Friday, 26 February 2016

Don't rest on your laurels; interview success might not be that easy

There are any number of blogs out there offering tips on how to succeed in interviews, though the majority of them are aimed at recent graduates. In my role, I deal with experienced candidates who have probably led more interviews than they’ve had themselves, and for whom their last interview is a [somewhat] distant memory. For them the message is: don’t rest on your laurels! As recruiters, we’re in a privileged position as a liaison between you and our clients which enables us to offer insight you won’t glean from research, but we can only do so much. Here a few things that might seem obvious, but shouldn’t be taken for granted – experience isn’t everything!

First things first, your CV. Before you even get to an interview process, whether through a recruiter or a direct application, you’ll need to convince someone that you have the experience for the role. Think about what you’ve done and how to express that – don’t be generic. Take time to read the job description, work out what they’re looking for, and tailor your application accordingly. And forget “buzzwords” – stick to statements about what you’ve done and achieved; clarity and simplicity will do.

Once you’ve cleared that first hurdle, comes the preparation. First of all, think of the good hires you’ve made and consider what impressed you about them – it’s likely they came prepared and showed a good understanding of your business and the role. Why should you be any different? Know who you’re meeting – it’ll help when considering potential questions and answers, but also help you get a picture of the business more broadly.

So you’ve managed to get an interview, you’ve done the preparation and you’re waiting to go in, don’t forget first impressions. A recent book by Harvard professor, Amy Cuddy, says there are two criteria to a good first impression: trust and respect. Trust, otherwise seen as warmth, should not be overlooked in preference of respect, or competence. If you can’t elicit trust, you might be seen as manipulative, so greet them, smile, and engage in conversation – all small things that can go a long way.

These small tips might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how easily they’re overlooked in favour inflated ego and the belief that experience will carry you through. Experience is good, but remember you’re going to have to work with these people for the foreseeable future, so it’s probably a good idea to make sure you like them and they like you.

This blog was written by James Quinlan, Researcher at Birchwood Knight, specialising in senior-level corporate affairs roles.

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