There’s plenty of information online about how to prepare for interviews, what you might be asked, what questions you can ask etc.
Today I want to talk about something else – the questions that someone on the interview panel might be asking themselves – about you. They aren’t questions that the interviewer can ask you directly, but you can influence their perspective and the conclusions that they may draw about you by conveying the right answers without being asked.
Interviews are not natural situations. Interviewers know that people are likely to be feeling nervous and it’s hard when you don’t know what is going to be asked of you. But you can pick up all kinds of other information from people based on how they behave and even what they don’t say, so think about the impression that you are going to make, and how you want the interviewer to respond to these 10 questions.
1. Has this person prepared for the interview?
This can cover all kinds of things. Did you do some research online about the company before you turned up? Did you make sure you knew where to come? Did you ask questions that showed that you’re interested in the job or the work of the company? If you were asked to prepare a presentation, how much thought went into it?
2. Is he/she really interested in this position?
This sets the candidate who is just looking for a job – and any job will do – apart from the candidate who is generally interested in bringing something specifically to the company and the position on offer.
This ties in with the first question. Can you relate your experience to specifics in the new job role? If asked why you want the role, is the answer all about your climbing the career ladder/getting out of a job that you hate, or is there something specific about working for that particular company or doing that specific role that interests you?
3. Do I want to work with him/her?
You can’t know someone’s personal preferences, but if you can, try to let some of your personality show through as well. Try and remember to smile! Don’t try to be someone else, because it will be hard to keep that up indefinitely if you do get the job.In any case, they might like the real you a lot more than the persona you’re trying to be for the sake of the interview.
4. Can this person back up the claims on their CV with real-life examples?
It’s not good, but people do exaggerate things on their CVs and applications, and interviewers may want you to expand on what you’ve written, or be ready to give examples to show that you do really know what you’re talking about, and you have done the things that you claim to have done on your CV.
Think about the things that may be relevant, and make sure that you feel comfortable talking about them,.
5. Does this person have a can-do attitude?
If you go into the interview complaining about your current boss, saying how bad the working conditions are, or not taking responsibility for things that were actually your fault, it doesn’t make the best impression.
Similarly, if you come armed with a list of things that you definitely can’t or won’t do, such as the boring parts of the job, it doesn’t look good either!
Of course there may be things that you genuinely can’t do, such as a lot of travelling or certain patterns of working hours, and if that’s a big part of the job, it may be a dealbreaker for you. But I’m talking more about people making demands and being too specific about their own shopping list of requirements or nice-to-have wishes before the job offer is even on the table.
6. Is this person listening to me?
It’s not just about the talking part. People who don’t listen to the question properly are rarely able to answer it well because they don’t know what’s being asked of them.
It may be tempting to keep looking down at your notes while the other person is talking so that you can prepare what you’re going to say next, but it doesn’t convey the message that the other person has your attention.
7. Is this person only out for what they can get?
How much holiday will I have? When can I apply for a promotion? What other benefits will I get?
There are legitimate questions about the benefits package, what the working day will be like, where the role will be based etc. But if you focus too much on what’s in it for you, and not enough on what you have to offer, you can come across as someone who is only interested in themselves. Such people rarely make good team players.
8. Does this person want to learn?
Don’t approach the interview with an attitude that says you already know it all. Be curious about the company, the projects, the future plans. If there are areas in which you’d like to improve your skills, show a willingness to develop and proactively seek out opportunities to learn. We should never stop learning.
9. Is this person organised?
Did you arrive late with details for the wrong job interview and with odd shoes on? Most people won’t do all of these things on the same day, but if you make a chaotic first impression, it’s hard to get rid of that. Try to give yourself some extra time before you set off, so you don’t arrive flustered, even if things don’t go to plan on your journey in.
10. Does this person have what we’re looking for?
Ultimately you won’t know this. You only have the job advert, the job description/person specification, and the information in the interview itself to go on. There may be other factors that you will never know about. So all you can really do is be the best representation of yourself that you can.
Now is not the time to downplay your achievements or be overly modest. The only information that the interviewers have about you is the information in your application and what you tell them during the interview.
If you’re talking about what you’ve done, don’t just say what you did, but explain how you added value/solved a problem/increased revenue/made life better for everyone!
Be memorable in a good way. You need to stand out from the other candidates, so don’t just reel off a load of textbook answers because you think that’s what the interview panel wants to hear. Show that you care about your work and the people around you. Show that you take pride in what you do and that you would be an asset to the new team!
At the end of the day, only they know whether you have what they’re looking for, but this is your chance to sell yourself – not in a pushy or fake way, but in a way that gives the interviewers a good idea of what kind of person you really are and what skills, knowledge, and experience you have to offer.
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