An interview is a performance in which you’re starring as yourself.
No wonder we all find interviews terrifying. You’re performing with no script, in front of an audience who can make or break your career – and you have to wait a week to see if they applaud.
Here are six tips to make sure they do.
#1 Plan your first impression
When an interviewer says, “So… tell me about yourself” – the very beginning is not a good place to start. They’ve read your CV. They want to know why you’re the best person for the job.
The open-endedness of this question is actually a gift. They’re handing you control, so you get to choose which parts of your career to focus on. Rehearse some relevant stories you can tell in response to this question. Storytelling will really help you connect with the interviewer and make them remember you.
#2 Sell your strengths
It’s okay to brag in this context. Mastering the skill of talking about your strengths is vital to interview success.
Before the interview, work out what are the top three reasons you’d be great for the job, and practise communicating them. Even if you’re modest or introverted by nature, there’s a method for doing this and staying true to yourself.
First, give them the facts and figures (especially the figures). Second, quote something positive your manager, client, or other impressed party said about your achievement. And third, don’t forget to practise your story aloud.
#3 Prepare talking points, not a script
If you script your responses word for word, interviewers can tell. Create a bullet-point outline of your response, and practise talking from the bullet points until you no longer need to look at them. It’s especially helpful to do this for the questions you don’t want to be asked, such as, “Why is there a gap in your CV?”
#4 Show enthusiasm
Every half-decent interview candidate researches the company. Go beyond that and think about why you’d be a great fit, what genuinely excites you about the role, and how to express it with sincere enthusiasm. Interviewers are looking for someone who’ll be passionate about the job.
#5 Tell a good story
We’ve established that storytelling is powerful, but how do you tell a good story?
First, have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Start with a bit of backstory to show why the project was important, then give highlights of what you did, the obstacles you faced, and how you overcame them, and finally give the happy ending: what was the positive outcome?
Keep stories under two minutes and use “I”, not “we'', to make it clear that you’re responsible for your achievements. Don’t worry about giving every detail – you want them to ask questions afterwards.
#6 End on a positive note
You may have been advised to make your last question “Do you have any concerns?” We have some concerns about that. Most interviewers are trained not to give feedback on the spot, and you don’t want their concerns about you to be uppermost in their minds at the end of the interview.
Instead, ask “What do you think are the most important qualities for someone in this role?” – then explain why you’re a shining example of those qualities.