5 tips to ace an interview
Seeing a job interview from two angles. Learn more about Michael's interview tips.
Job interviews can feel daunting, but they can also be a positive experience. Karina’s story shows us an interview from both sides of the desk, revealing how Virgin’s interviewers get the best of candidates, and what Karina did to get a job offer.
Although Karina found the interview process friendly and ‘informal’, she also made sure that she communicated relevant skills, strengths, and a strong interest in the role. She didn’t make the mistake of thinking that ‘informal’ means ‘unprepared’.
This video shows us the great results you can achieve in any job interview if you have the right focus.
There are a thousand things you could be worrying about before and during an interview. Here are some tips, that expand on Michael’s advice, to make sure that you focus on the right elements.
Focus point 1 – Building a warm relationship from the outset
Karina’s success came from making the interview feel like a comfortable conversation, showing the interviewers how easy she was to get along with. This opening moment gave strong insight that Karina had the ability to work in a team and establish relationships with senior stakeholders.
An interview is like an audition or screen test – interviewers come to a conclusion about your working style in the first few seconds, even before formal questioning begins, while you’re settling into the room. Making the conversation easy forms a strong first impression about whether you will fit into the organisation.
Remember that when someone hires you, their decision is very much in the spotlight on your first day at work – interviewers want to look good by finding new hires clearly fit in.
Focus point 2 – Communicating top skills
Your CV may contain over a hundred facts, but in an interview you will make only a few points. Karina’s experience was clearly probed, and she made it clear that she’s made good progress in her career and showed determination. This shows she’s thought in advance about matching her experience to the main needs of the role.
When you discuss your work experience, don’t just talk about obvious tasks. Show how you added to roles, and where you went the extra mile and were stretched.
Focus point 3 – Preparing the right stories
One reason Karina securely landed a job offer is because her story makes sense. Michael shows he understands the shape of her career, and he’s confident she can offer not just the right skills, but skills at the right level.
Tell energised stories to reveal both experience and motivation. People remember stories far longer than they remember information, and high-energy stories even longer. Practice helps; you will leave an interviewer with no doubt that you bring something special to the role.
Focus point 4 – Making sure they meet the real you
Personality is clearly a key aspect in this finance business analyst role, and Karina has ticked all the right boxes. How did she do it? It’s interesting to hear how interviewers sum up impressive candidates. Michael refers twice to Karina’s ‘hunger’ – shorthand for someone with motivation and initiative.
Listen again to what Michael says to describe her personality – for example the word ‘vibrant’ – and his appreciation of Karina’s sense of humour.
Job descriptions give some clues about personality traits, but you can dig deeper. Talk to people who know the organisation well – not to get special treatment, but to decode the attitudes and behaviours demonstrated by the most valued members of staff.
Don’t just talk about the best aspects of your personality, reveal them through well-packaged examples of where you have performed well.
Above-average candidates show rather than tell. They communicate stories that show how they have worked with energy in past roles, and where they have added value, delighted a customer, or provided new ideas.
Focus point 5 – Being credible and staying authentic
Karina’s interviewers valued that her answers came across as fresh, open, and authentic and didn’t sound like they came out of a textbook. As Michael suggests, that is a kind of over-preparation, because it’s focused on what you want to say rather than what the interviewer needs to hear.
If answers come out stilted and pre-packaged it suggests this is what you’re saying to every employer – and probably means that you’re not listening to questions properly.
Don’t misunderstand Michael’s comment here. The right kind of preparation matters; for example, be really clear about the stories you will tell at the interview, and keep them brief.
Match these stories to the role. List what you believe to be the top 10 employer requirements on a sheet of paper, and against each point, make a note of a skill story.
Focus and don’t over-supply information. Summarise the problem you faced, your skill and how you used it, then the end result, and maybe what you learned from the experience.
Having these short, punchy skill summaries available in the back of your mind means that you can focus on really listening, and on maintaining a good relationship with your interviewers.
Congratulations to Karina on getting the job at Virgin Media. It also helps the rest of us, because it reveals that she got her homework right, wasted no time creating a warm opening impression, and communicated her skills, career story, and personality.
It’s not rocket science, it just takes focus on three things: the job, your evidence, and making it a great conversation.
(All comments have to be approved before they appear)