There is no one right way to ‘do’ a job interview. There are well-known, soundly based steps to take to maximise your chances of presenting your case well. To take these steps you need to be organised, allocating time and energy to do the work. And it is work. And it takes time and commitment.
Underpinning these steps are some skills. If these skills are not well developed, then taking the steps and delivering a solid response will be more difficult. Key skills include:
- Rapport-building: able to create a good impression quickly and connect with people.
- Presentation skills: information and ideas need to be expressed clearly, confidently, in a well-structured manner.
- Research skills: able to find information about the organisation, the role, the panel members.
- Think on your feet: able to assess questions and select material in response to questions.
- Interpersonal skills: able to positively relate to a range of people.
Even though most people will say they select on merit, that is, how well a person matches the skills required for a job, realistically, selection panels will consider the whole package that you offer – how well you relate to the interviewers, your attitude, your mannerisms, what impression you create. This doesn’t mean these elements are not about merit. Selection panels will choose people whom they perceive will fit in, will get along with other staff, display attitudes to work that are compatible with the existing culture. Such details fit with job requirements like team work, professionalism, interpersonal skills, adaptability, commitment to getting the job done. If a person lacks skills in rapport-building and interpersonal relations, and conveys through their responses that they are not a good fit, then chances are someone else will be given the job.
Key steps that form part of a job interview strategy are:
Research: Revisit the job description and your application. If you didn’t conduct research before you wrote the application now is the time to read the organisation’s website to learn as much as possible about what they do, why, what some of the issues are. Read documents such as the annual report and corporate strategy. At this point it is too late to talk to the contact person. This would have been part of your initial research to understand what the job description doesn’t tell you.
Anticipate questions: By thinking about the job requirements or selection criteria in terms of what the role is about and what you have learned from your research, you can anticipate what some of the job-related questions might be. Any criterion starting with ‘demonstrated’ or ‘proven’ is a hot candidate for a behaviour-based question, one that invites you to give an example that demonstrates your skills. Part of your preparation is to select a range of career success stories to take to the interview. This step is made easier if you have been managing your career by keeping a log of work-related incidents. Thought should also be given to other types of questions, particularly knowledge-related and hypothetical questions.
Self-promotion: It is wise to prepare for a range of standard self-promotion questions so that should you be given the opportunity, you are well prepared. Some self-insight plus your research are needed in order to understand your strengths, weaknesses, key achievements, career goals. Being able to link what you have to offer to the requirements of the job will make your case stronger.
Logistics: Know as much as you can about the where, when, who of the interview process. Work out what you’ll wear, what you’ll take with you.
Mental preparation: Understand what concerns you about an interview. Test strategies for handling nervousness. Preparation related to the other parts of your strategy will also help with mental preparation.
Rehearsal: Thinking through your responses is useful, but not enough. You need to practice your responses out loud so you become accustomed to hearing yourself and become familiar with your material.
Self-assessment: After the interview capture information about what happened – the who, what and how of the interview. Who interviewed you, what questions were you asked, how did it go. This process will help with identifying how well your strategy worked and what you might need to do next time.