As an essential part of any job hunt, interviews are often seen as the perfect opportunity to put your best foot forward and show your skills. But in reality it’s usually the time you find yourself most on edge. As nerves begin to set in, it’s easy to become distracted by the interviewer’s rapid note-taking and wonder what on earth they are writing. But the secret to interview success comes down to more than just keeping your cool.
To make the best possible impression, it’s helpful to understand what the interviewer is really looking for. With this in mind, here are three questions every interviewer ponders as you sit opposite them.
Would you fit in here?
The interviewer will be trying to picture you in the role, working alongside the current team and considering how well you’re likely to fit in. So you need to show how your personality is a good match.
As you can imagine, a startup with just three employees who are all senior managers will have a very different feel to a small agency of 20-somethings, or a business of more than 1,000 people. But even with research, it’s often not possible to get an exact idea of the company culture until the interview itself.
On interview day spend a few minutes taking in the working atmosphere – are the offices buzzing with noise and people taking time to have an informal chitchat, or is it almost silent with a more focused energy? Next, assess how your interviewer is coming across – are they following a more formal interview style or are they telling anecdotes and are more conversational? Then aim to mirror them.
While you should always be professional, by taking note of all the above you’ll have a better idea of which part of your personality to emphasise. Don’t forget to also think about where your role fits into the team. If you’re timid in an interview for an internal coordinator role, for example, the interviewer might be left questioning your ability to take charge.
Do you match your CV?
Up until this point, the interviewer already assumes you’ll be a great match for the role – you now just need to keep them thinking this. Remember, your interviewer has no immediate way of knowing if your CV is true unless you have the evidence to back it up.
Ahead of the interview, run through every point on your CV and apply the star technique to give a wider context to the claims you’ve made. By having this bank of detailed examples in mind, you’ll be able to better explain how your experience transfers to the role.
Image via: LinkedIn
Have you got what it takes?
Your interviewer will be looking to see how well you really understand the nature of the role and what you can expect to face.
As part of your research, watch and read interviews with people in the industry talking about their daily working lives, taking note of the challenges and situations they come up against. This will help you build up a realistic idea of what you’re likely to expect.
At interview, you then just need to pair this knowledge with specific examples from your own experience. For example, in an interview for a project manager role, you may be asked a competency based question like: “Give an example of a time you had to be diplomatic.” Your response might be: “I understand that a large element of this position can involve being the middleman in negotiating and finding compromises between different parties, which I’ve faced in my previous role. For example when I …” Then give an example using the star technique.
But it doesn’t just come down to what you say. Use the interview as a chance to show firsthand that you have the relevant skills. For example, if the job involves talking to senior clients, make sure you come across as confident, but personable. Or perhaps the role will require you to listen and help with customer queries. In which case, show the interviewer your attention to detail by referring back to the things they say during the interview.
The interviewer will also be using this time to work out how long you’re going to stick around – they don’t want to spend time investing in someone who will jump ship in a few months when a new opportunity comes along. If you have a history of job hopping, seem overqualified or are looking to relocate to the area, don’t leave the interviewer to draw negative conclusions. Be sure to voice their potential concerns and explain why this job is different.
Every interview is slightly different, so simply taking the time to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and consider exactly what they’re looking for, might be the key to your interview success.
This post originally appeared on www.theguardian.com