In our previous article, we explored four insider tips to help you prepare for your interview. But what about when you’re there, in person, in the ‘interview hot seat’ on the ‘big day’?
Apply these tips to bring your interview performance to life.
Watch the latest film in our series here or read below how to shine in interviews
- Create a winning first impression
Never under-estimate the impact opening seconds can make. Dress smart and dress for the role you want, not for the role you have. Make sure your hair is styled. If you’re carrying a bag or papers, keep them in your left hand so your right hand is free and never clammy. That way, you can focus on a confident, firm (but never vice-like) handshake with direct eye contact and a smile.
- Treat everyone as if they are the most important person in the world
Realise your interview begins before you even reach the door of the building. What if it turns out you’ve been sitting opposite your interviewer on the train? What if they observed you in the lobby? What if they quizzed the reception staff about your attitude and manners? What if you failed to hold the door for someone who turned out to be your interviewer? From even before you arrive, treat everyone as if they are the most important person in the world. On interview day, they may be just that.
- This is showtime
Average candidates sit through an interview answering questions as asked. Winning candidates demonstrate far more enthusiasm. They realise that their interview is their stage and that it is their chance to truly perform. Give your interviewer a performance with courage and passion, not merely answers to their questions. This is your chance to shine!
- Smile and maintain natural eye contact
Interviews can be a stressful experience. But smiling tends to be contagious. While you shouldn’t set out to trial your stand-up comedy routine, do inject warm smiles and maintain natural eye contact with your interviewer throughout your meeting. This simple technique will demonstrate your emotional intelligence and sense of social warmth.
- Body language and voice tone are more important than your actual words
Research by Professor Albert Mehrabian emphasizes the importance of non-verbal communication. He showed that while only 7% of communication is driven by our words, 38% comes from our tone of voice and fully 55% comes from our body language. So, it’s worth reading up on body language and its impact before your interview. Naturally ‘matching and mirroring’ your interviewer’s body language – e.g. leaning forward when they lean forward, etc. – has been found to generate rapid and powerful rapport.
- Signpost each part of your answer
Put yourself in your interviewer’s shoes. They must make sense of your answer. Help them by explaining any multiple parts to your answer. For example, “There are 3 reasons why I’m interested in this contract…” Then, as you move between the parts, use body language to emphasise you’re switching to the next section. For long answers, summarise and re-signpost key points at the end by visibly counting them off on your fingers. It demonstrates real poise and shows a total command of your answers.
- Use your interviewer’s name
Their name is the most important word for any individual – including your interviewer! By using your interviewer’s name occasionally within your answers, you’ll build better rapport. Keep it natural. And, of course, don’t over-do it.
- Don’t forget to breathe
Many candidates become so tense during their interview that their body succumbs to shallow breathing. This results in reduced oxygen flow to the brain – hardly what you want under interview scrutiny. After each answer, relax your body: Stop talking. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Let your shoulders drop down. Place your hands palms-down on your thighs. Try it now. Inhale. You’ll find this is an incredibly calming position: A position from which you’ll be ready – physically and mentally – to handle the next interview question.
- Have questions and key summary points ready for the end of the interview
The best questions are those you really want to know the answer to. Your interviewer may also close by saying, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?” This is the perfect time for one of two concluding elements: Either, summarise why you want the contract and concisely recap on why you’re a great match for the role. Or, briefly reflect if you’ve done enough to answer the interviewer’s 3 big questions: “Can you do the role?” “Will you do the role?” “Will you fit in?” If you feel you’ve not evidenced each of these, then address your omitted content with your best examples.
- Create a winning last impression (The interview doesn’t end when they say it’s over!)
Be sure to thank your interviewer personally for their time. Shake hands with good eye contact. Enquire for their business card so you can follow up with a thank you email that evening. Very few candidates will do this, but it’s your chance to stand out again, to demonstrate you go the extra mile and to remind them briefly of your key skills and motivations which make you ideal for this contract.
In our next article, we’ll be exploring how to answer even the trickiest of interview questions.