Be the King of the Hill – 6 tips to help you interview like a champion!

You know the thing about life, at least what I’ve found so far, is that nothing goes according to plan. That’s most especially true when looking at the job market. When I arrived back in South Africa, having earned my degree, from a pretty prestigious place I might add, I had thought that I would be able to get a job relatively easily. So far I’ve had very few opportunities to even interview. That’s been my problem, once I’ve gotten into an interview I have no problems impressing and getting a job. Getting my foot in the door with my CV has been another kettle of fish entirely.

But back to the topic at hand. Whilst I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I do know how to impress at an interview. How do I know that I’m good at interviews? Because I’ve gotten into 2 highly specialised universities. 1 of which has similar acceptance rates to Oxford. I’ve also gotten a job where, quite frankly, they didn’t want someone of my race. It may not be the most impressive resume but let me share my knowledge. Try it out, if it doesn’t work for you then comment the crap out of this page!

Tip #1 Know thy company!

The one thing that all interviewers will appreciate, is a basic knowledge of the company you’re applying to. There’s no need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all their systems, personnel and strategies. You will however need something more than their name and product. Here are the questions you should ask. What does the company do? What are their morals? Aims? Goals? Environment? Achievements? Figure out how you will fit into the company and that’s it. Everything you should know about a company before you go to an interview.

You may be thinking… What can knowing some more hurt? I think it’s a two-way street. On the one hand, you do have the ability to seem more impressive and there are many interviewers who really appreciate a solid knowledge of the company. Anything about a company that does not directly influence your possible job is not important information. They’re hiring a Marketing Director not a product manager, don’t comment on how you can fix the assembly line! You also run the risk of looking desperate. It’s the same principle as never picking up your phone on the first ring. If you answer on the first ring then clearly you’re not all that busy.

Play it safe! If you want to ask anything about a company in an interview then go ahead. I’ve never met an interviewer who scoffed at me for being eager and curious.

Tip #2 Dress to impress? Don’t take it too literally!

There is one idea that I consistently see on interviewing tip pages. They always say you need to dress to impress. Wear a suit and tie and always look like you’ve already spent a million bucks. The other option is, dress for the job you want to have.

Honestly, if I was the interviewer and someone came in for, let’s say, a Marketing Assistant job. And they were dressed ready for a Marketing Director position. My first thought would inevitably be wow this person looks really formal. Formal is great, but it doesn’t have personality. When was the last time you went up to a stranger in a suit and said hey buddy howzit hanging! Build a relationship with your interviewer and you’re one step closer to getting the job.

In the end you need to be comfortable. Remember at an interview the only thing you’re selling is yourself. Tip 2 is dress as yourself on your absolute best day. Brush your teeth, trim your nose hairs, comb your eyelashes – whatever you need to do to look your best. Torn jeans and a T-shirt are not always appropriate but a good pair of jeans and a collared shirt is something that will just about always be acceptable.If your first instinct is to wear a suit then go ahead, as long as you feel natural and relaxed in it. Be daring – add a blazer! Your goal is to wear something that make you look and feel great!

Tip #3 Be PUNCTUAL!

The ABSOLUTE worst thing you can do before an interview begins is be late for it. There is simply no excuse short of your wife (or husband – sorry this article is just easier to write as a man) was in a car accident and they’ve got minutes to live. There’s really not much to say, you should arrive at your interview at least 15 minutes early and be waiting at the interviewers convenience. It’s about respect, show an appropriate amount of it and you’ll always come off better.

If for some reason there is no way to circumvent being late. Call ahead and make sure that your interviewer knows that you will be arriving late due to extenuating circumstances. Make 100% certain that they know!

Tip #4 It’s all in the handshake

Like a handshake, an interview is about how you present yourself. A handshake should never be an attempt to hurt, to domineer. A good handshake is solid without being painful. A good handshake involves your whole body.

Okay, admittedly the last one sounds like a weird concept but think of it like this. Imagine you were shaking the Rock’s – yes the wrestler – hand. Now if he stood over you those crazy eyes of his and flexed a peck while shaking your hand, I’m 99.99% certain that you’d be a little intimidated! If however he used the cheesy movie smile and shook hands without breaking your personal space – you’d be pretty chuffed you were meeting the Rock and would fondly remember the experience forever. A good handshake is about more than just your hands.

If you were to take my extended metaphor in the interview context. An interview is about more than your words. It should be neutral. Don’t try to be aggressive or dominate the exchange. Treat the interview as a meeting of equals. Answer questions when asked and ask whatever you want to know. You need to portray yourself in the best possible light. Smile broadly – keep it appropriate, shoulders and back straight – lean ever so slightly forward, open body position – don’t cross hands or legs, use your body – gesture to show enthusiasm (within reason, swinging your arms around like a gorilla is really not going to help) and finally maintain eye contact – don’t be creepy just look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them.

BY THE WAY a good handshake really does go a long way!

Tip #5 For the love of all things open your ears and listen!

Interviews are about communication. Plain and simple… You need to communicate your ideas, your personality, your work ethic, your knowledge, your skills… You need to be able to showcase yourself in the best possible light as quickly as possible. In the end you need to leave a positive impression! There is nothing on Earth as annoying as someone not listening to you while you are trying to talk!

Tip #5 is basically about talking when it’s your turn. You need to talk succinctly and address all the major issues.Remember the interview is an exchange. If your interviewer isn’t talking then you can put in some extra effort. Tell them how your skills are especially suited to the job requirements.

This is a bit of a risky technique, but it is one that works pretty consistently for me. Largely because I love to tell stories. If you’re feeling brave or, like me, are good at telling stories. Then you can use anecdotes to showcase your experience. Re-tell difficult situations and how you solved them or how perhaps how in hindsight you could have solved it better. Using anecdotes is riskier than simply asking questions because stories are subjective. Stories are enjoyed, by the listener, for different aspects. So not only do you have to quickly and accurately relay the details of your escapades, but you also need to consider what the interviewer is listening for and also what would reflect positively on your experience.

Tip#6 A little attitude goes a long way

This is the last tip I can give to you potential interviewees. Honestly if you’ve learnt nothing else, remember this one. Attitude is the best thing you can take into your interview, provided you use it in small doses. Show confidence in your abilities. You can write a solid business plan, or set up a budget. Even a little bit of ego has value in an interview. Why should you get the job? Because you are the best person for the job.

Keep calm and relaxed. Remember these tips and good luck! I hope these 6 tips really help you out in the near future! With the job market being as difficult as it is worldwide, we’ll need all the help we can get.

Until next time,

Ciao,

Desh

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