It’s always a good idea to go to an interview fully prepared. While some people have great interview skills, others may need to practise prior to meeting their potential employer to avoid common mistakes.
Having said that, regardless of where you sit on the interviewee spectrum, you could be making mistakes you weren’t even aware of. So I’ve come up with good interview techniques for candidates to help you bag your next executive role.
I talk about this a fair bit in my book, ‘Uncover the Hidden Job Market’, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people who read it don’t apply my advice when they go into interviews. I’m not sure if it’s due to nerves or laziness, but they’re missing a trick. There are definitely a few simple interview techniques you can use to ensure you leave a good lasting impression.
Firstly, make sure you demonstrate your interest in the role to the employer. When preparing for an interview, you could print out a copy of the advertisement or information from their website. You could even print out a copy of the LinkedIn profile of the person who is interviewing you and spend time highlighting some key sections.
This will not only remind you of any questions that you want to ask, but when you put that down on the table, the employer will know you’ve spent time preparing and are genuinely interested in the company and its employees.
Secondly, never assume you know what the client is looking for. In the first episode in this interview series, I spoke about the importance of the employer making their expectations clear from the start. They need to state what they need delivered in the first three, six and 12 months.
Likewise, as a candidate, you need to understand that. If you go into the interview and say to the employer, “What are you actually employing me to do? What would I need to have achieved for you in the first 12 months for you to give me 100% on my performance review?”, it will likely be a foreign concept to them.
In many instances, the employer won't be able to answer that immediately and clearly, but it will definitely get them thinking about what they need.
On the flip side, if the employer asks you why you’re great for the job and you list off your attributes you think are right for the role, they may not actually be what the employer is looking for. So once the employer is able to answer your question about what they need, you can use that as a hook to hang your key achievements and transferable skills on.
You should prepare a few stories ahead of your interview that will best illustrate why you’re right for the job and what the employer is looking for. It’s also a good idea to write them down, practise telling them with family or friends or even just in a mirror.
When it comes to telling your stories to demonstrate your skills, you should follow the STAR framework - Situation, Task, Actions, Results.
Candidates regularly fail an interview when the employer says, "Have you got any questions for us?”, and the candidate says no or asks basic, inane questions.
What you need to do is be up to speed on what's happening in relation to that employer in the media, have read their website and use those things to frame your questions.
Once again, this will demonstrate to the employer that you've taken time to research the organisation and the opportunity prior to interview.
Another thing you can do is flip the interview process round and ask the interviewer questions like, “Why did you join the company? What keeps you here? What do you like most about the company?” This can be particularly effective at a senior executive level. An interview is as much about you finding out if the employer is the right fit for you as it is for them.
If it isn’t already clear, preparation is key. Sometimes though, it’s not just about preparing your skills; preparing your emotions is just as important, especially if you’re a nervous interviewee. Think about what you will talk about, write it down, practise it on friends. That way, you’ll be very certain about what you're going to do when you get into that environment and won’t be blindsided by nerves.
It’s more common than you think. Over the years, I’ve seen a huge number of senior executives who have managed big teams and budgets and achieved massive things for their employers but have low confidence when it comes to taking on new roles. This was one of the main motivations for me to write my book.
At the other end of the spectrum, some people come across too confident, and even cocky, in interviews. To avoid that, asking the right questions still applies. Don’t overwhelm the employer with information about yourself that you think is relevant. Instead, ask something like, “What would you like me to achieve in the role? May I tell you about where I've achieved similar things in my career?”
People are busy so you want to make sure that if they're investing time in interviewing you that they're getting the outcomes they're hoping for. Just asking that question shows the employer that you’re there to serve them, not the other way around.
Another common mistake people make when being interviewed is asking about money too soon and asking too many self-centred questions and focusing solely on what you will get from the role.
Another silly question is, “What can you tell me about the job?” If an ad has been created, it will explain the role. A more intelligent question is, “I read in your ad that there will be travel required - what amount of travel?” Or, "I read that I'll be managing a team, what's the size of the team?" That way you show you’ve actually read the ad and are asking intelligent questions to elicit further information.
They're all very simple techniques you can to do to ensure a smooth interview. Yes, they take a little bit of preparation but the return on investment is worth it. Very few candidates do these things so you will immediately stand out from the crowd.
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