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Job Seekers: 5 interview tips that can lead to a big result

If public speaking is social phobia number one, surely the job interview, with its unpredictability and potential for absolute disaster, must rank just as high as dancing in public.

We all want to make a good impression at interview, but it’s far from a “fait accompli“. If I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve heard friends and colleagues say they “killed it” in an interview, but never ended up hearing from the potential employer again, well, I’d have at least 15 dollars.

I’ve interviewed scores of creative, communications and marketing types over the years. Some stick in my mind for all the wrong reasons (reeking of rum on a Tuesday morning doesn’t scream ‘professional), but the better ones are recalled because we shared a connection. They were, for the most part, relaxed, humorous, intelligent and interesting. Their personalities provided me a valuable insight into how we might work together and how they might act in certain (often stressful) situations. I learned much from them, just as I’d like to think they learned much from me as an interviewer. That’s the valuable takeaway: the interview is a two-way street; there’s much to be gained for both the interviewer and interviewee.

It’s unfortunate that many brilliant types just don’t interview well. There’s sweaty palms, the rehearsed lines that just don’t come out right, the incessant ‘ums’ and ‘aahs’ and zero eye contact.

Such poor performances inevitably exclude these people from roles in which they would excel, at least technically, but the harsh truth is the interview is designed to sort the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you don’t, remember there are little things we can all do that can make a big difference to our chances in the interview.

Here are five of them, in no particular order. You’ll have read most, if not all, of them before, but sometimes we lose sight of the simpler things. A refresh and revisit can be valuable.

Relax:

This is the most important one of all, but perhaps the hardest to achieve. There’s nothing like the prospect of a great job to make your stomach tie itself in knots. Some people try deep breathing. Some people walk around in circles. I found a good way to relax is to remember that your interviewers are just people. They’ve been in the same situation as you before, and probably will be again. Attempting to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes can allow you to look at the whole interview experience in a different way. Sure, the interview is important; it may be the most important part of your particular day, but it’s just one task in a busy potential employer’s. Take a step back and look at the whole thing with some perspective.

Be early:

This is a no brainer, but so many get it wrong. If you want to relax, you have to have time to compose yourself before the interview. If you want to have time to compose yourself, you can’t be rolling out of bed 40 minutes before the interview and legging it into town. If you get to the building half an hour before the interview, it leaves you plenty of time to relax.

Smile:

People do business with people they like. A genuine smile can open doors, and keep them open for years to come. Even if you’re not successful in the interview, people remember those who have a positive attitude. Smiles cost nothing but can pay big dividends.

Be yourself (not who you think they want you to be):

Your potential employer isn’t just interested in your skill set (or he or she shouldn’t be). He or she should also be sizing you up with regards to your impact on the team. Are you going disrupt, or enhance, the team? Have you got the personality that will contribute constructively to shared goals? It’s not only your skill set that will provide answers to these questions. Your extracurricular interests are important too. Be sure to include a few on your resume and be prepared to talk about them.

Don’t over-rehearse answers:

It may have sounded great as you were mouthing it in front of the mirror at midnight last night, but that answer isn’t going to sound as good if it’s got nothing to do with the question being asked. Too often, our meticulous preparation means we trot out our rehearsed answers as opposed to actually listening to what’s being asked. The interviewer can sense this; verbose answers that go out on a tangent rarely get the intended result. By all means, recall facts and figures, but don’t be afraid to veer off-script. You might be surprised at how well you go.

The interview is one of life’s merry dances we all must negotiate at some stage. Some do it with style and panache; others, however, are natural wallflowers, and need a little direction. By thinking about and employing the above tips, you can make a big difference to your job prospects. Unlike your two left feet, the job interview doesn’t have to be awkward.

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