Be on time.
Do your research on the company.
Ask insightful questions.
If that sounds like the generic advice you’d receive from Googling, “How to nail a job interview” you’d be right. However, that advice may also leave you out in the cold if that’s all you bring to the plate in hopes of securing your dream job.
Don’t get me wrong, all of those are important aspects of being a qualified candidate. But, if you think you’re likely to get hired just because you showed up on time and asked a good question, then you haven’t been in an interview recently.
According to CareerBuilder.com, 77% of employers believe that soft skills, like effective communication, confidence, & strong work ethic are just as important as hard skills in the workplace. “When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for the best of both worlds: someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, VP of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.
Your resume doesn’t matter as much as you think it does.
You can be the most qualified candidate in the world but if your interviewer doesn’t find you confident and competent during the interview process, the chances of you securing your dream job reduces dramatically. In the professional workplace today, nearly 44% of millennial workers are employed in positions that don’t technically require their degree.
How can nearly half the workforce be employed if they don’t have the “necessary” skill set for success in their career? Because they have a skill set that is far more useful than nearly anything learned in a formal education.
Charm. Charisma. Magnetism. Aura. Status.
Call it what you like, but if you want to ensure you’re the candidate that ends up at the top of the resume pile you better start honing your conversation and interview skills.
Acing the Interview Step 1: Nail Your First Impression
You’ve crafted an award-winning resume, made it through the pre-screening process, and made it to the face-to-face interview. The first key to acing your interview starts with establishing a positive and memorable relationship with the interviewer the moment you enter the room.
First impressions are formed in an instant, and our primitive brains are programmed for two major responses during the first few seconds of any interaction. Instantly, our brain notifies us whether the person you’re speaking with is a friend or foe, if we like or dislike them. Obviously the goal is to be in the friend/like category but being placed in the foe/dislike category isn’t the worst option.
At the same time that our brains are deciding between friend and foe, a third possible outcome can occur, indifference. If you are placed into the indifferent category during your first impression you might as well speak gibberish for the rest of the interview.
Our first impressions create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once the brain has placed you in a category, it then “cherry picks” the information it wants to hear to reinforce its initial judgement. When it comes to indifference, the brain simply stops processing the information it has and moves on to other tasks. And if you’re in the interview chair and they’ve marked you as indifferent, uh oh.
What are some ways to ensure you’re placed in the friend category? Proper posture, maintaining eye contact, a firm handshake, and employing the use of open body language. If it sounds easy, that’s because it is. The difficult part is actually showing these signs when the body is in a stressful situation.
Acing the Interview Step 2: Build Rapport by Being Inauthentic
How do you show positive, calm, & assertive body language even if you’re extremely nervous? You fake it. 92% of interviewees stress over at least one aspect during a job interview. What happens to your body when it becomes stressed?
You speak faster, you might start sweating, your body language begins to close, you slouch in your chair to make yourself smaller and all of these reactions kill your credibility. A TED talk by body language expert, Mark Bowden, explains that by being inauthentic, and faking calm and assertive body postures is one way in which you can build trust and rapport during a conversation, even if you’re extremely nervous.
Being inauthentic during your interview doesn’t mean that you should lie on your resume, it simply means that you should display the appropriate body language signals of confidence and competence, to ensure you’re being seen in a positive manner.
Fortunately for nervous interviewees, your words are only 7% of overall communication, so if you’re able to fake your nonverbal cues and tone of voice to portray you as the ideal job candidate you’re much more likely to be hired. Hiring managers, hire people they like, so read the situation, become a personality chameleon and use your charisma to charm and disarm.
Acing the Interview Step 3: Proper Follow Up
Before leaving your interview be sure to ask, “What are the next steps?” This way you’ll know exactly when it’s appropriate to follow up. When leaving, shake hands, thank them for their time to see and speak with you, and get their contact information.
Once you leave your interview, pause & write down any notes about the interview while everything is still fresh.
What was your interviewer’s name? What did they like or dislike about your answers? Did they question parts of your resume? Did you make small talk about their family, hobbies, or interests? Did you find some common ground that didn’t have to do job you were applying for?
Send a thank-you note within 24 hours. Global staffing agency Robert Half International found that 81% of hiring managers want to receive a follow-up message after an interview. According to CareerBuilder, 22% of hiring managers would dismiss an applicant who didn’t send a post-interview thank you note.
If you haven’t heard anything for more than a week, follow up again. Nudging isn’t appreciated, instead, provide value and build from your post-interview notes. The points to hit: that you’re still very interested in the position, you want to see where they are in the decision making process, provide value, and thank them again.
Don’t send a 1,000 word essay, a few short sentences that don’t require the reader to scroll down the page is plenty.
An interview may be intimidating, but remember it’s still a person on the other side of the desk. A face-to-face interaction is your chance to show them you’re a team player, you can excel at the position, and that you’re the perfect candidate for the job. Remember, they have your resume, and are aware of your technical skills and experience. The interview is the time to show them you are someone they can’t live without.