Everything You Need to Know About Doing Interviews

Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus

Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus

I have compiled the best information from around the world in one blog post to help you prepare for your job interview. Below are the essential tips and resources that you need to practice before your moment in the spotlight. Remember, knowing your answers to the key questions and understanding the best body language positions are only half the battle, you need to practice them so often that they become natural.

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We don’t want to just survive the interview, we want to excel.

Daniel Kahneman wrote in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ found that many interviewers may fall into the cognitive trap of What you see is all there is. 

Because interviewers are overconfident in their intuitions, they will assign too much weight to their personal impressions and too little weight to other sources of information, lowering validity.
— Daniel Kahneman, 'Thinking Fast and Slow'
Photo Credit: Buster Benson

Photo Credit: Buster Benson

That’s why it's key we understand that the personal impressions of the interviewer are what we need to prepare for. The experience, skills and qualifications are obviously important for getting to the interview stage, but after that, our performance in the interview is what will carry us through. 

 

When to do the interview

If you can choose the interview time, according to Glassdoor, the online career community,  the best time is around 10:30am on Tuesday morning. In other words, it’s not Monday when everyone is getting ready for the week, and it's not Friday when people are gearing up for the weekend. Furthermore, it’s the start of the business day and not before lunch (when people are thinking about food!). And it’s not towards the end of the business day (when people are thinking about going home).

However, research shows that if the decision regarding the job has to be made quickly, then the earlier the better.

The study found that especially in circumstances under which decisions must be made quickly or without much deliberation, preferences are unconsciously and immediately guided to those options presented first. While there are sometimes rational reasons to prefer firsts, e.g. the first resume is designated on the top of the pile because that person wanted the job the most, Carney says the “first is best” effect suggests that firsts are preferred even when completely unwarranted and irrational. (1)

Before the interview checklist:

  • Research the company - show your interest in what they do!
    • Who are they?
    • What do they do?
    • Where do they have offices?
    • When do they work and what hours?
    • Why do they do what they do? What’s the company mission?
    • How do they do it? How do they compare to their competitors? 
    • Do they have a blog and what do they write about?
    • Do they have a social media presence and what do they post about? 
  • Practice making a good first impression with friends and family. The usual rules apply - firm handshake, smile and eye contact. The best thing to do is get feedback from people about how you do this. 
  • Dress well and have an alternative outfit that's clean and ironed - just in case!
  • Bring an umbrella - it will probably rain!
  • Bring your CV with you just in case they don’t have it with them.
  • Practice the typical questions that are asked in interviews (See appendix 1)
  • Have your questions ready for them. (See appendix 2)
  • Work on your focus, physiology and language. (See appendix 3)

Logistics:

  • Check the location of the interview.
  • Plan and do your route in advance.
  • Make sure your mobile phone is charged (and has credit!) in case you need to use it.
  • Have the phone number of the company and the interviewer if you are running late or have problems finding the office.
  • Aim to arrive 30 minutes early. You can relax and have a cup of tea is a nearby cafe if you have extra time.
  • Have cash for a taxi just in case there is a problem with your car or public transport.

During the interview:

  • Make a good first impression (firm handshake, eye contact, smile and greeting).
  • Sell yourself by stating your skills, competencies and work experience in relation to the job specifications that they have outlined.
  • A good general rule is to keep your answers between 30 seconds - 2 minutes, unless the situation or question dictates a longer answer. Be concise and have examples prepared just in case you’re asked
  • Have a strategy for dealing with their objections. For example: 
    • "You’re over-qualified” - Possible Answer: "That may be so, however this is exactly the type of role that I’m looking for at this stage of my career. It seems to me that the company would benefit from having someone who could bring more value and more experience for the same financial commitment. That’s a good deal as far as I’m concerned. 
      OR
      Salary is not my top priority. I’m more concerned about doing work that I enjoy and this is a position I know I would like.
    • "You’re under-qualified” - Possible Answer: That is something that I’m addressing at the moment. I’ve very keen to do this job and I believe that I have the skills and experience to do it well. However, I am also passionate about improving my knowledge and gaining new qualifications as part of my continuous professional development plan. 

After the interview:

  • Thank them for their time and ask them when you can hope to hear back from them.
  • Some people like to send a ‘thank you’ card but that is a matter of preference.

Appendix 1: Popular interview questions to practice

  • Tell us about yourself
  • What do you know about this company?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Why are you looking for a new job?
  • What do you know about this job?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What would you say are your strengths?
  • What would you say are your weakness?
  • Why should we hire you?
  • What do you like and dislike about the job we are discussing?
  • Why did you choose a career in …?
  • What do you think of the current/last company you worked for?
  • How do you handle difficult people? Please give an example.
  • Tell me about a time you had a difficult situation that you had to deal with.
  • Can you act on your own initiative?
  • Are you a team player? Can you give me an example of this?
  • Can you work under pressure?
  • How many hours are you prepared to work?
  • What are your career goals over the next 5 years?
  • What interests do you have outside work?
  • Are you prepared to relocate?
  • What did you earn in your last job? What level of salary are you looking for now?
  • Do you have any questions about the role or the company?

Appendix 2: Good questions to ask the interviewer

  • Are there opportunities for continuous professional development within the company? 
  • What is the top priority for the person with this position in the next three months?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What’s the working environment like?
  • How does the company measure success?

Appendix 3: Focus, Physiology and Language

 

FOCUS on all of the things that have gone well in your career to date:

  • Past achievements (also see victory stacking)
  • Personal strengths and qualities
  • Skills and competencies (as on CV)
  • Areas that you’re working on to improve (former weaknesses)
  • Future career plans and continuous professional development

 

Maintain a good PHYSIOLOGY and positive body language

Photo Credit: Amy Cuddy, Harvard University

Photo Credit: Amy Cuddy, Harvard University

So social scientists have spent a lot of time looking at the effects of our body language, or other people’s body language, on judgments.And we make sweeping judgments and inferences from body language. And those judgments can predict really meaningful life outcomes like who we hire or promote...
— Amy Cuddy

According to Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School, people who did the above 'power poses' for 2 minutes before going into the interview performed better and were more liked by the interviewers compared to those who didn't. Remember that those poses are to be done before the interview, whereas normal sitting postures are to be done during the interview!

So it seems that our nonverbals do govern how we think and feel about ourselves, so it’s not just others, but it’s also ourselves. Also, our bodies change our minds...”

”We also evaluate these people much more positively overall.” But what’s driving it? It’s not about the content of the speech. It’s about the presence that they’re bringing to the speech.

Use empowering and compelling LANGUAGE where possible.

Here are twenty words to use in the interview that will help make a good impression:

  • Opportunity
  • Hard-worker
  • Team-player
  • Motivated
  • Enthusiastic
  • Progress
  • Learn
  • Challenge
  • Strengths
  • Exceed
  • Achievement
  • Active
  • Develoop
  • Diligent
  • Experience
  • Implement
  • Dedicate
  • Ambitious
  • Planning
  • Skills

After all of those tips and resources, the only other thing that I would say is to try and enjoy it! It will help you relax and may help relax the interviewer - who may be more nervous than you! I hope this blog post was of help to you in your interview preparation. As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading. Ronan


References:

University of California - Berkeley Haas School of Business. "The advantages of being first." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120702210301.htm>.

Avenue, N. (2014) 10 Job Interview Questions You Should Ask. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2014/06/18/10-job-interview-questions-you-should-ask/ (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
Doyle, A. (no date) How to Answer Job Questions About Being Overqualified. Available at: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewquestionsanswers/a/overqualified.htm (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
Glassdoor and Huhman, H. (no date) ‘5 Tips: Best Times To Schedule An Interview | Glassdoor Blog’, Glassdoor Blog, Available at: http://www.glassdoor.com/blog/5-tips-times-schedule-interview/ (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
Guerrero, A. (2014) The 8 Best Questions to Ask a Job Interviewer. Available at: http://money.usnews.com/money/careers/slideshows/the-8-best-questions-to-ask-a-job-interviewer (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow. 1st edn. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 
TED (2012) Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are | Amy Cuddy | TED Talks. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
Ternynck, J. (no date) 8 Questions Every Candidate Should Ask During Job Interviews. Available at: http://www.inc.com/jerome-ternynck/8-questions-every-candidate-should-ask-during-job-interviews.html (Accessed: 29 July 2015) 
6 great interview questions and why you should ask them (no date) Available at: https://www.enterprisealive.ie/connect-with-us/6-great-interview-questions-and-why-you-should-ask-them/ (Accessed: 29 July 2015)