong place, or at the wrong time.
However, you also meet people who will (maybe) one day become your colleagues, and that’s pretty exciting!
I have had the opportunity to be in many interviews, both as an interviewee and an interviewer. However, I remember two distinct interviews that BLEW MY MIND (and I wasn’t even the interviewee!).
These were honestly the best interviews I have ever been in, and I want to share with you what made these candidates so special. You can then use some of the tips during your job search!
Here are the six things that the candidates had in common that ultimately helped them secure job offers.
1. Present yourself like you own the place
No, I don’t mean that you should act too familiar with the interviewers. I’m referring to how your posture impacts your interview.
It’s amazing how many people slouch during interviews! I admit, I feel like I have been guilty of this during interviews – in chairs with armrests, it’s so easy to melt into one side. However, slouching doesn’t engage the interviewers.
If you are standing during your interview for a presentation, for example, avoid fidgeting or swaying from side to side. While you don’t have to stand without moving at all, movements can be distracting for the interviewers.
For seated interviews, sit centrally in the chair. Try not to slouch to either side, and consider leaning forward to engage the team (hands can be placed on the table as well).
2. Take time to think, but not too much time
Interviews are weird. The types of questions are fairly standard, and candidates have probably (and hopefully) spent some time preparing great responses to the questions.
However, there are times when the questions seem to come out of nowhere (i.e. tell me about your biggest professional regret) and some thinking time is needed before responding.
There are usually two types of candidates in this situation:
- Ones who panic and try to respond quickly, and then end up talking far longer than is necessary, and
- Ones who pause… and pause… and allow an awkward silence to build up in the room…
A pause after a question is completely okay; however, it is beneficial when you say “that’s a good question” and then pause for no longer than four seconds to collect your thoughts.
When this happens, the interview panel knows that you are thinking and still engaged, as opposed to having a complete shutdown.
If you are on a Skype or phone interview, keep your pauses to a minimum- you don’t want the team thinking that you were disconnected!
3. Prepare for your greatest weakness and address it
We all have varied work backgrounds. Employers have a tendency to look at the length of employment at positions, as well as relevance to the position. When candidates do not have directly relevant experience, this can be perceived as a weakness.
During your preparations, consider any positions that you have had that could be perceived as potentially incompatible with the position.
For example, how can you discuss your summer position as a camp counselor when you are applying for an administrative role? (Full disclosure- I think being a camp counselor is the greatest summer job ever, but we’ll get into that another time.)
Then, once you have determined seemingly irrelevant roles, think about specific skills you gained from these positions.
Now, re-read the job description.
Identify the key words and skills for the position, and brainstorm different scenarios where you demonstrated those skills (especially in those roles you already considered).
Here is an example interview response for an administrative office job that requires flexibility, customer service, independence, and resourcefulness:
“During my role as a camp counselor, I loosely planned my weeks on Sunday, and then adjusted the schedule daily based on my campers’ interests and needs (flexibility and customer service).
“Because of the weather in the mountains, I always had a “Rainy Day Activity Plan” that I could use to engage the campers in the event of a sudden rainstorm (resourcefulness).
“My proudest accomplishment was leading a group of campers by myself for a week and receiving the highest scores possible on the evaluations (independence and a demonstrated focus on outcomes).”
4. Leverage examples (and your experience living abroad) in your responses
Hiring teams love examples because they demonstrate the skills that they are looking for. Showing is always better than just telling.
In many situations, it is second nature to respond directly to questions and not provide examples supporting your response.
For example, if the team asks you about your study abroad experience and the impact it had on your life, it is easier to provide predictable responses- “I learned a lot about myself, I showed patience when I missed my flight, I demonstrated my flexibility by not crying over my roommate assignment…”
I will say it here – it is hard to effectively explain what you got out of your time abroad.
However, if you use your study abroad experience to demonstrate certain interests and skills that would positively impact the work environment – a passion for second language acquisition, a keen interest in other people, heightened self-awareness, and resourcefulness (with examples for each) – the hiring team will see just how much you would bring to the team.
5. Keep answers brief, but provide adequate support for your answer
In interviews, it is challenging to summarize an entire life, interests, goals, and hopes into a brief response.
Interviewing teams value candidates who have succinct answers that are engaging, well-supported with examples, and brief.
When the team asks you the dreaded “tell us about yourself” question, it is easy to speak at length about your background, your goals, what has gotten you this far in life, and more.
Please reconsider your five minute monologue.
Your response to this question can be effective if you speak eloquently and provide examples to support your response, making sure that they are all relevant to the position.
If the interview team needs any clarification or wants more details in the response, they will ask.
As a general rule, if your response to a question (unless it is a situational question) is longer than two minutes long, shut ‘er down.
6. Have questions and interview the interviewers
Truly prepared interviewees have questions for the interviewers.
Exceptional interviewees research the biographies they can find about their interviewing team and ask pointed, directed questions at each interviewer.
This takes a little digging, but the potential outcomes for asking great, personalized questions are profound.
Specifically research the background of each member of the interview team and ask each person specific questions about their experiences, current projects, and how changes in the field are impacting their work.
Can’t figure out who will be on your interviewing panel? Ask your point person in the office for a list (or a schedule).
Asking individual questions demonstrates that not only did you conduct thorough research, but you were serious about showing your resourcefulness, sincerity, and preparation. Hiring teams like that.
Now go get yourself hired!
What have you done in interviews that worked for you? Share below!