Are you having trouble landing a great job despite being super-awesome? Maybe you’re deluded and you’re actually not awesome at all. Or maybe you just give bad interview.
A lot of people (I suspect maybe even the majority) are terrible in interviews. But you can fix it with just a few simple adjustments, according to Liz Holland of the Toronto-based Career Council, which offers “interview coaching by the best!”
Holland, who has a British accent and who I therefore assume is very smart, offers the following interview tips and shares the biggest mistakes people make, which can all be put down to lack of preparation. Those Boy Scouts are onto something.
1. Know your own strengths. Holland says, “I usually start off by asking people to tell me a bit about themselves and their strengths. I would say nine out of ten people — and I’m being generous — probably struggle to tell me even 2-3 strengths. This applies all the way up to senior people.”
Are you great with deadlines? Are you highly organized? Great. Now you only need eight more. “I say ten,” says Holland, “because you’re not going to remember them all on the day.
“But they haven’t even thought about it,” she adds. “They put so much thought into their lovely resume: ’should I use bullet points or little stars?’ And then, when you ask them to sell themselves they’re not able to do it.”
You don’t need to answer every question perfectly, she says, “But you shouldn’t be stumbling over the basics.”
2. Know the company with which you’re applying. Holland says, “The second mistake people make, and this shocks me, is not knowing the answer to the question ‘What do you know about the firm?’
“It’s so basic. There was a time, before the internet, when people had to go down to the library to do their research. Now it takes two seconds and they don’t even do that.
“What do you know about the firm? What’s the firm’s mission statement? What appeals to you about working here? You’d be shocked at how people stumble over that one.”
3. Have stories. “A common form of interviewing is behavioural interviewing,” Holland explains. “Past behaviour predicts future behaviour. They’re going to ask for exact stories to illustrate how you have behaved in the past, because they think that is how you’ll behave in the future. And it’s quite true. So, you want to have short stories, selling You, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Present the situation, show how you responded to the situation and the end result because you were involved.
“So, suddenly someone says ‘Tell us about a time you met a deadline’ or ‘Tell us about a time you dealt with a difficult situation.’ If you haven’t thought up some stories beforehand, they’re going to be difficult to come up with when you’ve got three people looking at you in a boardroom.
“And if you don’t answer the first question well, it’s not going to get better. If something starts to go badly, you lose confidence really quickly and it gets worse.”
4. Don’t be late. You can even do a dry run. Holland suggests having a look at the building beforehand if you can and making sure you know where you’re going. Why?
“It does not matter what the excuse is for even being five or ten minutes late. You have lost that job. Check the trains if you’re coming in from out of town. Don’t take the one that will get you in close to the time. Get the one that will get you in an hour before and go have a coffee. Relax, breathe, don’t be the one that’s scrambling.”
Among other little tips: watch that you don’t use “like” and “you know” every second word. Holland and I talked about that here.
Also, ladies, give a firm handshake. “The limp fish handshake is such a thing,” Holland says. “In that first twelve seconds, you’ve got to make good eye contact, smile and offer a firm handshake.” (Firm, she says, not crushing.)
Consider the position of the person doing the hiring. “These people are not mind readers. They don’t know you. You’ve got to tell them.
“The HR person who is going to forward the candidate to the manager or VP doesn’t want to make mistakes because it doesn’t reflect well on them. And the manager or VP doesn’t want to make a mistake. They want to feel safe. It’s a big thing appointing people.”
Ultimately, “It takes so little to be the person that stands out. Prepare yourself. The person that does that will be the person that gets the job.”