How to win the interview . . .
from the perspective of two seasoned recruiters
It comes as no surprise to learn that an interviewer may encounter many frustrations and challenges when faced with interviewing a long list of candidates. But just how do so many candidates get it wrong?
To throw some light on this question, we asked two recruitment professionals who make the decisions whether to employ or not to employ just how job applicants might improve on their interview success.
The first few minutes . . .
"Rightly or wrongly, within the first few minutes of the interview, I will form either a positive or negative opinion of the candidate", comments Vicky, a HR Consultant with a leading careers consultancy. "The way an applicant walks into the room and their expression leaves an impression on me that is hard to change. It is good to have eye to eye contact from the beginning, self-assuredness, positivity and focus, and I am most impressed with a `pleased to meet you´ smile and a firm handshake."
According to Sally, a seasoned Careers Consultant, "Presentation is key. A smart, well heeled presentation indicates that the job applicant has put some time and effort into preparing for the interview and ensuring that they are dressed appropriately for the role. Illustrating that they take a pride in their appearance is important, and I see this as an indicator of how they present themselves on a day to day basis, not just at interview.”
Vicky and Sally were of the same viewpoint, that first impressions really do have an impact on their decision-making; presenting a quiet confidence, maintaining eye contact and dressing appropriately are key influencers on successful interviews.
Critical choices . . .
"Interviewing is tough on candidates but can be even tougher on the interviewer,” suggested Sally. “When interviewing I am searching desperately for a candidate who can tick as many boxes as possible on the job profile, and this is no easy task. A lot is at stake as recruitment costs in 2007 are staggeringly high and if I get it wrong my job is on the line as I am at risk of losing my client to an agency who can get it right!”
“That´s absolutely right,” agreed Vicky. “I need to know that I am selecting the right person, for the right job, for the right company – for the benefit of all concerned – the candidate, my client and myself. Recruitment and selection is a serious business and nothing less than `right first time will do in this business.”
"Thorough preparation before the interview is a confidence building exercise,” according to Sally. “I would recommend research, research and more research – to get a full understanding of the company and an accurate sense of the job role. If a candidate has a good understanding of the firm`s business, problems etc., and can ask informed questions, then they will stand a better chance of landing on the `worth considering´ pile!”
Vicky agreed, adding that, “Preparation instills confidence, which cascades into every aspect of the interview. Interview preparation should include preparing to answer questions that relate to the job and your Resume. Demonstrate the skills you claim to have and if for instance the role requires good team leadership, be ready to give an example where you led a team and had a positive outcome.”
Sally agreed, “The more you practice with mock interviews, the greater likelihood there is of being more relaxed and confident. And try and give examples of where you have added value as this can demonstrate that you have something to bring to the table. Very impressive!”
"If you can show knowledge of the industry you're applying to, not just knowledge of the job in it, you'ill definitely score brownie points,” added Vicky.
Promote and market yourself
"The interview,” according to Vicky, “really is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the skill-sets, experience and achievements that dovetail with the job. What I like best is when a candidate quietly and confidently conveys their particular area of expertise, whether problem solving, managing budgets, streamlining work processes or winning new business – and is able to substantiate this with examples.”
"I agree,” chipped in Sally, “and ideally, if a candidate can refer to their Resme this often can act as a guide for both to follow. This will help them to stand out from the crowd, particularly if the events are realistic and interesting.”
"What I really want to know,” commented Vicky, "is what the candidate can offer my client, so I would like examples of what they have done that has added value. If they don´t take this golden opportunity then there are dozens of other candidates who will. But if they can convince me of their skills, sell them to me, then the job is theirs."
What is most important in a candidate?
"To sum up the most valued competencies," responded Vicky, "I would say that honesty, integrity, teamwork, interpersonal skills, determination and motivation are most highly prized."
Additionally, according to Sally, "Work experience matters. Employers are impressed if college or university graduates can add practical work experience to their academic skills. Looks good on their Resume, too!"
The Resume makes the difference
According to Sally, "Resumes can vary in quality. They can either be absolutely abysmal or outstanding. It makes no difference whether they are produced by professionals – like the ones A Perfect Career´s Resume writers produce – or written by the candidates. The truth of the matter is, if they are not well presented, interesting and informative with all claims substantiated – then they are wasting everyone`s time.
The biggest mistakes to avoid during the interview
According to Vicky, "Not having done any background research into the company and the role they are applying for, and not being inquisitive - I like people who show interest by asking, Why?"
"My pet aversion is when an applicant tries to be something they`re not as this wastes time and the truth always comes out" commented Sally.
"At the end of the interview, I prefer applicants who have some intelligent, relevant questions to ask as this indicates their interest.” Sally continued, "The number of times I have invited questions and received a lack lustre response is unbelievable!”
Vicky agreed, adding “It is always good to know that applicants have given hought to additional points they want to make and any further information they might need, so I would recommend having to hand two or three questions to ask.”
According to Sally, “If an applicant asks what the company`s challenges are and how they can contribute to meeting those, then this will demonstrate an interest in adding value – just what we are looking for.”
At the end of the interview
When asked to sum up what makes the biggest difference to hiring or rejecting, both Vicky and Sally agreed successful candidates . . .
- Have a smart, well groomed presentation
- Convey a friendly, focused and quietly confident manner
- Have researched the company, its market, opportunities and threats
- Can answer questions clearly with conviction
- Draw on their Resume and expand on positive results
- Express interest by asking pertinent questions
- Send a courtesy `after interview¨ letter affirming their interest
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