Many might expect a connection between seniority of a candidate and the quality of their interviews. That is not what we experience at Mission Talent: we’ve seen excellent interviews with more junior candidates and rather disappointing interviews with more senior candidates.
So what makes an interview successful? In-depth preparation, excellent communication and some empathy are all crucial—as is meeting the key requirements.
Note: Everything in this blog is based on real experience.
Whether you applied directly for a role or were approached by a headhunter you still need to show an interest in the role and the organisation. The best way to do that is to engage and do your research - ahead of interviewing. Research the sector, the organization, the “competitors” and be sure you can explain what the organization does. Think about trends in the sector too; its opportunities and threats.
Understand the key requirements of the role by carefully analysing the job spec and other information you have obtained. What does the organisation need? What would your tasks be? What are the requirements?
Think about what you have done previously that would be valuable in the role. The interviewer is looking to see how you and your experience connects with their mission, vision and values. What have you done that is comparable? What situations illustrate your decision-making and reactions to difficult situations? When have you have had to work with or lead a difficult staff member; overcome a crisis; or made a mistake and (importantly!) learned from it. Think about your strengths relating to all the requirements, but also do think about your weaknesses!
Most interviews today are done via videoconference. Make sure you are in a quiet area that will remain free from interruptions. Check your equipment before the interview and make sure the interviewer can see you properly (head and upper body; not just parts of your face or the side view.). Avoid using hand-held devices at all costs - the slightest movement is very distracting for the interviewer. Do not sit with your back to a window (the interviewer won’t be able to see your face). Turn off the camera and mute the microphone if you need to make changes to your position, clothing or anything else; or have to speak to any other person.
Remember, the interviewer wants to find out how your skills, experiences and qualifications match the profile. Be aware that panel members may not be professional interviewers, which requires extra attention to the following points.
Listen carefully to the questions and make sure you answer them. If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be rephrased. Taking time to think about your answer is fine. Do not allow silence to make you nervous. You do not have to fill silence with words.
Give full answers—and also allow the interviewer to guide the conversation. Be brief and specific. An interview is about quality and not quantity of words. If you wander away from the topics that the interviewer wants to cover, not only might they lose interest, it also means you have less time to address the issues they want to talk about.
Check you are being understood; visual clues can help in face-to-face interviews and video interviews so watch out for these. In audio-only interviews you may need to pause and check verbally more often. Again: allow the interviewer to guide you through the interview.
Do not shy away from talking about yourself and your achievements—or what strengths you have that contributed to an achievement reached by a team. The interviewer wants to know about YOU. Talking about “us”, “we” and “our” shows team play, but show the interviewer the strengths you contributed to the success, highlighting your role and your contribution.
Being reflective is a strength! Talk about your weaknesses and how you manage these. When the interviewer asks you about your weaknesses in leadership, avoid the clichés about being considered to be a workaholic or that you have the same high expectations of others that you have for yourself. It will leave an interviewer wondering what your real weaknesses are. Talking openly about weaknesses is a strength, creates trust and makes you authentic!
Don’t embellish or exaggerate your achievements. We know that, like us, you are not perfect—and a quick online search or reference check will give us another viewpoint.
Sending a thank you note with some detail about what you thought of the process with a brief overview of your achievements is always a good idea, but don’t delay. If you feel that you missed some important aspects to the interview state them in this note. Sometimes the next steps of recruitment processes are decided quickly.
At Mission Talent we would love to hear about your interview experiences—the good and the bad. We look forward to your comments!
(This blog first appeared as part of PCDNetwork’s Career in Change 2017 series on the PCDNetwork website)