This post is part of the Noon Masterclass: Reignite Your Career by Noon’s Career Expert, Lisa Unwin.
Interviewing well isn’t a magic formula or down to luck. With a little preparation you can go into job interviews after a career break ready for whatever they throw at you. Here are 10 easy tips to get there.
- It’s a conversation: Think 50/50. The very term “interview” makes people default into thinking that this is all about some person behind a desk asking questions whilst you try to come up with plausible answers. Wrong. Well, partly wrong anyway. A huge part of the impact you make has to do with how you make the interviewer feel. Not just about you but about themselves. Let them do some of the talking.
- Research the company, the role and the individual. You need to appear interested and enthusiastic, which is a little difficult if you haven’t done your homework on the company and also on the role they are looking to fill. What’s sometimes less obvious is the need to do a bit of homework on the interviewee. What is this person like? What are they passionate about? What’s their style? Knowing all of this helps you think about how to develop some empathy and connection with that person during the interview.
- “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” It might seem like an innocuous question but it’s perhaps the most important one you will be asked. It’s your opportunity to present yourself, tell your story, and make that all important first impression. Prepare and practise. Make sure your answer conveys your motivation and the experience you’re bringing to bear. It should be no more than 60-90 seconds long.
- What’s behind the question? The interviewee will want to know if you’re going to be able to do the job. Some questions will focus on asking whether you have the skills required. Similarly, if you’re asked to provide an example of, say, working in a team, the interviewer is probably hoping to tick off a few things: team playing; handling disagreement; empathy; communication; leadership. Make sure you help them tick the boxes they need without retelling your whole story.
- Learn to stop. 20 seconds to 2 minutes is all it should take to answer a question. After that, it’s time for a pause. If the interviewer needs to know more, they’ll ask. Go on much longer than 2 minutes and the likelihood is they will have lost the thread of what you’re talking about. Give the interviewer time to catch up. They’ll need to make notes. Go on too long and they’re likely to drift off and start thinking about what’s for dinner.
- There are only five questions. Any employer really only wants to get the answers to 5 questions: Why do you want this job?What can you do for us? Can you help me? Are you our sort of person? What makes you different from the other 89 applicants? Can we agree terms that suit us both?
- It’s a dating game. You will inevitably be asked “What questions do you have for me?” Prepare some beforehand. They could be about: The industry or sector’s future trends. Their positioning and strategy. The specific job you’re applying for. The person doing the interview. Whatever you do, don’t ignore this last category. People love to talk about themselves and it will help you connect with the interviewer
- Manage the risk. In any interview, there will be elements where your experience does not quite fit. This represents a risk to the interviewer. Help them manage that risk. Think about where your CV might be lacking well before the interview and find ways to address any concerns. Identify any gaps and work out how to close them. Be on the front foot.
- Make your answers clear and succinct. Like this point.
- Interview with confidence. Presenting a confident persona not only makes you come across as credible, it also puts the interviewer at ease.
— Lisa Unwin
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