During interviews you need to sell yourself, convince someone that you are “good enough”, answer some awkward questions, and be around strangers. It sucks, but you can plan for it to be great.
I have been interviewed several times, not really for a full-time position that I applied for but for different situations and I think I had fun. As I mentioned in my previous blog “get THE job interview”, I have interviewed 100+ people. I know what separates a good interview from a terrible one. It’s super easy to know who will get the job and who won’t. All I want to do here is to mention some things that you might want to take into consideration before going to your next interview.
1. Be early, not on time, obviously not late.
This sounds obvious to many people, but believe me… not everyone gets it so I think I need to write about it briefly. If you are late, you automatically lost the chance to get the job (at least from my point of view). 1 min late means super late, on time means late, you need to be there at least 5 to 10min early.
You have no idea how many people arrive at an interview saying “I’m sorry, I got lost”. That’s not an excuse! Please don’t be that person. Because you might get lost, that's the same reason why you need to be there early, you need to estimate your time in case you get lost for 10 min, in case you miss the bus, in case there's a traffic jam, in case _______ you name it.
I believe time is people’s most valuable asset, you can never bring time back so don’t EVER waste people’s time. Be there early, not on time, obviously not late.
2. Dress according to the job you’re applying to.
This might sound kinda weird, but believe me: IT WORKS. People at a company already have an image of what an employee "should" look like. Let me give you some examples.
Long ago I met this lady that recruits flight attendants, she told me that she instantly (almost unconsciously) likes the girls that have the same hairdo that their current flight attendants already have, it makes her think that there is one thing “less” that they will have to teach them. Crazy right?
If you are applying to a job where people wear a certain color of the uniform, try to find something similar. Our company recruits tutors, so we expect people to wear “proper” clothes. We’ve had people that came dressed up in gym clothes, flip flops, with a pillow mark on their face…. Omg, the list goes on and on.
During our interview process, we ask potential tutors to wear a white shirt, some people even fail to follow these simple instructions and instead wear a red shirt. What does that tell us? They can’t follow instructions, they are forgetful, they don’t pay attention to details, etc. Some of them have an excuse, like “oh I don’t have a white shirt”... but on the other hand we had people come with a white and neat shirt which makes me comment something like “WOW! What a nice white shirt” and their answer to that sometimes has been “oh I bought it yesterday because I didn’t have a white shirt”.
Try to get into the shoes of whoever will be interviewing you, you need to plan!! If you’re planning to be a bartender, dress like a bartender. If you’re applying for a clerk job, dress like a clerk. If you’re applying to a bank, dress accordingly.
3. If you’re not chill, pretend to be a little chill
Everyone is nervous before an interview, but some people manage to control those nerves beautifully. I like honesty, so I like it when people make comments about how nervous they are, it makes me feel like they are not hiding anything. But I like confident people even more, which means they might be ready or at least feel confident of doing a “good job”.
What makes me think they are confident? They can be funny but serious at the same time. Having some sort of charisma is important, nobody likes to work with a boring person.
Some extra advice you might consider. Sit properly, if you tend to slouch try not to do it during the interview! Body language says more than you think. Smile and look at people’s eyes when you talk, there’s nothing worse than people looking at the table or to the ceiling when they talk. Don’t put your cellphone on the table, make the interviewer know you are 100% present, and if your phone vibrates it will vibrate in your pocket/bag.
4. Know so much about the company that they can give you a Ph.D.
When someone is desperately looking for a job, they just apply to 300 different companies at the same time and go to every single interview and wait to see who will accept them. THAT IS SO WRONG!!
Some of the most common questions asked during an interview are
“How much do you know about our company?”
“Why do you want to work for us?”
If you don’t have an answer to these 2 questions the interviewer will instantly turn off their ears. If you don’t know about the company, why are you even applying to it? Oh, because you are desperate, which means you might not be the best candidate.
Before the interview, do so much research about the company that they can give you a Ph.D. for it, learn about the long-term goals, learn what’s the reason behind founding the company, and find something you like about the company so you can mention it during the interview. I’ve heard answers to those questions like “umm not much actually, I don’t remember where I saw the job posting, what’s the name of the company again? (LOL jk)”, but seriously have a clear idea of what the company stands for.
This is one of the only things I actually remember learning during my MBA program (haha). Once I started interviewing people I realized some people used it and it works wonders. You can Google “STAR interview technique” and become an expert.
STAR is the acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Results. This technique helps people understand better how you handle a situation. Some interviewers will ask you something like “what would you do if _____ happens?” or they would give you a scenario and ask you to tell them how you would react, what would be your solution, etc. So this is how you put STAR into action.
You have to think super quick, organize, and give your answer in 5 seconds.
Situation > You give the context of the situation, you paint the scenarios as clear as possible in their head.
Task > You describe what the problem is/was, basically what your job was at that moment.
Action > You explain what you did and how you did it, you need to present yourself as a superhero here. “I saved the day, I fixed the problem…”
Results > Make sure you mention the outcomes or the benefits, you made everyone happy or there were no grumpy clients at the end of this story.
This is super basic (maybe even kinda old school) but if you put enough time to do your research and practice this technique I am sure you will be able to find many examples and ideas for the job you are looking for. Don’t be lazy, remember getting a job is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of effort.
I like STAR because it makes people sound like they have experience (even if they don’t), making them look like someone with organized thoughts. Make sure not to be adding stuff in between, just get straight to the points S T A R.
6. Learn to introduce yourself
“Tell me about yourself, I have your CV but can you tell me more about yourself, talk to me about your background” .... That’s how some interviews will start and if you don’t know how to sell yourself in one minute, congratulations, you officially started this interview WRONG.
There are SO MANY videos and blogs out there about “1 min elevator pitch” if you still don’t know what that is, take some time to do the research, my blog is not here to give you all the answers. I just hope to guide you and give you the advice they never gave me in school.
When we ask people to introduce themselves and they end up talking about their cat’s favorite food, we can tell something is wrong. When people at an interview ask you to introduce yourself it is an easy way to break the ice, the way you answer might help the interviewer know what to ask you next, so think carefully.
One easy way to organize your ideas is the “present, past, future” technique. Which is quite obvious, you explain what you are doing today (Are you a student? Are you about to graduate?), then you explain your previous experience (What are your skills? What was your previous job/internship? What are you good at already?) and then you wrap up with your future goals and the reason why you are here today (The reason why you applied to this job, why you are such a great candidate, why you want to get this job and what you can give and what you are expecting to learn.) Keep in mind that you should do this FAST, don’t expect this to take you 10min, it should take you 1min.
Remember this first question is your first impression, it matters. Make sure you at least practice in the mirror once or twice to not end up blah blah blabbing.
Having interview skills is a skill (duh), it takes practice. I have been “headhunted” a couple of times through LinkedIn and even though I was not looking for a job I still went to the interview to practice my interview skills. One of them was a famous and well known energy drink (I'm a huge fan of their content marketing). The other one was a big HR company which office is in Taipei101, I think both companies were extremely cool and I honestly just wanted to have the experience and see what could’ve happened. I was called to a second interview in both cases but I had to reject them. (Be active on LinkedIn, someone might find your profile “good enough” to send you an email and invite you to an interview just because.)
I guess when you don’t want the job badly you get less nervous? I’m not sure. Try to think about it like that. Also, if your application gets rejected don’t take it too personal, sometimes (even though you put in the effort) you are just not the right fit for the company, keep looking!
Many things make an interview great, but I think those 6 are the most important ones, don’t forget small details like:
Ask questions when they ask you if you have questions (improvise!)
Be down to Earth (even though you have a lot of experience, don’t be cocky… there will always be someone better than you)
Don’t talk about the salary unless they start that topic
Use professional language
Smile to yourself in the mirror before you go in
Watch my favorite TED talk
Last but not least, go to Google Digital Garage and find a free course called "Build confidence with self-promotion". It will take you less than 40min to finish it.
I wish the best to you and that you have these tips in the back of your head once you get called to an interview. Even though I will always encourage you to create jobs instead of looking for jobs. I wish you can learn whatever you need to learn if you’re looking for a job, then quit and create jobs :) That’s why this blog is called leave your interview feeling like a boss, I hope this is the last job you get before you become a boss.