Doing some homework before a job interview can help avoid ﬂufﬁng your lines and blowing your chances. By Emma Williams
The problem with first impressions is you only get to make one of them, which is why interviews can seem so daunting.
When you get called up for an interview, you want to make sure you have the answers to really wow your interviewer. The last thing you want is to stumble or ramble through your answer. However, it can be difficult to keep those nerves at bay and answer the tough questions.
Paul O’Loughlin, from O’Loughlin Recruitment, recommends candidates treat it not as an interview but as a meeting. “Most people are experienced in meetings. Treat it as a meeting where you are going in to gain more knowledge of the role and organisation to discern whether it is right for you,” O’Loughlin says.
O’Loughlin suggests when you go into a meeting you go in prepared and know your subject matter extensively. You should also apply this commitment to your interview, having thoroughly researched not only the company but also the person who will be asking the questions.
O’Loughlin says you also need to be acutely aware of your own experiences and have some answers ready. He says interviewers are not just looking at the content of your answer but the way in which you respond. Body language, stuttering and rambling can all negatively detract from your professional image.
“Prepare yourself for the difficult questions. Get someone to sit down with you before the interview, get them to ask relevant questions. “The classic question is what are your strengths, and if a candidate stumbles with that, if they’re not prepared or don’t have that self-awareness where they can articulate that off the cuff, all is lost.”
On the flip side to that is the dreaded “tell us your greatest weakness” question. O’Loughlin says it is important to put a positive spin on your weakness, show that you’re aware of the problem and how you overcome it.
“If you say, ‘I’m a workaholic’ you give the impression that you’ll burn out. However, if you say something like, ‘I have a really strong work ethic but I have a problem delegating. To counteract this I make sure I delegate to the right people who I can trust to get the right results’,” he says.
According to O’Loughlin, you need to paint a clear picture of your qualifications by having real-life examples at the ready. Real-life examples show the interviewer how you react to different situations and illustrate how you can adapt your skills to suit their organisation.
O’Loughlin warns the worst response you can give is, “I’ve never thought about that”. He says people often feel they need to jump straight into an answer; instead, he suggests candidates take a couple of moments to gather their thoughts before answering a question they’re not 100 per cent confident with.
“If you want to think about a question, sit back for three seconds. Three seconds may seem like a lifetime in an interview, but it may give you the opportunity to articulate your thoughts in a really concise way rather than getting tongue-tied,” he says.
- Treat it like a meeting
- Research the company and the interviewer
- Get a friend to ask you interview questions to get you prepared
- Take three seconds to think of a response before speaking
- Find out the skills the company is looking for and give examples of work where you’ve demonstrated these skills
This article appeared in the June 2014 edition of Management Today, AIM’s national monthly magazine.