Think back to the last time you were interviewed for a new job opportunity.
Chances are you were feeling a mixture of emotions at the time. Excitement. Nervousness. Anticipation. Anxiousness. All of these are completely natural and normal.
The interview process itself is a fascinating one. Chances are that you wouldn’t be sitting in front of the interviewer unless it had already been established that you could do the job. Once it gets to the interview stage, it isn’t so much about if you can do the job, it is more about how well you can do it and what else you can bring to the table.
With this in mind, the interview is often the one chance that people get to be able to impress, to articulate their past achievements and success stories, and to offer a feeling of certainty to prospective employers that you are ‘the one’.
So why is it lately that so many people seem to be stuffing it up?
Why am I speaking to so many employers lately who are telling me horror stories about their recent interview experiences and how people are turning up inappropriately dressed, ill prepared for the questions, and generally giving a feeling that they either don’t care or, in some cases, don’t actually even want the job?
My personal belief is that it doesn’t take too much extra effort to stand out in an interview; you just need to be genuinely engaged with the role and demonstrate that you have the right experience. With that in mind, here are a few tips to ensure that you put your best foot forward.
Do research on the company
I absolutely wouldn’t want to work for a company that I personally knew nothing about and so it makes sense that you might want to research the company to find out as much about them as you can. You don’t want to turn up and drop every fact you’ve discovered during a conversation; that might come across as a little contrived. You can use that information to steer where the conversation could go though and show that you’ve gained some insight into who the company is, who their competitors are, and what success that company has had over time.
Be prepared with examples of your achievements
As I said before, if you reach the interview stage, it has gone beyond if you can do the job to how well you can do the job. One word of advice, stories sell. If you can think about the key requirements of the job and come up with a story from your career that highlights your experience in that area, then you’re going to be able to use those stories at just the right moment to help cement your ability with that responsibility.
Dress appropriately for the environment
If you’re going through a recruiter, maybe take a moment to ask them what the dress code is there or how you should dress. Within the creative industry, it is probably more important to ensure that you’re neither too formal or too casual. You want to look smart, professional and that you care.
Years ago, I had organised this interview for a role that was to happen at the end of the working day. As I was walking home that night, the client called me on the phone. I was expecting to hear about how much they loved each other and perhaps even a job offer. What I got instead was an earful from an angry client who was so unimpressed with the way this person had presented. They had the skills on paper but they turned up to the interview, seemed disinterested and then - and this is the worst bit - put their feet up on his desk. During an interview. Feet on desk.
Now, you can imagine that I was in utter disbelief in hearing this and could only wonder what the hell this candidate thought they were doing. You would think having to tell someone NOT to put their feet up on their prospective employers desk would be inappropriate and yet there I was, taking this phone call and apologising profusely to the client.
Yes, an interview is as much about you determining if you would like to work for them as much as it is about them determining if they would like to work for you. However I think we can agree that putting your feet up on a desk would be the death nail to that opportunity. As would giving one word answers, constantly looking at your watch, using inappropriate language, or bagging out your previous employer because you thought they were a git. Developing that inner awareness of professionalism is VITAL for interviews.
Be on time.
If the interview is at 5:00 PM, be there a few minutes beforehand. If it is an online interview, log in a minute too and make sure that you’re still appropriately dressed. Being interviewed in pajama’s is not cool but I can tell you that I noticed it a few times last year.
Give feedback if necessary
As a recruiter, we’ll want feedback as soon as possible. If the news is not good, please don’t send a text and hope it goes away. It really shows a lack of respect to both the client and the recruiter who could benefit from your feedback as to why this isn’t the right opportunity for you. I think most people can accept that people will change their minds or decide that the opportunity isn’t right for them; we’re all human. When you decide to hold off letting someone know for days and then do it via an SMS or a online email, it can really burn bridges. Additionally, it is always possible that the feedback can be used to help achieve what you actually want all along, or that the transparency can help to reinforce to the recruiter that you’re a person of integrity and allow them to keep an eye out for you.
Follow these tips, as obvious as some of them might be, and you’ll stand out over your fellow candidates. Of course, if you’re feeling nervous prior to a job interview, ask your recruiter or a friend to just practice some responses so that you can feel well rehearsed and ready to step into the opportunity placing your best foot forward.