Behaviors for a Successful Interview – The Basics
Be your best “you.” What a cliché! Of course you want to be at your best when looking for a job. It should go without saying, but many candidates overlook the basics in the job search/employment process. It maybe a long time since you dealt with the trappings of job searching and the uncertainty of where, when, what and how a job offer will come. This begins a review of “must do” behaviors to be mastered in the interview process.
Focus on doing well the elements of a job search process that you can control, because there are many things a job candidate cannot control. The candidate has no control over whom, how and when interviews are conducted, what questions will be asked, or obviously, control over who gets the job. But there are a number of other things that a candidate does have control over. You should never lose a job offer because of something that was within your purview to make happen. Examples include:
- Be early for interviews. Anything short of a natural disaster sounds like merely an excuse for being late – and there are no excuses. Think through travel and traffic requirements and take necessary action to mitigate potential issues.
- Learn name of interviewer. Smile, look them in the eye, and be sure to greet everyone you meet with a firm handshake. Think in terms of conveying engaging and confident.
- Use good manners. Remember, this applies to everyone a candidate comes in contact with. Whether at the reception desk, in the hallway, the parking garage, your conduct should be the same as with those you interview with.
- Relax and answer each question concisely. Noticeable nervousness and/or rambling answers are a distraction. Study relaxation techniques used by public speakers to control nerves (e.g., long, deep breaths, etc.).
- Use proper English. Avoid slang, speak clearly, and focus on connecting and communicating.
- Be cooperative and enthusiastic. Go with the flow, do not pick arguments, and remember to smile appropriately and often.
- Show interest with body language. Use eye contact, sit-up straight, have good posture and display body language that is open and engaging.
- Ask questions about position and organization. Avoid questions whose answers are easily found on company Web site or published in the annual report.
- Avoid asking about pay in initial interview. Compensation and rewards are very important, but it is generally better to defer asking about compensation until latter stages of the interview process. Unless brought up by the employer, asking pay questions too early can appear to be self-centered on part of candidate.
- Thank the interviewer. Say thanks when you leave, remember the firm handshake, send a short thank you note.
I cannot promise that doing any one of these behaviors will get you a job. But added together, they can provide the winning edge over your competition for a job and help you achieve successful interview results. Best wishes for a profitable job search and winning interviews in your future.
Watch for articles within this site regarding other behaviors for a successful interview, including: cleaning-up; treating everyone as a potential interviewer; keeping cool; being careful of small talk; the value in the details; doing your homework; remembering to smile, and many more.
Body Language In Job Interviews Is Important
There is value in the details. Managers are often incredibly busy, which can make for shorter interviews. Therefore importance may be placed on maximizing the time available and attention paid to the more subtle points of job interviews; such as the body language messages you are sending.
Body language can speak louder than words and is critically important. Most people are aware of the basics: importance of a firm handshake, maintaining good eye contact and practicing good posture. But think about what is being communicated by subtle movements, gestures, looks and actions under the total body language “umbrella.” Body language includes actions such as:
- movement of head, facial expressions (e.g., movement of eyebrows, eyes, nose, etc.)
- body posture (i.e., the way body is placed, including arms and legs, in relation to each other, and in relation to other people)
- body proximity, shoulder movement, hand and finger gestures, handling and placement of objects (e.g., pens, papers, etc).
- Body language movements that telegraph intent, such as gestures (e.g., the particular way a hand is shaken, or someone winking after a particular comment), and vocal cues, including: pitch of voice, volume (e.g., shouting, whispering, etc).
- Nonverbal cues can say a lot about personality and interest in the open job. Seemingly small movements can send un-intended messages. Examples include: crossing arms (closed; keeps people at bay), over-reacting (nodding hurriedly, insincere, unprofessional), tense facial expressions (nervous, control-oriented, or angry). It is normal to be nervous, and some tension is to be expected. Take a few long, slow breaths to calm down.
Many hiring managers say they can often tell if someone is the right fit for his or her organization just minutes after the handshake. In a recent Robert Half survey, executives said they typically form an opinion of a candidate within the first ten minutes of an employment interview. With such a short amount of time to interact with a hiring manager, what can the candidate do to achieve a positive response?
The most important body language cue to me is remembering to smile. I know for some people this may be painful, but a ready smile says you are confidant and positive. Being positive goes a long way toward convincing the interviewer that you’re right for the job. Consider whether you’re making any common nervous mistakes (e.g., such as rushing your responses or not listening to the full questions), and adjust your communications as necessary. Many employers want positive people. They are nice to work with and customers appreciate them. A smile says you are that person.
While prepping for your next interview, remember to spend some time in front of a mirror, or better yet, video yourself. Talk through answers to commonly asked interview questions and watch for messages your body language may send. If you see anything negative or weak, take action to correct.
Top 10 Ways to ‘Tell Me About Yourself’
It’s the most feared question during any job interview: “Can you tell me about yourself?”
Hiring managers and recruiters have asked this question for many years. You need to be ready to hear it and answer it. At all times.
Now, before I share a list of 10 suggested answers, consider the two essential elements behind the answers:
The medium is the message. The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm and passion with which you answer it.
The speed of the response is the response. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem.
Potential answers include the following:
- “I can summarize who I am in three words.” (Grabs their attention immediately. Demonstrates your ability to be concise, creative and compelling)
- “The quotation I live my life by is…” (Proves that personal development is an essential part of your growth plan. Also shows your ability to motivate yourself)
- “My personal philosophy is…” (Companies hire athletes – not shortstops. This line indicates your position as a thinker, not just an employee)
- “People who know me best say that I’m…” (This response offers insight into your own level of self-awareness)
- “Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” (Tech-savvy, fun, cool people would say this. Unexpected and memorable)
- “My passion is…” (People don’t care what you do – people care who you are. And what you’re passionate about is who you are. Plus, passion unearths enthusiasm)
- “When I was seven years old, I always wanted to be…” (An answer like this shows that you’ve been preparing for this job your whole life, not just the night before)
- “If Hollywood made a move about my life, it would be called…” (Engaging, interesting and entertaining)
- “Can I show you, instead of tell you?” (Then, pull something out of your pocket that represents who you are. Who could resist this answer? Who could forget this answer?)
- “The compliment people give me most frequently is…” (Almost like a testimonial, this response also indicates self-awareness and openness to feedback)
Keep in mind that these examples are merely the opener. The secret is thinking how you will follow up each answer with relevant, interesting and concise explanations that make the already bored interviewer look up from his stale coffee and think, “Wow! That’s the best answer I’ve heard all day!”
Ultimately it’s about:
- Answering quickly
- Speaking creatively
- Breaking people’s patterns
I understand your fear with such answers. Responses like these are risky and unexpected. And that’s exactly why they work. You are a good candidate for the position because of your answers. When people ask you to tell them about yourself, make them glad they asked.
Like it or not, a good part of the impression an interviewer first forms of you depends on appearance. All protests aside about not “judging a book by its cover,” appearance still counts in an interview. Wear a nice suit, business casual, or whatever is considered appropriate clothing for the work environment. Even if you know the work place to be a casual place, I believe it is OK to “dress-up” anyway. By wearing clothes that are coordinated, clean and pressed, it is one more way for the candidate to show interest and that they want the job. I hear that some job candidates believe they are not being true to themselves if they dress differently than they typically do. But with competition for the best jobs very keen, why not improve the odds of success by changing those things within your control?
Another long-time area of conflict is facial hair. Though beards are popular and more accepted on men of all ages, I still see surveys of hiring managers indicating a bias toward the clean-shaven.
And speaking of bias, though tattoos and various body piercings are becoming main stream and extending beyond age or generational boundaries, they can still evoke negative bias on the part of interviewers. Therefore, best practice is still that all body art be covered and all visible body piercings removed (with the exception of earrings) when attending an interview. If the position requires you to represent the company to customers and/or the general public, hiring companies still may have rules against such displays.
Put your best foot forward in the interview, and “dress for success.” You will be glad you did.
Who isn’t nervous during a job interview? Even the most self-assured candidate is going to have a moment or two of self-doubt. But the trick is to keep this to yourself and portray an image of confidence. This is what a potential employer wants to see if you are not confident in your own abilities why should they be. Here are a few ways to exude confidence.
Make eye contact, nothing is more of a dead give away of poor self-confidence than a person that will not look someone in the eye. Walk up to your interviewer, extend your hand and look in them in the eye when you greet them and express your pleasure of meeting them. And don’t beat around the bush when you are talking. Saying thinks like, “Well, I kind of helped with a project but I didn’t run it myself,” screams I do not think I am worthy of this position. Instead, say this, “I assisted in a very successful project and played a key role in bringing it to completion.” Your role in the project may not have
changed the perception the interviewer has of you has.
If you haven’t been on very many interviews or it has been some time since you last attended one, it is understandable to be nervous. The more interviews you complete, the more confidence you will gain in your abilities to sell yourself. And you have to remember that if you were not qualified you would not have gotten the interview in the first place. Use that knowledge to your advantage and instill confidence in yourself. As a back-up measure, get some friends or family members to remind you of all of your great traits and what makes you special – an ego boost before an interview can certainly
boost your confidence level.
There is a difference between telling a story highlighting the positive to make you sound better and lying to the interviewer. It is rare for a company to not conduct reference check these days so don’t say anything that can not be verified by your boss or other references that you provide.
There are many ways to get into trouble during an interview and lying is the most severe. Common fibs that are told include educational degrees that you do not hold, saying that you are a manager when really you are a team lead and taking credit for a project that was completed by a co worker. All of these things can make you sound good at the time of the interview, but what if the interviewer talks to your boss about the stellar project you ran for the company when it really wasn’t you. Your boss is not going to lie for you and if you were in the running for the job, you won’t be anymore.
The best way to handle these scenarios is to tell the truth but put you in the best light. Maybe you were a part of the project, instead tell the interviewer the part you played and share the success of the project as a whole. An employee that can recognize and share in the success in others is preferable to one who doesn’t tell the truth or wants all of the credit for themselves. This does not mean that you have to share all anything that doesn’t put you in a positive
position though. The key is to be honest and only bring up examples that are going to highlight your talents and work history in the best possible way. Don’t claim or state anything that cannot be backed up by your references.
Sometimes – or more like every time – you go for an interview, your nerves make it hard to concentrate and answer questions to the best of your ability. The important thing to remember is to really listen to the questions being asked. If the interviewer tells you they want a specific example, don’t answer with a general how you would do something – it is a surefire way to ruin your chances for the job.
These types of questions are known as situational questions. If an interviewer were to say to you, “Tell us about your favorite vacation.” You wouldn’t respond by telling them about all the places you would like to go or make a generalization:
“My favorite vacation is to go someplace hot with my family and sit on the beach.” Instead, you should answer as specifically as possible including all the pertinent details:
“My favorite vacation was two years ago when I went to California with my family. We spent a lot of time on the beach. It was very relaxing.”
The second answer adds credibility. It is obvious that you are providing information from something that actually happened as opposed to making something up just to answer the question.
Potential employers are trying to gauge how you react or perform in specific situations.
Common questions that are asked include:
“Tell me about a time you led a team project.” Include what the project was, how many people, and any challenges including how you overcame them.
“Tell me about a conflict you had with a co-worker.” Only pick situations that had a positive outcome.
Employers today want to know how you are going to perform on the job before they even hire you. By answering situational questions specifically you can assure the interviewer you have the skills and thought processes that they are looking for.
If you love to talk and when you are nervous can go on and on, or if you are the opposite and clam up when you are in a stressful situation – you need to be conscious of this and not do either in an interview. When asked a question, an interview wants enough
information that will help them understand what you are talking about, but not extraneous irrelevant information.
If you are answering a question using an example from your previous or current job and there is a lot of jargon or acronyms – try to use more common place term that more people are familiar with or explain what you mean in the beginning. If you are asked to describe a time when you lead a project – explain what the project was about, how many people you managed and any key points that demonstrate what a great job you did. What you don’t want to do is get side-tracked and give details that aren’t relevant to the question. The interviewer is not going to be interested in a play by play of the entire project – they want to know your role in it.
Keep on topic; take a moment before answering a question to organize the details in your mind. You don’t want to start answering, get sidetracked and forget the point you were trying to make. If you stay on topic and know what you are going to say, you are going
to be able to keep the interviewer’s attention.
If you are a person of few words, practice with a friend or family member before your interview. Learn how to expand your answers so you give thorough information without living the interviewer wanting more. But if you are in doubt, less is better – an interviewer will ask follow-up questions if necessary.
Are you excited at the prospect of getting a new job and are thrilled that you were called in for an interview? Well, then show it when you are being interviewed! Bring an energy and attitude to the interview that will make the company take notice. The process
of interviewing is usual a long and boring one for those on the other side of the table. Do your part to make it easier for them to choose you as the best candidate.
Just think of all the people before and after you that are also going to be interviewed for the same position. If all other things were equal – qualifications and the answers to the interview questions – what is going to set you apart from the rest? You can be enthusiastic and smile when answering (when appropriate) and still maintain an aura of professionalism. You want to exude charisma and keep the interviewer’s attention. They have heard a lot of the answers already, but you can get the message across with more than words.
Someone who is excited to get a job and lets that excitement be known is going to have a better chance than someone who talks in a monotone and with little to no emotion. Don’t be afraid to smile and use phrases as “that’s great” or “wonderful” when you are told about the company. Be the type of person that the company wants to represent them and you will increase the chances of a job offer.
A few words of caution: don’t go overboard. Be genuine in your enthusiasm and be yourself. Sincerity is key or your enthusiasm could work against you instead of for you. If you are naturally bubbly by nature, tone it down a bit for the interview so you do not overwhelm your hosts.
In addition to a list of questions you want to ask and a pen and notepad you should also bring duplicate copies of anything else that you may need to provide to the interviewer. When booking the interview, ask if there is anything specific you should bring with you
(normally references is the only requirement). But if you are applying for a driving job, a driver’s abstract may be required or if you are applying as a writer you may be asked to bring in a sample of your work.
Make sure to write down the requested items to bring and make duplicates. If more than one person is going to interview you, bring one for each of them and then one more. This show forethought and preparedness. You also don’t want to make your interviewer look
bad by not being prepared if they forgot or lost your resume. Let them know that you brought an extra copy for them and hand it over.
Chances are this won’t happen, but won’t you be happy if it does and you are prepared? By brining more copies than are required, you can provide your extra copy to the other interviewers so they are not all huddled around the one copy of your writing portfolio or resume.
Even if you are not asked to bring references to the interview, take the time to type out and print copies anyway. If the interview went well you are sure to be asked for them and this again, shows that you think ahead and make the necessary preparations. Do not show up without any special documents that were specifically requested of you, if you do not think you can obtain them in the timeframe given be sure to let the person know before you arrive for the interview.