Updated: Jan 11
Over the last 2 decades, I have interviewed thousands of people and directly hired them into all kinds of roles; the very best interviews were with the candidates who prepared. Really prepared.
Your standard candidate would talk about the brand history, taken and rehearsed directly from the website, maybe they’d talk about the founders or the footprint of stores. Now this is all very well and it was duly noted that they had taken time to research the brand – but ultimately, when boiled down, it was no more than a recital of information; which, anyone can do! Literally ANYONE can take ten minutes to review and remember information.
This method to impress the interviewer is outdated and will not cut through the noise.
Consider the Interviewer
Imagine, the interviewer has met with 4 candidates on a particular day, all 4 candidates rhyme off a similar brand history. The next day arrives, another 4 candidates and more versions of brand history.
You want the interviewer to feel inspired by your knowledge, excited to learn about your career history and blown away by impactful questions; which leave a lasting impression!
So let’s get stuck into this!
Broadly speaking, the interview is broken into three main components.
Kicking off with the first impressions and introduction
Next up, the core section going over examples and competencies
Finally, questions at the end
The First Impression
As you embark on the big moment to dial in or walk in to meet your interviewer, have a moment to take a few deep breaths and think about this moment as being a great conversation about to happen.
The first impression will be made within 20 seconds, YES it is that quick. You see, our brains are somewhat lazy; they have to process millions of incoming messages every minute. Taste, touch, vision, smell, sounds. Your mind is incredibly busy every second of the day.
Every 24hrs your brain will burn around 500 calories. So your brain wants to make things easy for you, it forms opinions based on your life experiences.
Have you ever met with someone who maybe had a similar accent to you, maybe they have similar interests to you or maybe they look a little like you? Chances are, you are drawn to this person, and you may silently think ‘this person is a decent guy or ‘she’s pretty cool’.
The reason is this – your brain is comfortable, it sees similarities in you. It senses no danger or threat. An example of this is on holiday. If you hear someone speaking your language, your ears may perk up. You may strike a conversation and before you know it, you’re all laughing at the bar and arranging breakfast buffet the next day.
We like people who look like us, sound like us, act like us, and speak like us and on and on. It is the work of the powerful sub-conscious mind.
Therefore, as soon as you get to that first impression moment, actively switch on your mirror sensors. You want to portray your own confidence straight away; a simple genuine smile will encourage the person opposite you to smile. Remember, we are mirror images and emotional creatures seeking the most comfortable and risk-adverse experience.
Hold eye contact, sit up. Positive body queues will work in your favour
When the interviewer asks how you are, this really is a moment for them to gather their thoughts and process the first impression! Yes, while you are going about saying how your journey was or how the weather soaked you on your way in, they are processing this data to form an opinion.
My advise to you – make that initial piece of information engaging and positive.
Don’t even think about mentioning the Pandemic; we all got a huge wake up call in 2020 and the pain for many will live on for years.
Instead, you could say ‘I’m doing really well thank you, I’ve been looking forward to our meeting and can I just say the guy on reception was brilliant!'
They may ask you to elaborate, you can, but keep it brief ‘he was really welcoming and I felt at ease straight away’
Now you’ve started off the interview by complimenting someone in the business, in a genuine way.
Another way to land an awesome first impression is by mirroring the person. Gestures such as leaning in, tilts of the head, sitting back, matching your voice intonations. Of course this is incredibly difficult if you’ve not actively tried this before, and if done poorly, it can actually backfire. Only do this if you are confident when to mirror and when to break away.
Getting into the crux of the interview, the core of the conversation. This is where credibility is built. This is your moment to truly shine!
You want to already have many examples ready to discuss. Every example needs to be truthful, referenced with impact or results and rolled in some glitter to truly dazzle the person in front of you.
Always take a few seconds to think about your answer. Pausing is a skill to master. Pausing shows a high level of personal confidence and a great degree of soft skill intelligence too.
Each example given should last 3-5 minutes. Any longer it’s too much. If they want more details, great sign, you can continue.
A well experienced interviewer will always seek out your weak spots, because ultimately, they are responsible for all of your output, so they want to know the chink in your armour to decide if it’s teachable, coachable or simply too much bother to ‘fix’ be aware of this. An example could be when the interviewer says ‘so when that happened, how did you feel about it’ or they could say ‘if you couldn’t see eye to eye with someone and as a result, the work wasn’t getting done, what would you do about it’
They are exploring your personality. They want to know if you’re going to stand your ground (and waste more time) they want to know if you seek to resolve through a steady conversation. Regarding the feelings, they seek to learn if you were angry or pissed off (in-turn infecting others around you) or if you were somewhat disappointed but managed to move on quickly to other projects.
All of these subtle, seemingly ‘light’ questions are actually, the most telling!
As you approach the final block, you can see questions are in sight. Now, up until this point you may feeling pretty good or really bad – fear not. This final block CAN turn the whole interview in your favour. IF you ask intentional, powerful questions.
Stay away from the norm. As we covered earlier, every other candidate will ask cookie cutter questions ‘what is the onboarding process’ or ‘what is the process after this’
These are valid questions, but are they impactful? Do they leave an incredible lasting impression? No, they do not.
So ask yourself this: what do I actually want to know?
Perhaps you want to know about the team. Maybe you’d like to know about the big projects for this year. Have you thought about asking the interviewer ‘what are your main challenges for this year’ or ‘what do you enjoy about this company’
Your questions should be thoughtful, appropriate and well delivered.
Imagine your interviewer is now telling you about the team; the functions, the experience, the backgrounds – they are now visualizing you fitting into that team! Win!
Always have 5-6 questions ready…but you’ll only ask 2-3 depending on how the interview has progressed; as some may have been covered already.
If it doesn't work out
I have only ‘failed’ at 2 interviews in 20 years. Thank goodness for those, otherwise I couldn’t have shared everything with you here today. My path would have been very different.
So remember this; if it doesn’t work out, it is ok. The right opportunity will align at the right moment. The pain will pass and you will grow through each experience.
If you’re still here, thank you for reading this, I really appreciate your time!
To your success!