How to Prepare to Make an Impression in Critical Interviews?

How to Prepare to Make an Impression in Critical Interviews?

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    I have been training our team in Shanghai last week on how they should educate their candidates (and clients) when conducting interviews- it’s always such a hot topic. As always with my columns here, the advice I’m giving is general: I’m trying to suit all readers, and take from it what you can and will. If you want some one-to-one advice, let me know! Although each point I cover is tailored towards someone attending an interview, it certainly work both ways.

    While I was never in the Brownies or the Girl Guides back in the UK, their mantra “Be prepared” is the absolute key for a good interview.

    Getting there
    When I was recruiting back in London, I would either email or print out for my candidates the quickest route to take to get to the interview, and also give them a back-up route, just in case the Tube was down or there was a traffic accident. Better still, if they had time, I would get them to try the route out at the same time that their interview was the day before. Here in Beijing we all know the traffic is a nightmare; however, because we know this it means that there really is no excuse to turn up late or on time but disheveled. Just allow sufficient time to journey! Being late for an interview is, in my eyes, setting the scene for a future of tardiness, and is also a sign of total disrespect for the interviewer’s time – not good.

    Check the weather for that day. If there’s going to be rain, wear appropriate clothing (if necessary take a change of shoes with you, ladies), grab an umbrella, and add a little bit extra time on what you have already gauged. Of course if despite all your planning there is a catastrophe, make sure you have their number in your phone so you can at least warn them as much in advance as possible.

    First impressions
    An interview is usually the first time you meet your potential new boss and work colleagues. The moment that person sees you, their brain is already making judgments: Are you a friend or enemy? Are you confident or shy? Do you have authority? Are you likeable? In all business encounters first impressions are crucial, and perhaps never more so than in an interview. It’s interesting because those first few seconds are heavily biased on non verbal signifiers. So you need to follow some easy tips: be conscious of your body language, stand tall, shoulders back, look enthusiastic, lean in a little towards them as you greet them, smile, look them in the eye and clearly introduce yourself. Exchange cards if appropriate, and then wait to be invited to take a seat. Perfect! All these signs will exude the right impression.

    If you are not sure how to pronounce someone’s name properly, then the time to ask is now – if you don’t do it at the beginning of the interview, you will look a fool asking midway through.

    Dress appropriately; if you are going for an interview in an office wear a suit or similar, and be relatively conservative; if you are going for an interview in a luxury boutique store, then dress to impress!

    Be interested
    A common misconception is that candidates think the interview is just about them answering questions, about them having to impress. Not so. Not only should you be interesting, but you should also be interested in the person or people you are seeing, as well as the company– of course! So you need to do your research beforehand. I don’t mean cramming in a few clicks of the mouse the night before. If you are working with a headhunter then they should be able to provide you with all the details you require; if not, then you need to do it yourself.
    Visiting the company’s website is not impressive
    enough in my view.

    When you know the name of the person you are due to see, go onto LinkedIn, view their profile, scroll down and read their experience, their background, and maybe even connect with them if you think it appropriate. Let’s face it: this could be someone you will potentially be working with on a daily basis, so it’s good to get an insight sooner rather than later. When you are in the interview you can ask them specific questions too. Use LinkedIn to do a search on the company, and have a look at the profiles of others within the organization. You may find someone that is already doing the job you are applying for, so this is good background research into the types of people they hire.

    Plan ahead
    Don’t organize anything immediately after the interview; it may last a lot longer than you had anticipated because they may show you round the premises, or maybe they want you to meet additional members of them team. If it’s going well, it would be a great pity to have to keep checking your watch or (in the worst case scenario) have to cut the interview short – so leave yourself plenty of time.

    Etiquette
    Please please turn off your mobile, Blackberry, iPhone – whatever mobile devices you have. I don’t just mean put on vibrate, I mean turn it off completely. If you have planned your time well there’s no reason not to show your interviewer courtesy and to give them 100% of your attention during this time together. Of course, you shouldn’t interrupt them or be discourteous, even if they are rambling on, or disagree with them. If you do that then chances are you won’t get the job.

    Remember that even if you don’t get the job you should aim to leave a lasting impression. People talk, and more often than not candidates are referred to other business units and other companies within industry all of the time. Just because you may not be right for that person or that team does not mean it was a totally unsuccessful interview.

    Sarah Jones is Head of Operations at Antal International, winner of “Best International Recruitment Agency” at the 2012 Recruiter Awards.

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