By: Cindy Walker, Vice President Human Resources, Valassis
Published Thursday, Feb 9, 2017
There are countless articles that offer advice when preparing for an interview, all full of tips and tricks to help ensure the interviewee gets the job. As someone who has overseen recruiting for many years and conducted countless interviews in my career, I find most of the advice to be helpful. However, I think there are some foundational aspects to interviewing that are often overlooked, even though I believe them to be critical.
So, here are what I believe are the basic, but important keys to a truly successful interview -- and please note that, in my opinion, a successful interview does not necessarily mean you get the job in the end. Successful means the outcome that should happen, does happen.
Bring the “authentic you” to the interview and show who you would be every day on the job. You don’t want to misrepresent yourself when being evaluated as a potential fit for a role and company. The only way to ensure a proper decision can be made is to be genuine so the interviewer can accurately assess whether you’re a good fit for a particular culture; whether you might work well with certain personalities, and so on.
Please note that being authentic does not equate to being informal, casual or unprofessional. It means being true to your genuine thoughts, opinions and approach. When you try to put on airs or be someone you aren’t, simply because you think it may impress the interviewer, you are being disingenuous and that will show through. You won’t appear comfortable in your own skin, which will impact the credibility and confidence you exude.
A simple way to gauge whether you are being authentic is to ask yourself: If your current co-workers were watching the interview through a two-way mirror, would they ask, “Who on earth are you trying to be?” If they would ask that question, you are not being authentic.
This may seem like an obvious one -- “of course I will be there at the interview!” But just “being there” is different than “being present.” We all know that in a potentially tense situation, it can be difficult to keep your mind from wandering. But, it is very important that you stay present and focused on the moment as opposed to trying to figure out what the interviewer thinks of you or what they may ask you next. It will be clear to an interviewer if you are really listening to him/her and if you aren’t “present,” it could be easily misconstrued as not taking the interview seriously or being uninterested, which we can all agree are not good things! Even if your mind is wandering for interview-related reasons it will be detrimental to you and the process overall.
Ask thoughtful questions based on the current conversation. Nothing shows you are more engaged than reacting (i.e., asking questions) based on what is being said in the moment. It shows you are listening carefully, interacting thoughtfully based on what you are hearing, and are interested in learning more or gaining clarity. It also doesn’t hurt to come prepared with some questions, but they should be legitimate questions you really want answered. In other words, if you ask a prepared question and the interviewer were to ask, “Why do you want to know that?” you should be able to thoughtfully answer. Think of an interview as a two-way conversation, not a ‘presentation’ or one-sided line of questioning.
In the end, if you show up as your true self, stay present and engaged throughout, and have a meaningful conversation with the interviewer, you will both benefit. The interviewer will understand who you really are, what you bring to the table, and how you may fit into the role and organization so an informed decision can be made. You’ll benefit from knowing that the decision the interviewer ultimately makes will be based on credible information, so the chances of the “right” decision being made are much higher. Plus, if you are engaged and really conversing, you’ll leave with a much better understanding of the role.
Enact these tips and success should follow!