Interviews can be grueling experiences for some, but you can significantly improve your interview skills by remembering just a few key lessons.
Don’t try to “win” the interview
Many people approach interviews as tests with right and wrong answers. While there are definitely preferred answers (and hilariously bad answers) to all interview questions, it’s important to remember that an interview isn’t necessarily a test.
At its core, an interview is a conversation designed to inform both parties on whether a hire is mutually beneficial. The interviewer simply wants to get a sense for who you are as a person and whether or not you can carry out the job you’re being hired to do.
It’s best to avoid designing what seem like “correct” answers, such as the classic “my weakness is caring too much”. Barf.
Instead, approach each answer rooted in honesty while also focusing on what makes you an ideal candidate. “My weakness is that I often don’t speak my mind on the spot, but the benefit of this is that my ideas are usually well researched and useful for my team.”
Lastly, remember that the interviewer wants you to do well in your interview. They’re not your enemy, and they’re not hoping for you to slip up. If you’re being brought in for an interview, it’s likely they already have a good suspicion that you’d be a great fit, and people love confirming their suspicions.
Make yourself the interviewer, and find the perfect candidate
This goes beyond simply imagining you’re interviewing yourself. To really understand the interviewer’s mindset and what they’re hoping to see, you need to go a bit deeper.
Imagine for a moment that you’re looking to hire a candidate to fill the position you’re interviewing for. Imagine that you wrote the job requirements yourself, and you’re hoping to find someone who meets each of those requirements.
From there, put yourself in the interviewer role and imagine speaking to a potential candidate about the role. Ask the candidate a series of open ended questions to determine their abilities and personality. Examples include:
- In one sentence, why do you want this job?
- What qualities make you a great fit?
- Can you describe a time when you’ve performed well at [job related task]?
- What’s your biggest weakness?
Along with imagining that your candidate is answering those questions, closely consider some of the qualities you value in yourself and others. What could they say that would please you most? What could they say that would totally repulse you? What key words would you want to hear to clue you into their core values? The key here is to imagine what you want out of the candidate, not what you’re thinking an interviewer would want to hear from you. In the end, imagine what your perfect candidate would look like.
It’s encouraged to think deeply about this scenario. By finding your own perfect candidate, you just might become a perfect candidate yourself.
Be direct, be brief
I once interviewed a candidate who spoke at length about his breadth of knowledge. But when tasked with showing these skills via an interactive programming challenge, he spent a great deal of time running in indecisive circles, and ultimately, was unable to complete the assessment. His downfall came in his inability to be direct and make confident decisions with me and the other interviewers.
Additionally, I myself have made the mistake of being indirect with my words, talking far beyond what was necessary to get my point across. This is often a symptom of nerves, but we must always be careful to focus on being clear and concise in an interview.
Talk about yourself, but don’t make it about you
As I’ve said before, the best way to get people to take interest in us is to take interest in them. Sadly, being in an interview doesn’t give you this opportunity, as avoiding speaking about yourself will quickly send you out the door.
A way to incorporate this idea of taking interest in others in an interview is to make the interviewer’s (and more specifically, the company’s) needs the forefront of the conversation. Instead of “look at me”, try ” look what I can do for the company”.
Your truest self
Lastly, though it’s been said many times before, the best technique for nailing an interview is to be your truest self. By doing so, you’ll give the interviewer a clear indication of your fit for the role. Additionally, if the interview doesn’t lead to a job, you can walk away knowing that your truest self likely wasn’t a great fit for you or the company, and you’re probably better off anyway.
As always, go forward with confidence, and happy job hunting.