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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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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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