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Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success

Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success

Great news: after all those job applications, you’ve actually made it to the interview stage! In this competitive job market, you need to stand out and though your CV has already made a good impression, you need to follow this through at the interview. I’ve had to interview for a few roles over the years and I’ve been amazed at, despite having impressive CVs, how many simple mistakes candidates make during the interview.

Yes, we all want astonish our future employers with our brilliance and expertise, but if we turn up late or don’t look the part, then there’s a strong chance the interview is blown! So to help all you future interviewees out there, I thought I’d put together a list of dos and don’ts to ensure you at least have a chance of getting your dream job!

1. Don’t stretch the truth.

First and foremost, lying on your CV is not a good idea. Remember, you will have to talk through everything you have written, in detail, so there’s a strong chance you will get caught out. While we’re on the subject of CVs, don’t exaggerate in a bid to look perfect. I remember reading a candidate’s CV once, and they appeared to be more angelic than Mother Theresa herself, undertaking various voluntary roles as well as caring for sick relatives—even their dog gave blood! I began to worry that they never had any time left to work!

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2. Do your homework.

One of the first questions often asked at interview is, “What do you know about our company?” so make sure you can talk confidently about their services. I remember interviewing someone once, and when faced with this question, they went totally blank. They muttered the words that were written under the logo which was on the wall behind my head, but couldn’t elaborate on anything after that.

I knew it was just nerves, but it was uncomfortable to watch, and the tumbleweed silence that ensued was only broken by their heavy breathing. So make sure you read as much as you can about the company and if you are prone to nerve-driven mind-blank moments, make some notes and have them in front of you as a prompt. OK, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than saying you don’t know!

Businesswoman and entrepreneur, Karen James of Lilac James has years of interviewing experience:

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“Every interviewer will have their own quirks, likes and dislikes, these are impossible to determine so making sure all your bases are covered will ensure you given the best impression of yourself. It’s simple really. I personally like to be sure people know about my business and ask questions about the role. Asking about money and benefits before an offer is on the table is not a good idea and don’t be rude about past employers. Even if you feel you are being led in this direction, the interviewer may be testing your reaction so be professional at all times.”

3. Yes, appearance does matter.

Well, this may sound like an obvious thing to say, but appearance is so important. You are expected to show your best self in every way at the interview, so if you turn up looking scruffy, dirty or dressed like you’re going to a club, interviewers will presume that if this best you can do, it can only get worse from here!

Do your research and just pitch it right. If you’re interviewing for a job in fashion, then wear trendy clothing; if you want to be a city banker, invest in a suit (watch the Wall Street movies for guidance!). It’s not just your clothes though—it’s your appearance in general.

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I know a manager who is put off by people wearing too much perfume or aftershave or smelling of smoke (take heed smokers), and if you have dirty or chipped nails, well, you have no chance! To an interviewer, looking like you care reflects how you will apply yourself in your future role.

4. Keep focused.

You must try to keep focused and answer questions clearly and concisely. Using and taking notes in an interview is acceptable and preparing questions to ask in advance will look like you’ve done your research and thought carefully about the role.

Don’t ramble and don’t over-talk. Remember, you need to give your interviewer the opportunity to ask some questions. Just bear in mind, an interview is a dialogue not a monologue; there’s a fine line between confidence and coming across as cocky. Listen to what the interviewer is saying and don’t let your mind drift through nerves. The interviewer will know when your eyes glaze over and you’re no longer in the room, so to speak. Therefore, if it takes a double espresso to keep you alert in the interview, then my advice is: do it!

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5. A hug is way too far!

OK, this is easy: don’t hug you’re interviewer when you leave! Everyone loves a hug, but this is a step too far at an interview, even if you feel like it went well. Remember, your interviewer is not your new BFF. A firm handshake will suffice.

When asked about your life don’t, whatever you do, reveal your innermost secrets. They don’t need to know that your partner had an affair or that you have a reoccurring nail fungus. The interviewer just wants to wrap up the interview with an idea of who you are out of work. They want to hear about your hobbies and interests, so appear interesting and bear in mind, this is a job interview not a counselling session!

I know these tips can’t guarantee you will get the job but at least they will help the interviewer remember you for your skills and knowledge instead of the tale you told about your fling with your old boss. After all, it’s not much to ask to turn up on time, look presentable, show knowledge and interest in the role and appear confident and positive about the opportunity of an interview with the company you really want to work with. It’s not rocket science, so what are you waiting for? Pop a mint in your mouth and go get that job!

Featured photo credit: Dollar Photo Club via dollarphotoclub.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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