In the last part of my How to Get a Job series, I want to go over interview technique. In the job application process, this is my strongest area. On paper, I am bland. Sure, I speak Japanese and have been on JET and had a good job, but there are lots of other people out there with similar CVs.
What helps get me ahead is that I rock interviews. Speaking with people has never been a problem of mine, coming from a very sociable family who are known to host great parties. Confidence and the ability to charm are key to doing well in job interviews, but even if you are not a natural at these kinds of things, the following tips should help you get ahead when you need it.
Things to do before the interview
Read up on the company
This is a must. You need to show the interviewers that you are interested in their company, in what they do and that you are a good fit for their philosophy. Have a nose around their website, but what I find even more useful is to look on their Twitter feed, because you can get a real insight there. Are they a cool, young company? Are they more corporate? If they’ve been tweeting about a certain theme over and over, you can look into that and bring it up in the interview.
Read and re-read the job description
Go back to the job advert and read it a few more times. What do they want from you? What kind of impression do you need to give? A good way to figure these things out is to highlight the key words. I interviewed for a very wide range of jobs and from doing this step, I knew in each interview whether I needed to be fresh with lots of ideas and energy or serious and dedicated.
Write down 3 reasons why you are awesome for that job
Once you have the an overview of who the company are and exactly who they are looking for, make a list of 3 reasons why you would be perfect for the job. Try not to do boring, generic reasons like that you’re a “people person” or have “good organisational skills”. Try to think why you – and only you – can do that job.
Write down 3 examples of experiences you’ve had that relate to that field
These don’t have to relate to the three points above, but try to think of 3 examples of things you’ve done – inside or outside of work – that show that you have experience in what this company want. If you’ve not got any good examples from inside the office, try to write things you may see as minor as being really awesome. Otherwise, what do you do outside of work? Do you organise dinners and events for your friends? Did you book a holiday to go on together? This SHOWS that you can organise and bring people together. What about if you write a blog? Well, then you know about marketing, SEO, social media and so on. These are all EXCELLENT things for your CV and shouldn’t be overlooked.
Write down as many questions as you can
So you have info on the company, what the company want and how you are the one and only for that job. Now you need to think of questions. Asking questions may seem like a negative thing to do but it’s anything but. Firstly, questions about the office life show that you yourself have standards that you need to be met. Just because you’re the one desperate for a job doesn’t mean that you will accept an office with a poor working culture. If you get the job, this image of you being invested in yourself (as opposed to being desperate) will help in salary negotiations.
Not only that, but asking questions will show that you are seriously looking at a job there, not just going to every interview that comes your way.
What kind of questions should you ask? I actually did a googling early on in my job hunt and chose ones that I liked the most, but some of the ones I use are “what do you like about working here?”, “where is the person who did the job before me? Have they left or did they get a promotion etc” and, may favourite, “what is the turnover rate?” The turnover rate can be a red flag for you if it’s less than a year or so. One time when I asked that, the interviewer told me that people last, on average, 3 months. Eek.
During the interview
I know I said that you should act according to the job description, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t be yourself. At the end of the day, if you pretend to be someone you’re not and they think you’re a good fit, 6 months down the line you could be really unhappy because it turns out that you don’t fit in that kind of environment.
This goes for guys as well as girls. For guys – suits, of course, but I have seen guys in interviews with gorgeous blue suits. On one hand it will make you memorable, but on the other hand, it’s an unusual choice. It depends on the interview and the kind of impression you want to make.
For girls, of course, there are a few more rules. It really depends on the kind of interview you’re going to, but I always dress conservatively, in dark colours, with a jacket if my blouse doesn’t cover my upper arms.
Be confident – not cocky
There is a fine line between being confident and being cocky and there are so many factors that come into play – the way you sit, where you look when you’re answering questions, how you talk… even your accent! Perhaps you could ask some of your friends what their first impressions of you were, so you can get an idea of how you come across.
Ask those questions
In the excitement and nervousness of the interview, you can sometimes forget to ask those questions you wrote down – but don’t forget them! As I said, they give a very good impression of you so don’t miss your chance.
Now, all of this up until now has been good interview advice. However, I have a tip which is the ULTIMATE INTERVIEW HELPER – something I only just learnt halfway through my job hunt. With this, you can really structure your interview answers and impress them.
Point. Explain. Relate.
For every single answer you give you need to follow this structure. First of all, make your point. Then, you need to explain it, and lastly, tell them how this relates to them.
For example, in sales interviews I used something along the lines of:
Point – I am ambitious.
Explain – I do not want to be an ordinary person and set out every day to be unique, to be a winner. If there are targets to hit, I will work until I have hit them, whether they are self-set targets like “buy a house before I’m 35” or work targets like “translate 3000 words today”.
Relate – With my ambitious streak, I will be taking the targets you set for me and beating them as fast as I can. I want to be on top, and so with me hitting these targets to get ahead, I will be making you more money.
With this explanation, I am also using key words – money, targets, get ahead. This is what sales interviewers want to hear.
This structure can be difficult to get used to at first, but if you do all the planning above, and execute it all in the interview, I don’t see how you can’t use this plan to get the job you want.
Do you have any good interview advice? Have you used any of the tips above? I’d love to know in the comments!