I used to be terrified by interviews. The idea of meeting a stranger and sitting on the other side of the table from them whilst being grilled on my career, knowledge and aspirations used to make my heart race helplessly.
But, even with this fear, I’ve managed to secure a fair number of interviews. Some of them went ok, many of them not so well, but few of them were quite remarkable which have opened some of the opportunities I have aspired to achieve in my life to date. These have made me to charge my approach to interviews and the way I perceive them: instead of dreading them, I am now looking forward to doing my best in any future interviews I may have. But why is this? What has changed so radically?
Ever since I was little, I used to love to perform. I would speak in from of the mirror myself, day-dreaming that I was in the spotlight. What a wonderful feeling! I would thrive on having imaginary people listening to me and admiring me at the same time. I would spend hours and hours doing this.
So, the more I thought about interviews, the more I realised they are just that: an opportunity to be in the spotlight for a person that works on an office behind a computer and doesn't;t have any special talents to showcase on a real stage. Interviews are an imaginary stage, set out for you to give you a new opportunity, a new identity, and a new lease of life. So, embrace them, they are your chance to shine. And here’s how to do it:
Interviews are like an audition for ordinary knowledge workers, that might lead to a new role in an Oscar-winning play. For any audition, most actors prepare by reading the lines over and over again, some of them even learn them by heart, so when it comes to the actual audition, they are so comfortable with he content, they can just act it out.
I do the same with interviews. All the interviews I do are competency-based, so after attending so many, the questions that come up are quite predictable. So, I write down all the questions I can think of on a paper and then prepare answers to them, which I then read and read and rehearse in my mind, until I know exactly what i am going to say.
The answers to my self-determined questions are my script. I then memorise this just like an actor would do, so that when it comes to the actual interview, I know my lines and I feel so confident knowing exactly what i am going to say.
2. Act confident
Just like an actor, on the day of the interview you need to act out the ideal candidate for the role you are interviewing for. For this you need to emanate confidence, show you are comfortable and that you master your knowledge and your skills.
Smiling in interviews defies all nerves. its that powerful. It makes the brain think you are in a happy state of mind, that you are relaxed and at ease with everything. I remind myself to smile whenever I answer an interview question, particularly if it’s a more challenging one or if I have been caught off-guard and I haven’t actually prepared an answer to that question. I still smile and my confidence comes back straightaway. it’s magical. If you are able to portray a nice confident smile, the interviewer might end up being so intrigued or captivated by it, that they might not even realise you are going off-piste with your answer.
3. Use buzzwords, keywords and industry terms
To show your knowledge, the best thing you can do is to use buzzwords or industry-related terms that shows you are familiar with the key industry trends, metrics and success factors. If you are applying for marketing roles, then you are lucky, as there is an abundance of keywords and phrases you can bring into the conversation to make you look like a pro: “seamless customer journey“, “omni-channel“, “geo-targeting“, “retargeting“, “digital“, “conversion“. Even if you do not know the answer to a specific question you are being asked, incorporating any of these buzzwords will help you to impress your interviewer.
4. Use % in your answers
You might have read of heard that it’s important to give SMART answers. This means the answers have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. This might sound like a lo to think about when formulating an answer to an interview question, but the good part is that your interviewer won’t have time or be able to see if you’ve hit all of the requirements. Especially because in a natural conversation answers tend to be fluid.
The only two things you need to focus on are to quantify your answers (to hit the measurable part) and to put them against a timeframe (to make them timely). Those are the only things you need to worry about. The easiest way to quantify your answers is by using percentages to define your results and adding a time period to show when the results were achieved or how long it took to achieve them. For instance, you could use examples like “this initiative I took delivered a sales growth of 20% versus the previous year“.
5. Showcase your work
This is an interview tip that one of my old managers gave me and it stuck with me to this very day. Compile a portfolio of your work and bring it to the interview. This is the pièce de résistance.
Make your portfolio very visual. Through images you can bring to life clearly and in a very appealing way examples of your work. Use it to help you in your answers. Images of your work will help you to convey the story of your greatness. A picture speaks a thousand words.
We are all artists, even if many of us may not do a creative job per se. Treat the interview like an exhibition or an art show and come prepared to exhibit your work in images. These will paint the picture of your stories more vividly than any words can. Your answers to the interview questions will only put the pictures in context, like the notes that accompany a painting.
The human mind tends to be shallow. Pictures attract the human eye more than words appeal to the human mind. They’re just easier to process by the brain, which automatically defaults to the path of least analysis when processing new information, like your interview answers in the case of your interviewer.
Interviews are an art form - the more you do, the better you get at them - the more talented you become at impressing your audience. Using these techniques you will get to really enjoy the interview experience and win over the heart(s) and mind(s) of your interviewer(s). Seeing how these little tricks help you shine through on your interview stage will lead you to give you the courage and enthusiasm to strive to improve your performance each and every time and look forward to your next opportunity to be in the spotlight.