One of the most stressful moments in life is being interviewed for a new job. You have no idea what sorts of questions you’ll be asked or how to come across as the best version of yourself. To tell you the truth, the way I usually slip up in interviews, is not being concise enough. When I’m nervous or excited, I tend to blabber on for miles when the answer could have been explained in two sentences.The STAR method helps (structuring your answers as: situation, task, action, result) and can be a useful tool that keeps you on track. Below you will discover ways in which you can answer certain questions. Write down some of your own examples, refine them and practice saying them out loud a few times. This will help you when it comes to delivering the answer concisely.
Try to anticipate what you’ll get asked:
In most interviews (coming from someone who interviews people as their full-time job) you will be able to predict at least some sort of direction about the types of questions you might be asked. Study the job description along with the company and really try to imagine what they might want to know about you. If you’ve prepared some great examples and they don’t get asked about these directly, find a way to fit them into the conversation. Here are some examples of what I usually see coming up:
- Please can you introduce yourself? Here is where your brilliant, snappy elevator pitch comes in and you set the tone with confidence, impressing your interviewer. You show passion and energy, you smile to build rapport. You don’t need to give your whole life story, just a few sentences about you, your expertise and why you’re here today sitting in front of them.
- Can you talk me through your experience on a high level? Tell it like a story and make it not only interesting but easy for the person at the other side of the screen to grasp. This can be a pretty difficult question to answer, so write it down and practise as you’ll almost always get asked this. You need to literally give an ‘overview’ of the experience and then finish on the more specifics like your key strengths, area of specialism and where you sit within the team and company. Make it easy for your interview to get a sense of you and what you do on a day to day basis. This is all we want to understand and it can be the most difficult thing to get out of someone in an interview because they overcomplicate it. Keep it simple.
- What is it about our company that interested you? For this answer, you want more than the generic ‘the role looks like it fits my skill set and I love that you are a fast-growing global company’. Honestly, when people say this it grates on me as it’s so generic and makes me feel like they put zero effort into really understanding why they want to work here. Check the basics such as the annual report, then go to their YouTube (career) channel. They will almost always have tons of information online including great stories about their culture, how they were founded, what their employees say. Think outside the box for this one, please.
- What is your weakness? Please please PLEASE do not say the following: ‘I’m a workaholic, I’m a perfectionist’, or the worst of all, ‘I don’t think I have any’. We all have weaknesses. The interview is firstly checking how self aware you are and secondly how you manage or overcome this weakness. One of my weaknesses early on in my career was time management. I was all over the place. Booking meetings on top of each other and feeling constantly overwhelmed. Luckily, at the time, I had an amazing manager (thank you Mia) who helped me get on top of this. Planning my weeks ahead blocking out times for admin and other tasks was a huge help. Tell them the honest weakness and show them how you work to improve this.
- Can you give me an example of a time you faced a challenge? What the interviewer wants to see here is your ability to deal with adversity and conflict. Give an example of a difficult client, stakeholder, colleague or project that went wrong. Be honest and tell them what you learned after you reflected on this. Even better, what you would have done differently if given the chance.
- Can you talk me through what exactly it is you are looking for next? You don’t have to know exactly, and you can be vague to some degree, but you must give something tangible. Perhaps you want to be on a large team getting involved in your general tasks whilst also taking on extra projects. Maybe you want to work across wider markets or with international colleagues. Whatever it is, don’t mention this if you know it’s not already part of this role. Be smart about this answer, don’t throw your toys out of the pram too soon.
There is no need to spend hours researching every single thing about the company you’re applying for, do enough to understand (and be able to articulate) what they do and what their mission is. Read some press releases and articles about them, have a quick glance at their annual report, look at one or two Glassdoor reviews but for the love of God, please be able to tell them why you want to work there. I ask this almost every time (when the candidate applies for the role) ‘What is it about our company that is attractive to you?’. If it’s a generic ‘on the spot’ such as ‘oh, it’s a really great global company’ I am unimpressed. I can tell immediately if they haven’t researched us, it tells me they don’t care and it makes me feel like my time is wasted. I want to interview people who want to work here and more importantly, know why they want to work here. If I know the candidate truly understands our culture and gave this answer some thought, I’m happy. This question will almost always come up.
Be on time:
I think this goes without saying but please be on time. If it’s Zoom, make sure you try it out beforehand if you haven’t used it before. Be ready to go 5 minutes before the interview. It’s very annoying when a candidate shows up late, I know things happen but trust me when I say it sends a bad signal to the interviewer.
Calm yourself down:
If you are nervous, that is ok. It’s also ok to tell the interviewer that you feel nervous or excited, it shows them that you are ok with being vulnerable. This is a trait that many people appreciate but so few have. Go for a walk before the interview, meditate and get your head in the right space. Get rid of the noise so you can gather your thoughts. Block out thirty minutes in your diary beforehand to do this.
Ask Good Questions:
There is nothing more disappointing than getting to the end of a great interview and handing it over to the candidate with: ‘So, I’m done questioning you, what questions do you have for me?’ for them to look at me blankly because they have nothing prepared. This tells me they have no intellectual curiosity or hunger to learn. When you do ask questions, ask one at a time and make them short and snappy. I sometimes find candidates going around in circles to ask one simple question. Just ask the question and then stop talking so that I can respond! Here’s an example of some good questions:
- What would success in this role look like in the first 6-12 months?
- How do you measure success in this particular role?
- What does a valuable employee look like to you?
- What sort of candidate would be your ideal fit?
- Why did you join the company?
- What are some of the challenges I would face if I got this role?
- Do you have any reservations about my ability to do this role?
The final question is quite confrontational, but I like it. Not everyone will want to ask this question, however, I usually do and here’s why: If the interviewer does have any concerns, provided they are honest about this when they answer, you have a chance to mitigate this and perhaps even change their mind.
Practise out loud:
There has been a lot of research pointing to this as an effective strategy. It gets your brain connected to your body and forces you to explicitly explain and develop your reasoning, your logic and most importantly, your message.
Nothing is more of a drainer than interviewing someone with zero energy or passion, answering questions in a monotone, unenthusiastic manner. Smile, show your excitement and make them feel that burning passion you have for this position and company. This is priceless.
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