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Making every interview count

Allen Associates, News & Blog

With jobs in increasingly short supply, it is more important than ever to make every interview count – and that means making a great first impression. An interview is your chance to showcase to a potential employer who you are and what you can do. Most of us find job interviews daunting and if you suffer from nerves, you may find it even harder to be your best self and make the right impression.

Part of our role is to help our candidates to get the most out of every interview. We regularly publish an array of helpful articles which you may like to explore in our advice centre.

In our latest blog, we’ve collated a few pointers which we hope will help you to overcome any fears and give you the confidence you need to succeed at interview.

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Interview preparation is crucial – but what does that actually mean? Yes, looking at your potential employer’s website and social media channels is a great starting point but you need to go further than that.  You need to invest time in trying to get under the skin of the business to find out who they are, what they do, and what makes them tick. It’s also about being able to anticipate what you may be asked and understanding how you can relate your skills and experience to suit their needs.

First things first – make sure that you’ve been through the job description with a fine tooth comb and are familiar with all the different requirements. You need to be confident that you know what skills the prospective employer is looking for. You need to be able to show that you have these skills and the potential to contribute to the employer’s success. You need to be able to demonstrate why you would be a good addition. Be clear about your strengths and what sets you apart from others. What are you good at and how can they use this to their advantage?

You should also take the time to get to know your potential employer’s business. What are their USPs? Who are their competitors? What are previous employees saying about them? You could look at sites such as Glassdoor to gain an impression of the company or look at their social media pages to see what their priorities are and what they are talking about. Make sure you prepare a few questions of your own that you can put to the interviewing panel. When questioned, most hiring managers say that there is nothing more off-putting than a candidate who has nothing to ask them. You need to find out how the company will support you and your career. You may wish to ask them about how they are coping in the current climate and what their plans are for the future. Or you could ask them about their approach to learning and development. Ultimately, it's about showing that you’re interested in them, have taken the trouble to find out as much as you can about them, that you can add value to their business and are genuinely keen to join their team.

How can you answer challenging questions?

When it comes to interview questions, it’s important to remember that the hiring panel isn’t trying to trip you up. They are simply trying to establish if you are the right fit for their team, with the skills and experiences that they are looking for.

If you are asked a seemingly-obscure question then the interviewer may be looking at more than your answer. They may be looking to see your reaction, your thought processes, and how you handle stress. Companies such as Apple are renowned for asking at least one odd question in an interview – famously asking one candidate “If you were a pizza deliveryman how would you benefit from scissors?”

You can improve your answers to challenging questions as part of your pre-interview preparation. For example, it’s highly likely that you’ll be asked to explain your biggest weakness or how you handle stress. This is where employers are looking for you to demonstrate self-awareness and an understanding of how you plan to overcome your weakness. You may wish to conduct a personal SWOT analysis on yourself to help you reflect and consider potential improvement points.

For example, if you work in marketing and your weakness is in the digital space, you could sign up for a Google training course to help you to better understand data analytics. This would show to the employer that you’ve found a way to overcome your weakness and turn it into a strength.

What is your body language saying?

When it comes to face-to-face interviews, it’s easy to be aware of our body language. After all, we know that sitting slumped, or fidgeting, provides a poor impression. However, when it comes to video interviews, it’s much harder to be able to showcase positive body language. It’s worth revisiting our blog on how to make a good first impression via video interview for tips on how to appear relaxed, friendly and confident.

Simple gestures such as a big smile, nodding your head, and staring straight at the camera to simulate eye contact can be effective ways of making a positive impression.

Practical tips to build a rapport with your interviewing panel

You want to build a rapport with the interviewer. You want them to think favourably of you and remember you for all the right reasons!

To build a positive relationship with the panel (who may include your future line manager and/or other members of the team you may be working with), there are a few simple techniques that you can employ.

Show that you’re listening carefully to what you’re being asked. As you listen to your interview question, make sure that you pay close attention to what is being asked. You don’t want to go off on a tangent; you need to ensure that your answer is giving them the information that they need while showcasing your personality. If you need to take a few seconds to consider your answer, take a deep breath. Don’t be afraid to repeat the question or ask for clarification.

Subtly mimic mannerisms. It’s a psychological truth that we tend to be drawn to people who appear similar. A common interview technique is to mirror the mannerisms of an interview panel. It could be a subtle lean forward or using the same terminology in your answers. It could even be as subtle as taking the same tone of voice. Whatever the case, it’s important to be subtle about it.

Take a genuine interest in what has been said. Interviewing panels will be finely tuned to tell who is genuinely interested in working for their business, and those who aren’t. You’ll need to be able to show that you’re excited at the prospect of working with them and showcase what you can bring to the table. Interviewers are looking for someone with passion and excitement – as well as someone who can add value or bring an added dimension to the role.

Showcasing your skills via video

One of the many challenges of being interviewed via video comes from being unable to show off your portfolio or circulate examples of your best work as effectively as you would if you were sitting across the table from your interviewers.

A good option is to collate an online folder of work that you can share with the hiring manager. There are many free tools available – from sites such as Wakelet through to sharable folders on your Google Drive. If you go down this route, you will need to email a link to your online folder so that they can circulate it to the interviewing panel in advance. Alternatively, you could have examples of your work ready to showcase during the interview itself. If the interview is taking place through a tool such as Microsoft Teams, you can share your screen – allowing you to bring up various elements of work as and when they come up in conversation.

Ultimately, you want to be able to impress your potential employers. Showing off your best work and explaining how you approached each piece, is one way to do this.

We work closely with candidates throughout Oxfordshire and London, taking the time to get to know them so that we can match the right people with the right roles and the right employers.  To find out how we can help you, please upload your CV and we’ll be in touch.

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