Rounding out our “How to change jobs” focus, I thought it would be useful to consider how to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed in a job interview.
Something that many people dread, the interview is a key step in securing a new role. Whether it’s an informal chat over coffee or a multi-person panel interview, you can set yourself up for success in this area.
In the past I have certainly been guilty of “winging it” in a job interview – and miraculously I have even landed some of those jobs! However, taking the time to do some focused preparation can go a long way to helping you improve the odds of your success.
So, what kind of things to prepare?
Research the organisation by heading online to their website and finding out what you can. Obviously the website will be them portraying themselves in the best possible light, but by finding out not only what products and services they produce, but also about their values, vision, mission and even their workplace culture and how they treat their people can stand you in good stead to find ways to tie your skillset (and interest) to them and convince them of your suitability.
Know your CV well. If you’ve written it yourself, it should be fairly easy to be able to recall specifics from it. The interviewer will be wanting to make sure that you are able to “walk your talk” in the interview, so they will want to feel comfortable that how you present in person stacks up against how you’ve portrayed yourself in your CV. Important!
Go through your competency areas before the interview and make sure you have thought about examples and stories you can use from your career to date to be able to illustrate or demonstrate evidence that you have that particular area of skill. It can be useful to do this in conjunction with going through the job description to make sure everything lines up.
You might like to use the STAR model to assist with this. This model can help you structure your examples and stories by considering:
S Situation Describe a situation in which you used the competency
T Tasks Describe what tasks the example involved
A Actions Describe the actions you took in the example
R Result Describe the result that arose
For example a STAR example to demonstrate a Customer Service competency could be something like:
I was working in a large retail outlet and a customer returned a product that she wasn’t happy with. She was very upset that the product didn’t work. I listened patiently to her complaint and filled out the appropriate paperwork and then went to the storeroom and got her a replacement item. While I was in the storeroom I also arranged with my manager that I could give the customer a $50 store voucher, which she agreed to. I told the customer and she was really happy with that. She came back the following week and spent the voucher and came over to thank me for how I handled her complaint.
Another way to prepare for an interview is to find out whether you know anyone who works (or who has worked) in the organisation – they’ll be able to give you some inside track.
Thinking about some of the common interview questions you might be asked and considering how you might answer is another important area of preparation you can do ahead of time.
Some of the common questions are:
Why did you (or do you want to) leave your current job?
Keep your answer to this short and sweet and non-emotional, particularly if you have recently been made redundant. As tempting as it might be, never bag the company or anyone who works there.
What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?
Try to humbly but confidently talk about 2-3 strengths, making sure that they are directly relevant to the job on offer. For your weaknesses, ensure that you don’t mention a weakness that is a key skill required for the job! If you can, try to choose a weakness that can somehow also be viewed as a strength in some way.
Why do you want this job? Or, Why do you want to work for us?
Make sure you have done some research and that you have a clear idea of the reasons behind your application. They will want to know that you are keen to work for them, so you need to find a way to show them this. If you’re not keen and are only applying because you need a job (any job) it will be obvious.
What can you bring to this job?
Think about the key skills and attributes you bring and find a way to succinctly describe them. Again, ensure that they are directly relevant to the job at hand.
Something else that a lot of people tend to overlook in their job interview preparation is to prepare some questions that you’d like to ask them. This is an opportunity for you to show them that you’ve really thought about this opportunity and that you are genuinely interested in being there.
In the interview they are focusing as much on who you are and how you interact with them as they are on the content of what you’re saying, so it’s important to do your best to build a connection with the interviewer/s. Pay attention to their body language and the way they talk and try to subtly mirror this in order to build rapport.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer/s for their time and express your interest in hearing from them about next steps.
An appropriate handshake and some eye contact will signal polite confidence and is a great note on which to end the interview.