We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect” and it’s a good motto to live by…most of the time. If you are already good at something or if you are using methods that are tried and true, go ahead and practice until it’s perfected, but what if the methods are bad? This is one of the biggest problems interviewers face. Think about your own experience – you know you have the skills for the job and you know you are a good fit with the company, but you also know you need to interview better to get the job, so you keep practicing the same old techniques over and over, hoping next time you’ll get it right and land your dream job.
Practicing is a great idea, but only if you’re practicing with the right interview techniques. In fact, you might be surprised to learn how many candidates are hired because of how they came across in the interview, not because of their past experience. Here are 6 ways to improve your interview skills – 6 tried and true methods that are worth practicing!
1. Change How You Think About Interviews
Job interviews seem to be all about answering questions, so many people come up with good answers and rehearse those answers until they know them well. Interviewers, however, are looking for so much more than good answers. The interview is their only chance to get to know you as a person, and see if you will be a good fit for the company. Yes, you should be able to answer questions well, and you should be prepared for any type of question, but when you think about what your answers should be, remember that they need to represent you as a person and allow you to communicate normally, not as someone quoting a memorized script. So, if you want to practice this method to interview better, stop thinking of the interview as an exam, and more as a simple meeting between 2 people who want to see if joining together is a good idea. Do you think you will be a good fit at this company? The only way to show them is to be comfortably yourself in the interview.
2. Emphasis on the “Fit”
You may be surprised how often being a good fit for a company or team overshadows past experience and skill sets when companies are looking for someone. Job candidates tend to focus so much on how their experience, job history and professional skills, and often miss another very important ingredient: fit. Your past experiences are very valuable and you should still focus on these aspects of the job interview, but don’t make the mistake of forgetting the fit. Because no company wants to hire someone who won’t fit in with the team, no matter how wonderful their employment history is or how qualified they are for the job. Nine times out of ten, companies would rather spend the money to train someone than hire someone who they aren’t sure is going to fit. Make sure your resume does a good job of covering your qualifications for the job so that you are take those experiences and show how they make you a great fit for the company in the interview. If you know you aren’t as qualified as other candidates will be, you should definitely put extra emphasis on the fit.
3. Learn the Other Side of Interviewing Through Role Playing
Not too many job candidates know what it feels like to be on the other side of the desk. You can stress yourself out, trying to figure out what interviewers are looking for, but the only way to know that is to put yourself in their shoes. Pick a couple of job ads similar to the type of job you are looking for, and find some friends who want to practice their interviewing skills, or better yet, let them find some of their other friends (people you don’t know) and they can practice their interview skills with you. Look into the companies and get a sense of what they are really looking for in a candidate and conduct some interviews. This will help you know how it feels to be the interviewer for a change, and you will be able to pinpoint some things the interviewees are doing wrong. Take notes, and compare with your past interview experiences to see where you need to improve.
4. Know Yourself Better by Seeking Constructive Criticism
Many people do well in the beginning of an interview, only to falter when the questions get personal. You would think that those would be the easiest questions to answer, but a lot of people don’t know themselves as well as they think. To help you get to know yourself, ask some good friends to tell you (nicely) about what they think your biggest strengths and weaknesses are, how you handle stressful situations, what makes you successful, and how you can improve. Take notes and compare with your own perceptions once you are alone again. Remember, your friends care about you and are not out to hurt you. Their constructive criticism can help you interview better.
5. Heavey Research Is the Key to Interview Better
Many job seekers hear that they should research the company before an interview and spend 15 minutes perusing the website, memorize a few facts and take that to the interview, so they can throw in a couple of facts here and there and maybe ask a good question to impress the hiring manager. This is not good enough to set you apart from everyone else.
How badly do you want this job? Make it show by investing your time on doing some heavy research on the company. Find out how they started, their past mistakes and successes, their beliefs, vision, goals for the future, past and present CEOs and how they helped the company to success, and whatever else you can dig up. Now, look at your resume, look at who you are as a professional person, and think about what you can do for them. Think about how you fit with this company, what you admire about them and what you can learn from the company’s history. You will want to reformulate some of your interview answers so that you can seamlessly incorporate this information into your answers.