What is the single biggest predictor of job interview success?
- It’s not your Sydney University Law degree.
- It’s not the summer internship you did at KPMG.
- It’s not a connection that you have “on the inside”.
The biggest factor that separates candidates who get job offers and those who receive “thank you, but” emails is…
A lot of it.
The importance of preparation cannot be stressed enough – it is essential for a successful interview.
By preparing for your interview with rigour, you create systems and habits that prevent outside factors from derailing your job interview. You also gain skills that enable you to sell yourself with impact and confidence.
Let me walk you through a few key preparation steps that can lead you to interview success.
Dress To Impress.
This point sounds almost too obvious, but I need to mention it. A lot of people unnecessarily undermine their chances by either over- or under-dressing.
Don’t listen to myths like “clothes don’t matter, find an employer who appreciates you for who you really are, not for your clothes”.
Listen to me very carefully. Humans are a tribal species. Clothes, apart from functioning as portable shelter, perform a signalling function. Signalling that you belong to this tribe, but not that tribe.
Work is deeply tribal in nature – because it requires “us” to do something differently to “them” so that we can help “ourselves” and “others”.
Your clothes need to signal that you’re playing the same game as your employer. That you belong to the same tribe.
Now, don’t panic – you don’t need to buy another Armani suit before your next job interview. But make sure that you align your appearance to the cultural expectations of the company that you want to join.
(You did research the company, right? More on this later).
If in doubt, err on the side of simplicity and conservatism. Don’t overdo it on perfume. Don’t wear ripped jeans. Don’t wear activewear (unless you’re applying for a job at LuluLemon).
Prepare Answers To “The Big 5” Questions.
If you’re like most candidates, you’re worried about being caught off-guard by a tricky or unorthodox question like “How many balls fit into a Mercedes E-Class”?
In reality, you should be much more focused on very simple, common questions that almost every recruiter asks. I call them “The Big 5”, and they are:
- 1. Why don’t you tell me about yourself? (Recommended response to this question).
- 2. Why do you want to work here?
- 3. What are your greatest strengths?
- 4. What is your greatest weakness?
- 5. What makes you unique? (Recommended response to this question).
Make sure you prepare concrete answers to all of them. Write your answers out by hand onto a piece of paper (this helps with memorisation) and practice delivering your response in a mirror until you feel natural and at ease.
Be Ahead Of Time.
If your job interview is to be conducted in person, arrive at the location 15 minutes before the scheduled time. If the interview is to be online, be sitting in front of your computer at least 10 minutes before the call.
Make sure that nothing causes you to be late, by preparing everything ahead of time. Select your outfit, identify your travel route, find a suitable carpark.
When attending a remote interview, check video and audio feeds of your computer the night before the interview – and once again on the morning of the interview.
Do Your Research.
Learn specific, relevant facts about the company – its history, its current business climate, its markets (and its marketing efforts), competitors, latest news, products and services.
If you know the name of the person who will be interviewing you, make an effort to research them, as well. What is their title? What is their career story? Who were their previous employers? Do you have any shared connections on LinkedIn?
Study Your Resume And The Job Description.
You need to know your resume back to front. Study it and make sure you can expand on any of its points.
This is particularly important if you’ve used the services of a professional resume writer; you don’t want to appear unfamiliar with your own resume.
Study the position description. This may surprise you, but a lot of candidates show up to an interview not knowing what the job is really about. Review the core competencies of the role. Identify any gaps between your experience and listed requirements (and prepare good answers).
Prepare Smart Questions To Ask The Interviewer.
Remember that an interview is a two-way process. It’s a business discussion between two people who have something to offer – and something to lose. Both of you want to make the best possible decision, so both of you need to ask questions.
Some questions you might ask include:
- Why has the position become available?
- What would success in this role look like, in 12 months’ time?
- Why did the person who previously held this role not succeed?
The most confident and articulate candidates were not born with a strong ability to sell themselves. They got there by doing mountains of preparation. You can become a strong candidate, and convert most of your job interviews into job offers, by doing the same.