In a recruitment career spanning 25 years, I have literally undertaken thousands of interviews. You can (rightly or wrongly) tell within the first few minutes whether the person is right for the role. You then spend the next hour confirming your initial impressions. So what do I look for?:
Dress to Impress
I’m not a fan of clichés, but this one is vital. Interviewers need to see you have made an effort. Virtual or in person we always suggest wearing a suit, tie (for men) and if you're meeting in the flesh, please wear shoes, I have had candidates turn up in thongs which makes you wonder how seriously they are taking the process.
Most interviewers can tell if you are putting on a show. An interview is not about right or wrong, it’s about congruence. If you put on a show, you might end up in the wrong job.
Make sure you have know what’s on your resume; dates, details of roles, what were the challenges in each role, what you did to overcome them and, most importantly, what results you achieved. Sales managers want to hear about how you performed against targets. Technical managers want to know about the level of complexity required in the projects you have worked on. You need to be able to explain your experience and successes clearly and succinctly.
Answer questions using the STAR methodology. Explain the Situation and Task, the Actions you undertook to overcome the challenge and the Result – Result is the most important because it tells people that you are outcome focussed.
Get Inside Intel
Find out who is interviewing you and research their LinkedIn profile, Twitter account, Facebook or website bios. This will give you information on any common ground that you might have with the interviewer. NB. One of the benefits of using a recruiter is being able to find out what kind of person will be interviewing you – not just a blurb about their experience.
Make sure you understand the format of the interview and who will be interviewing you. Don’t be surprised if there is a panel (particularly if you’re going for government jobs) or if it’s a technical interview. For certain roles, you may be asked to deliver a presentation or even take in examples of your work.
It’s fine to be nervous; most interviewers will actually take this into account. Being prepared will help the nerves. My best tip is to practice a STAR answer for each of your roles. Ask yourself: what was the biggest challenge, what did I do to overcome this challenge, and what results did I deliver.
Ask questions that uncover the culture of the business. Questions such as “Why has this role become available?”, “How many people are there in the team and what is the plan for growth?”, “What is going really well in the business?”, “What areas are not working so well in the business?”. These are all useful indicators.
Ask the interviewer how you did at the end of the interview. This can take some practice. If you haven’t done it before, the best way to ask is “I have really enjoyed meeting you and learning about your company, does my experience fit the role that you have?”.
People hire based on attitude first and experience second – so attitudinally if you can give positive examples of your experience and you get on with the interviewer, you are more than half way there.