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Ask Lawrence: What are your best tips for interviews?

26 Sep 12:00 by Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Interviews

I was recently asked if I had any tips and coaching for job interviews. Regardless of if they are with a recruitment consultant or with a company, it is important to always be able to put your best foot forward. While some people can be naturally at ease and charming, winning people over within minutes of meeting them, others can struggle with sitting down to meet a total stranger and talk about their career.

I can understand how nerve-wracking job interviews can be. If ever there was a meeting where you feel like you’re being judged, it is a job interview. It's important to remember though that you are not being judged as to what kind of person you are, simply if you're the right fit for this particular role. I'm sure we've all had experiences where we weren't successful and sometimes it is as much about being too experienced for the role as it is about not having enough experience.

Years ago, I went for a job interview with a community radio station, applying for a sales position. I was completely not right for the role based on my own experience however somehow I still managed to find myself in front of the client. I can’t remember what the exact question was that I had been asked. I was being interviewed by a panel of three and one of them was clearly there to ask the questions that they felt was clever and was going to separate the experienced from those who just weren’t right. Chances are his questions were absolutely spot on for that however, as the interview came to a close, he looked at me and said, “And the correct answer for the question before was… blah”. I don’t remember what “blah” actually was but what I do recall was the obnoxious arrogance that he had as he said it. In that moment, I actually recall thinking that even if they did offer me the job, I would not want to work with a man like that.

So what is the moral of my story that I’m sharing?  

Well, the first one is to keep in mind that a job interview is as much an opportunity for you to be curious and to explore if the company is a right fit for you as much as they’re exploring if you’re the right fit for the job. Despite my example above, chances are that you would not have been placed in front of them for the opportunity if they didn’t believe you could actually do the job, right? Know what you would like to see, be curious and invested in the discussion and use the opportunity to impress them with your genuine interest in what the company has to offer.

The other moral from this story is simple; no one likes a tool. You need to have the right attitude and that is someone who is likeable, professional and genuine. If they’re going to talk down to you in the interview, chances are that this is what they’re going to be like in the day to day of the role. Is that something that you really want? Likewise, if you go in there all cocky or too sure of yourself, no matter how good you are, chances are you may do yourself out of the position from your behaviour.

If you’re feeling nervous before hand and you suspect that this is going to impact on your ability to stay focused and present in the conversation, then ensure you know how to calm yourself down before going in. Look up some deep breathing exercises and take a few deep calming breaths before going in.  

You also want to keep in mind what you discuss. I always say that the bullet points of what you do on your CV may land you the interview but talking about the achievements and successes you’ve had is going to be what lands you the role. What do you have to bring to the table for your client? You’ll want to have a few case studies from your past ready for discussion that highlights the project, your action within that and the result. The result doesn’t always have to be outstanding; it is really about highlighting your action, initiative and drive. If possible, practice giving these responses to someone you know prior to the interview to gain their feedback and to see if they got a real sense of what you were doing in that situation.

You’ll want to ensure that you keep it positive. Never lie; always answer truthfully. Never put down former employers or colleagues. Don’t give yes or no answers. Keep in mind that the person interviewing you might not be used to interviewing people too and if they’re in a senior position and used to just being given what information is needed, they may have unconsciously formed a habit of asking questions that are closed and provoke yes or no responses. Be engaged in the opportunity, show your enthusiasm and offer up a story from your career that highlights how amazing you truly are.   

Know something about the company you’re interviewing for. Be genuinely excited about the opportunity and show them that you’re going to be grateful for the opportunity to share your skills with them and build the role. Do a Google search and see what is being said about the company; what is the culture like there? Who else works there and what kind of background do they have? What kind of competitors does the business have?  

Post interview, always follow up - either with your recruitment consultant or, if you’ve gone in directly - with the client themselves. A short thank you note for their time goes a long way in showing that you appreciate the opportunity and that you’re coming from a place of gratitude.  

When you step back and look at this topic, there is actually a lot that can be explored and certainly far more than we have the time or space to cover today. You have everything from fashion awareness and business etiquette through to rapport building, experiential questions and answers and even elements of psychology. Most people have that gut reaction as to if the interview has gone well or not and that will often be down to just how engaged everyone seemed in the prospect of you working with them. While we can't cover everything, hopefully there is something here that you'll be able to take away with you to consider as you approach your next interview.

Fingers crossed, you’ll get the role. However if you don’t, understand that often the difference between the successful candidate and the unsuccessful candidates is often such a small detail. How do you choose between great and greater still? Often it is going to be down to a small detail that you feel is just going to work better than the others. If you’ve been rejected for a few roles, it can be easy to take it personally and begin to feel that you’re unemployable so it is important to develop a resilience and focus. Look at how to revise your CV and any other materials that might be needed to land a successful role and continue to explore what opportunities may exist out there for you.  

Lawrence Akers has been working in the creative recruitment industry for the past 14 years (and counting) and is a Senior Recruitment Consultant with Creative Recruiters specialising in the corporate, government and NFP sectors. For more information on current available creative positions connect with me, follow us on LinkedIn and like our Facebook page.