“Working in a career you hate doesn’t protect you from failure. So you might as well take a chance doing something you love.”
The job application process is a frustrating and loathsome experience that is loved by no one.
Unfortunately, to progress your career, whether you are transitioning from a casual hospitality position to full-time work after university; applying for a promotion within your current organisation; or moving into another organisation or industry, learning to excel in the dreaded and competitive job market is not only an unpleasant but also a necessary evil.
If your stellar CV works its magic, you might find yourself with one fancy foot in the door of a dream employer. But to get both feet in the door, you need to convince the selection panel that it is you, and only you, who can fill the void in their team (and their hearts).
The good news is that nailing an interview is not as difficult as it sounds: it just requires planning, preparation and experience.
What It Takes To Get The Job
To be a winning job candidate, you need to start thinking of yourself as a shiny and irresistible new product that has just been released. But with the job market currently flooded with many exciting potential employees, what sets you apart?
The goal is for your prospective employer to see you as a stand out commodity s/he cannot resist buying.
Upgrade The Package
Get inside the head of your employer and develop an interview strategy that answers a need in their organisation.
Wherever possible, avoid delegating intellectual effort to your interviewer. Many young applicants make the mistake of assuming that the selection panel are mind readers. Keep in mind that they will have interviewed many candidates before you. This is why it is critical for you to clearly illustrate exactly why hiring you is the right decision for their team.
O-riginal Tip: By explaining your true value, you paint a full picture of what an employer will miss out on by not hiring you. Nobody understands you, your skills or experience, better than you do.
Understand Your Employer’s Business Inside Out
Do not get caught asking obvious questions.
There is never an adequate excuse for asking questions such as “What exactly is it that you do here, again?” It not only sends a careless and sloppy message, but is also typically the quickest way for your interview to be terminated early.
In an employer’s mind, if you cannot be bothered to put in a minimum effort learning their business, why should they waste their time with you?
Do your research – read over annual reports for the last 2-3 years and know the company website, social media channels and relevant media articles inside out. This gives you a feel for company culture, values and brand voice. Understanding some of the biggest challenges and goals of an organisation, or the industry more broadly, places you at a competitive advantage.
O-riginal Tip: Show an informed and genuine interest about the industry and their organisation. People care about people who care about them!
Talk Out The Nerves
Practise your answers to some common interview questions. For example, try answering the following:
- Why do you want this job?
- Do you have any relevant skills or experience that qualify you for this position?
- What has been the biggest challenge or highlight of your career to date?
- Why should we give the job to you?
Speak out loud – either by yourself or ask a friend to listen to you.
Practising your answers aloud develops your tongue’s muscle memory so that your responses become automatic. This means avoiding awkward and nervous moments of becoming tongue tied.
O-riginal Tip: Interview practice is like pre-training for your brain. It forces you to think on your feet and in a conversational format.
Act Like You Don’t Need The Job
Sometimes, for an prospective employer to sit up and take notice, all it takes is for someone to walk into an interview with a bold and fresh perspective.
Show up, project confidence and be the best version of yourself. Demonstrate how your unique personality and fresh ideas can dovetail with their organisational needs.
Try to forget about how much you need, or want, the job and remember your true value. Your prospective employer needs you just as much as you need them.
Important Things To Avoid
Do not put information that may be damaging to you the minds of your selection panel if you do not need to.
Avoid the following statements all costs:
- “I’ve been applying for a lot of jobs lately. You guys are my last hope!”
This immediately makes your selection panel wonder why no one else has hired you. Why would they want to invest time and money on you if you seem to be biding your time until a better offer to comes along?
2. “I left my last job because my boss didn’t appreciate me.”
A major red flag: this statement places an interviewer on notice that you may be a difficult employee. Prepare to have your name scratched from the list of potentials.
3. “I can pretty much just tell you what my resume says!”
Going into an interview unprepared (and without multiple copies of your CV, cover letter and any relevant supporting documents such as referee reports or writing samples) sends a clear message that you are not taking the job seriously.
4. “I’ve got to leave my current job because I shagged my boss.”
It is okay to avoid being completely honest where a little white lie will do.
Rather than disclosing personal reasons that caused you to seek alternative employment, lead with another reason. For example, “I feel that I’ve learned all that I can in my current position and I’m looking to take on a new and exciting challenge.”
5. “I’m hoping to have a lot more free time in this job, so that I can pursue my REAL passions!”
This sends a message that you lack commitment and a sound work ethic – two qualities that are essential in any new hire.
If you are pursuing a range of other interests, or are working on developing a side project, always stipulate that you will focus 100% on your current position if you are found successful.
Employers are paying you for the value you can bring to their organisation. If there is any chance that your extra curricular activities will detract from your performance, or that you will be running out the office before 5pm, they will hire someone else.
For the purposes of a job interview: the job is your passion, the job is your love, the job is your entire life.
What are some of your favourite tips for impressing at interview? What strategies do, or do not, work for you? Let us know in the comments section below!