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Interview techniques

There are thousands of articles on interview techniques, just have a look at ExecutiveSurf’s Twitter page. However, at this time of year a lot of people decide that what they need in the coming year, is a new and better job. To get one of these, though, you will need to attend a few interviews. So, if you are lucky enough to get a response from your CV and are invited to attend an interview, here are some painless and hopefully helpful pointers.

For many people, an interview might be a high-stress experience, but for most interviewers it’s all part of a day’s work. Some interviews will be hard work, some will be interesting, and most interviewers decide which it is very early on in the process.
The idea that employers decide to hire or reject a candidate in the first 30 seconds of an interview is apocryphal; if it were true, interviews would be much shorter. What happens is that an interviewer makes initial decisions about your personality which are fairly hard to shake.

Psychologists say humans make snap judgements whenever we meet someone new, based on minimal amounts of information. Interviewers don’t make a complete hiring decision in the first few seconds of an interview, but they do make strong assumptions prompted by three factors: how personable you are, how easy you seem to work with, and your initial visual impact.

So how does an interviewer make an instinctive prediction about how personable you are? They will question whether you are easy to talk to, pleasant to work alongside and good at establishing relationships quickly.

A decision will also be made about how open you are. Do you readily respond to questions and volunteer information? Do you help the interview flow? You might think this opening chemistry is entirely instinctive and outside your control, but it isn’t.
Pace yourself – slowing down slightly helps you sound measured and confident, while nervous chatter suggests you are covering something up. Speak clearly and at a volume that matches the interviewer. Practise small talk, but also rehearse what you will say in the opening moments of the interview when someone asks one of the two classic questions: “Tell us about yourself,” or “Why are you interested in this role?” Do your homework and show real interest in the organisation.

Small adjustments to your interview performance and practising these opening moments make a huge difference. Be open and friendly to everyone, particularly reception staff who may be asked for their opinion after you leave.
Finally, your walk-in appearance matters. Do you look and sound the part? Dressing so that you look comfortable, yet carry authority is the secret.

It’s easy to plan your outfit. Check out the dress code of the organisation and try to look as if you belong. When you arrive, declutter, getting rid of your coat and briefcase and just take a folder into the meeting room.

Some interviews are conducted by a panel and these can be slightly more formal and intimidating. It is always important to give detailed, well-structured answers and maybe occasionally add: “Does that cover what you need?” Ask a few good questions at the end and try to look confident as you say goodbye to each member by name and thank them for their time.
If, horror of horrors, you are asked to give a presentation to a panel, prepare meticulously, observing time limits and remember that this is not only an opportunity to communicate some good ideas, but also an audition for whether you look and sound the part.

Sometimes it is actually the informal interview that you should be wary of. An interview is an interview, whether it is in the boardroom, in a restaurant or on a train. Even if you are told it’s just a brief chat, ensure you have prepared as thoroughly as possible.

So, if 2013 is the year you look for a new job, best of luck.

Nigel Phillips

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