While an interview can feel a bit like a verbal exam, the best interviews should not be like this. A better way of thinking about them is as a meeting where both sides are going to share information and come to a mutual decision about suitability or ‘fit’ with a particular organisation or role.
Rapport is important in any human interaction, as the saying goes “It takes two to tango”. You will need to gauge the tone of the interview – is it formal or less formal? In general, match your behaviour and conversation to that of the interviewer.
Other ways in which you can make a good impression on the interviewer include:
- Being sensitive to the fact they need to manage time.
- Show interest in the questions that are being asked. You can indicate this both verbally and non-verbally.
- If you lose the thread of the point you are making, don’t just plough on regardless, signal what is going on.
Things that will definitely get in the way of building rapport include:
- Too much questioning of the intent of a question or of the purpose of the process. I once interviewed someone who continuously asked why I was asking the questions that I was. This created a poor impression, particularly as the interviewee then went on to tell me that my questions were irrelevant to the role.
- Referring to preparation notes during the interview itself. This comes across as trotting out a pre-prepared answer rather than answering the question in real time.
- Inappropriate use of humour. You need to be very sure of your ground – and your talent in positioning jokes – before you risk throwing in the odd funny story or pun.
Being authentic and credible
- Try to avoid putting on an act. The more you can let your natural style of interaction come through the better.
- Use self disclosure. Share information about yourself (appropriately!) as a way of demonstrating that you are open and honest.
- Build trust. Even the most affable interviewer is constantly monitoring how much trust they can have in your answers, how much you are exaggerating your attributes and how honest you are being. So don’t lay claim to experience you don’t have. Again, know your CV. If you get caught out on this, you’ll lose all trust instantly.
- Be interested. Show genuine interest in the organisation and job by asking questions when given the opportunity.
The way you answer questions
You will make the best impression if you are focussed, professional but conversational in your style of answering.
- Listen carefully to the questions you are asked. As well as noting whether the question is about people, task or thought, you should pay particular attention to phrases like –‘can you give me an example’. This means that the interviewer wants you to describe something that really happened.
- Make it clear what your role was in any situation you are describing. Try to find a balance between using inclusive terms like ‘we’, and ‘I’ did something.
- Avoid using too much jargon in your answers.
- Aim to be thorough but concise in the answers you give. Interviewers’ hearts tend to fall when they hear phrases like – ‘Ok, but I need to give you some background first’ – followed by a ten minute description of the history of ABC Ltd.
- Be aware of the speed at which you talk. It is hard to monitor this in ‘real time’ during the interview so it needs to be part of your preparation.
- Be long winded. Try to assess in the early stages of the interview how much detail the interviewer is after.
- Be too terse. When asked an open question give a complete answer.
- Focus on negatives. In your answers ensure you also provide positive examples.
Closing the interview
Research shows that what we say in the first two minutes of meeting someone and what we say in the last two minutes has a disproportionate effect on the impression we give. For this reason it is well worth thinking about what your closing remarks will be.
Use the time you have at the end of the interview to show interest in the job and the organisation. Ask some general questions and avoid being too specific as there won’t be time for this.
Finally, leave on a positive note. Signal that you have found the conversation interesting and that you’ve valued the chance to learn a bit more about their business.
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For more information on this topic, why not read the full chapter in “You’re Hired! Interview Answers: Impressive Answers to Tough Questions”, available for purchase from the Trotman Publishing website. Remember to use the discount code ‘change’ at the checkout to secure an exclusive 25% discount off your order*.
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