I like interviews. Strange but true.

IMG_0186I am one of those people who enjoy interviews. Like really enjoys them and looks forward to them!

Maybe it’s the challenge, I am a very competitive person but I also think it’s the stress that excites me. I thrive in stressful situations. This is often used as my excuse for leaving that extremely important report until the night before its due but it’s also why working freelance has been so attractive to me in the past. I need to be busy, working to tight deadlines and managing multiple projects.

It’s not that interviews don’t make me nervous, of course I experience the butterflies but I also get a real buzz out of the experience. And having sat on both sides of the table, as an interviewer and interviewee, I know exactly what I want to achieve and deliver.

Here are my three key interview pointers:

  • Research

I love to do the research prior to an interview. This is so important and it really comes across to the panel interviewing. The first thing is to read the job description. Are there any terms you’re unfamiliar with? Look them up, find out what they mean. I once interviewed for a piece of freelance work at short notice and didn’t do the prep. The first question asked me for my thoughts on the term I didn’t know. Needless to say I was unsuccessful, but I learned a lot about how important it is to be prepared.

Then do some background research on the organisation and the context in which they are operating. Who are the key staff? What are the aims and objectives of the organisation? Who are their partners, stakeholders or whom are they working with? All of this works towards making you feel like you fit, carving your niche in the organisation and building your network. If you can see where you fit and why you would be valuable, then you’re armed and ready for selling yourself well in the interview.

Your invite to interview letter may name the interview panel. If it does, look them up, find out about their background. WARNING, I don’t mean stalker-like following on Facebook or twitter and certainly don’t add them yet but look to see if they have a professional bio online and try to put a face to the name. This will help put you at ease when you meet them in person.

  • Be Yourself

So you are interviewing for a job, you really want to sell yourself. There is so much of you to share. You’ve read all the paperwork and can evidence how you meet each and every bullet point on the person specification. You feel that you can answer any question that comes your way and the last thing to do is to cram in a night of reading the application form and your experience beforehand (seriously, cramming about your own experience seems ridiculous when I see it written here). You KNOW your own experiences, you’ve LIVED them.

So don’t over-rely on notes (or if possible try to avoid using them at all). By all means read over the application form and what you’ve written but don’t try to memorise them. The worst kind of interviewee is one who narrates their experiences from a pre-rehearsed written text (even one that has been memorised). The panel want to hear about you, they are interested in you, as a person. Be authentic, share who you are. Yes, your experiences are important and they will highlight how you might be able to fulfil the role but the things that are important will come to you when you need them. Just be yourself, that’s all you can be. [Note: I’m adding in a slight caveat here…please use ‘be yourself’ responsibly. Remember your manners, be polite, kind and behave in a way that matches the ethos of the organisation. I was once interviewing a candidate and asked what attracted them to the post. The reply I received was “I was told I had to do it or my benefits were going to stop. I don’t really want to work here but it’s better than nothing’”. Wow, those people do exist in the world!   So please, use ‘Be Yourself’ with big helpings of common sense!]

  • Smile

This may seem like the easy part but it’s so often overlooked. A smile is universal, everyone understands it and it works to communicate, to relax, to diffuse a situation, to make people feel at ease and to lighten a mood. In the interview context, it’s easy to get caught up in pre-empting the next question, looking for the opportunity to share that critical piece of experience you have and evaluating your progress based on the responses of the interview panel. Before you know it, you’re frowning, stressing and generally looking panicked. So take a deep breath and smile. After each answer or during each pause, make a conscious decision to smile. It works wonders, you’ll feel much happier in the situation and you’ll be better prepared to answer the next question.

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