Take Your Interviews to the Next Level
Updated: Jul 7, 2020
I have been in the recruitment game for over 15 years now. That means I have interviewed a lot of candidates (and that is putting it lightly). After recommending a shortlist, I have also de-briefed on a lot of interviews between candidates and clients to hear both perspectives on how they went. It would be fair to say that I have seen and heard about the best and the worst of interviews - and everything in between.
At the current time, when the supply of jobs to the availability of talent is making for a fiercely competitive job-hunting market, interview processes are becoming increasingly rigorous. Recruiters are receiving hundreds of applications to each job they advertise and the shortlisting process is no mean feat. Therefore, if you are one of the chosen few to make it through to interview stage, more than ever before,
the pressure to bring your top performance to the interview stage is on.
Here, I would like to use my years of interviewing experience to help you do this. I am not about to make you yawn with ‘Recruitment 101’ interviewing tips like, “iron your shirt” or “be prepared with some probing questions to ask at the end.” Instead, I have distilled some of the most important interview feedback I have collected over the years for you to consider as part of your interview preparation. Applied correctly, these few points will give you the opportunity to take your current level of play to the next level during an interview.
LET YOURSELF BE INTERVIEWED
I have found that more senior and experienced a person gets and the more they are accustomed to being the leader in the room, the harder it can be for them to let themselves be interviewed. Think, for a moment, about what the word interview means. Inter has Latin roots where it meant between or among. When you combine that with the word, view, we can deduce that an interview is an opportunity for two people to look more deeply into each other’s experiences, behaviours and learnings to see if there is alignment. Yes, an interview is a two-way street. The employer is interviewing you to see if you can do the job as much as you are interviewing them to see if they are someone you want to work for.
However, this needs to be balanced with the traditional dynamic of a job interview which consists of an interviewer and an interviewee. In my experience,
the best interview experience comes when the interviewer is given the scope to lead the questioning.
It is through this dynamic that the interviewee can find out a lot about the interviewer and the organisation they represent if they are attentive in the way they listen and pose questions at the right times during the course of the conversation.
However, I have interviewed people in the past who have seemed oblivious to the fact that in order for me to properly assess their fit to the role, I have needed to ask them particular questions. They have been too involved in communicating what they think I want to hear rather than allowing me to steer the conversation at the right junctures. This brings me to my next key point:
SILENCE IS YOUR FRIEND
The best way to let yourself be interviewed is to make friends with silence. By this, I mean give the interviewer the space in the conversation to absorb what you have said and move the conversation in the next direction. Practically speaking, this means that you need to carefully listen to what they are asking you. Taking a few moments of silence before you answer the question allows you the opportunity to collect and order your thoughts. It also allows the interviewer to prepare their headspace for your response.
The next place you can use silence effectively in an interview is at the end of your response to a question.
Be intentional with how you finish your response and resist the urge to fill the space with more words.
I think of interview responses like stones thrown into the air. Let them land and settle before the next stone is picked up. It is much easier for the interviewer to think about one stone landing at a time than the clinking of many stones falling at once. In the silence that follows a detailed response, the interviewer feels empowered to explore your commentary in more detail or move in a different direction. Do not underestimate the positive impact that will come from making your interviewer feel empowered.
DRAW LINKS FOR THE INTERVIEWER
Before the interview, you may have:
· read the position description
· analysed the job advertisement
· read the Annual Report
· read any news articles you could find
· read and re-read your notes from your initial inquiry call about the role.
You think you have some idea of what it might take for you to make a difference in this role and what some of the pain points relating to the role might be.
Tick? Right then, use this to your advantage during the interview by drawing links to your potential impact on the role. This is about having the courage and presence of mind to finish appropriate responses with,
“In relation to this role, my potential impact could be…”
And here you can feed in a pain point, a core competency required or a result that needs to be achieved (KPI). This takes some of the thought work out for the interviewer and shows your deep level of preparation, research and drive, in a subtle manner.
For example, you know going into an interview for a General Manager Marketing role, that one of the key pain points facing this role is the sales performance of the eCommerce channel. The position description states that a KPI for the role is to grow online sales from 3% to 5% of sales within 12 months. During the interview, you are asked to share an example of how you have grown eCommerce sales results in a past role. You tell the story, discussing all facets of how you achieved a sales uplift. BUT THEN….you go on to say, “in relation to the role we are here discussing today, my potential impact on your business could be leading your Marketing team, putting the right technology platforms in place and engaging with the appropriate suppliers, on top of the development of cutting-edge digital marketing strategies to grow your online sales to your goal of at least 5% of total sales. And then, silence. Let that stone drop. If I were interviewing you, I would smile at that point.
I acknowledge that advice on interviewing can seem hard to swallow at times because each interview situation is different, as is the skill, style and experience of each interviewer and interviewee. At a high level though, I do think that many interviews I have conducted over the years may have taken a different course if some of this advice had been taken into account.
At the end of the day, you want the person interviewing you to feel like they have what they need to make a decision by the end of the interview. As the interviewee, if you empower them to do this by letting them take the steering wheel, you can use the flow of the interview to glean a lot of information for your own decision-making. Silence is a powerful tool to support this dynamic in the interview room. If you can also extrapolate some of your responses out during an interview to paint the picture of your potential impact in the role, it could well give you an edge.
In this talent-rich market, the successful candidate may inch across the finish line, only by an edge.