Doing well in an interview is a developed skill, not something you’re born with. The problem is that most people view an interview the same way one might view a police interview when under suspicion of a crime: terrifying. It seems like a pass or fail game and if you give up too much info, you might not get the job (or be convicted for a crime you didn’t commit!). It’s enough to make anyone nervous!
Before you lawyer up, hit the gym and delete Facebook (not necessarily in that order), it might be best to change your mind set about what an interview is really designed for. It’s not an interrogation, instead it’s a chance for you and people at a company to meet up and see if there’s any connection. Sure, first dates are nerve-wracking too, but you’re not just worried about whether the person likes you – you’re also worried about liking the other person. Don’t forget, companies don’t hire people, people that work at companies hire people, so often the best qualified or most skilled person loses out to someone that’s more likeable. The problem is most people hide too much of themselves away in an interview and it’s impossible for many hiring managers to form an opinion if you’re likeable or not! Oops.
If you were a stock image, you would want to be this guy. I mean look at him, everyone is just so happy to be around him, that’s how likeable he is. Maybe he just shared about his epic weekend, brought in donuts and coffee for the entire sales team, AND just saved 7 kittens and 30 kids from a burning school bus. All without having to wear a tie. Be more like him in an interview.
If you want to leave a hiring manager with a good impression, here’s a few of my top tips I share with my candidates before they interview:
Able to professionally defend your position: hiring managers aren’t just looking for someone with an opinion, they want someone that can back an opinion with something solid. You think one software development methodology is better than another? Why? Give an example of how you saw something work better in a previous position, especially if it saved time or money, then ask for their own personal observations about the methodologies in question. Having a backbone is awesome, but also being able to reasonable listen to other ideas and independently evaluate options is even better.
Not being a parrot: bosses aren’t looking to hire a parrot. Candidates are often passed over for being too agreeable and being able to voice your opinion, even if it contrasts with a potential boss, is a powerful skill.
Letting their personality out: people want to work with people they like and how can a potential boss get a feel for your personality if you keep it under wraps. Let your light shine!
Real smiles: humans are very good at reading emotions, both from visual and verbal cues. You should always add in a few smiles on phone interviews as it comes through in your voice, in-person interviews are trickier as fake smiling can be more off-putting than endearing. Some people view interviews as a serious matter and come into them with that somber approach, which results in a pass for being unlikeable.
Playful commiserating: This is another tricky tip as it works to a certain extent. You want to be careful not to voice any complaints about anything too specific that an interview may not be able to relate to, while also not complaining about anything that a potential boss may find off-putting. If you’re asked how you’re doing, instead of a boring “good”, it might be better to say something like “I’d be doing a lot better if the Dolphins weren’t losing so bad this year!” or “Fantastic, now that I’ve finally gotten my coffee in this morning.” How was the drive to the in-person interview? Sure, you could say it was “fine” through gritted teeth, but let’s be honest, “Driving through the rain is my least favorite thing, but I avoided a couple of people that seemed intent on hitting me, so I’d say it was a win.”
Sharing something personal: Do you want to be job seeker Dave who’s looking for a new C# programming job or Dave who has 2 young kids, rock climbs on the weekend, makes killer cappuccinos for the office and happens to be a C# wizard? Use the “how was your weekend” question to make an impression, instead of boring them with the typical “Oh, it wasn’t too bad”. Would you say that on a first date? Hopefully not, because you realize they care more about learning about you than getting a canned reply. I’d rather hire the guy that says “My weekend? Oh, it was fantastic, took my daughters, Kelly and Abby out on a little rock climbing weekend, Kelly made it the top in the first try, so you’re looking at a proud dad. Laid back on Sunday and worked on some side development projects and had a couple of my famous cappuccinos – I make those on Friday’s at my current job and hoping to keep the tradition alive wherever I end up. How was your weekend?” See how Dave ended with a question? Interviews are a two-way street, and a meaningful conversation can’t happen if you keep putting up dead end signs.
Eye contact: Maintaining appropriate eye contact should be an obvious thing for most people, however, if you’re lacking confidence, it can reflect in poor eye contact. Mock interviewing might be a good avenue to beef up in this department.
Using their name: People like others that use their name in conversation. For most positions, except for assistant or junior roles, first names are appropriate, however, if you’re uncertain, start with Ms/Mr and if they invite you to use their first name, do it!
Have any tips for not being forgotten as soon as you leave an interview? Share them in the comments below.