Interviews are about presenting yourself in a positive and confident manner and we have interview skills and tips to help you. Many candidates are often worried that by “overselling” themselves they may appear arrogant and, as a result, they opt for mainstream answers which can sometimes appear fairly vague.
In our courses there are a number of interview techniques that you can apply to ensure that you do yourself justice and improve your interview skillsto a level that will make you one of the strongest candidates. For some free interview skills and tips continue reading and we’ll tell you 10 crucially important interview skills and tips:
Interview Skills Tip 1. Spend time to know yourself
It may sound corny, but many candidates fail simply because they have not spent any time thinking carefully about what they can offer. Take time to think about your experience, why it would make you an ideal candidate for that post and how you can demonstrate it through concrete examples. Practicing too early can be detrimental to your confidence as you will keep repeating the same mistakes and will get frustrated. Only practice and go through mock interviews once you have gathered your thoughts.
Interview Skills Tip 2. Research the job and your future employers
Your interviewers will want to know whether you are fit to join their company. At an interview, you will find it difficult to demonstrate that you are the best candidate if you don’t know what they are looking for and how the company may fit within your overall career plan. In addition, demonstrating knowledge of the company will ensure that you come across as a motivated individual. Use all the sources available to you, including any information sent to you by the company with the application, the company’s and other websites, their Annual Report & Accounts (which can usually be downloaded from their website – if not, ask them), etc.
Interview Skills Tip 3. Keep your answers between 1.5 and 2 minutes
Lengthy answers do not make the points clearly enough, whilst short answers tend to make too few points. No one will be prepared to listen to you for more than 3 minutes anyway. So as a general rule, ensure that your answers fit within the 1.5 – 2 minutes timeframe, with a bit more maybe for answers to some of the more open interview questions (such as “tell me about yourself”).
Interview Skills Tip 4. Structure your answers in 3 or 4 points maximum
In order to make a strong impact with your interview answers, you must ensure that the message is coming out loud and clear. By adopting a 3- or 4-point structure, you will help your interviewers identify the important themes in your answer and they won’t have to work so hard to get the picture. If you have more than 3 or 4 things to say then you should organize the information differently. The human brain cannot take more than 3 or 4 things at a time. Don’t drown your interviewers with information.
Interview Skills Tip 5. Clearly headline each point in your answers
Too many people waffle around a topic without stating clearly what they are trying to say. Once you have derived a clear structure, ensure that each section is headlined by the message that you are trying to convey. For example, if you are being asked a question such as “What are your main strengths?”, you could structure and headline your answer as follows:
One of my key strengths is my ability to keep a team motivated, even at difficult times.
I am also a very approachable and supportive person.
Another one of my strengths is my resilience and hardworking attitude, and particularly my ability to complete projects.
Interview Skills Tip 6. Expand on each point with your personal experience
Simply stating a series of headlines will make your answer sound “cheesy” i.e. no more than a succession of sound bites which have no real impact by themselves. Interviewers do not only want to know your own opinion of yourself, they want you to back up the claims that you make with examples from your experience. If you adopt a 3-point structure over 1.5 to 2 minutes, this gives you on average 30 or 40 seconds per point. You must therefore ensure that you keep your examples succint and to-the-point.
Interview Skills Tip 7. Avoid announcing a structure upfront unless you are absolutely confident
Although it can make you sound very confident and “in control”, it can also be dangerous to announce the structure of your answer upfront. For example: “There are many things that characterise my experience: one is my in-depth experience of project management, one is my ability to manage a team and the last one is my interpersonal skills”.
It will force you to have a ready-made structure as soon as the interviewer has finished asking his question. This could be awkward if you haven’t prepared the answer previously
You will lose flexibility. As you develop your answer, you may find that you want to introduce something that you had not originally thought about or, on the contrary, that you want to scrap something that does not sound so good after all. If you have announced the structure of your answer upfront, you will not be able to change it half-way through.
Interview Skills Tip 8. Use active verbs and power words to describe yourself
Most candidates, in their fear of overselling themselves, use words which do not reflect their true level of confidence, skills, competence. If you want to make a strong impact you cannot use expressions such as “I was involved in” too often as they reflect a situation in which you played a role rather than the role itself. You should use words and verbs such as: “played a key role in”, “managed”, “elaborated/built on”, “was instrumental in”, “achieved”, “proposed”, “derived”, “proficient/competent in”, “confident in”, etc
Interview Skills Tip 9. When answering questions asking for examples, use the STAR framework
The STAR framework is a well-known (though often neglected) interview technique to answer questions asking for an example, and it is certainly a method which all HR professionals will have trained in and learnt to recognise. It is important that you practice it thoroughly so that you can use it naturally at your interview. See our separate page on the STAR interview technique for full details.
Interview Skills Tip 10. Behaviour and body language
Your body language will give a lot of information to your prospective employers about you. They probably will not be looking at it specifically (unless it is so bad that they can’t miss it!) but they will be subsconsciously affected by it throughout the interview. For a comprehensive look at how your body language affects the interviewer’s perception of candidates, see our special page on interview behaviour and body language