Tackling the Job Market | Part 3: The Interview

With the rate of unemployment at its highest for the past five years, I decided to create a three-part series on Tackling the Job Market. Job hunting is a full time job. It can be overwhelming and often gruelling. The purpose of this series is to help you find your way, particularly today, with the increase in applicant competition.

We have now reached the final instalment of this three-part series. You will find links to the first two instalments below:

Good luck to all currently job searching at this time.

So you got the interview! YES! 🙌

With any multi-level game, when you clear one level, the next level is always harder. This same rule tends to apply for interviewing. Each stage matters, and must be passed in order to successfully progress to the next, and you can fall at any time or even if you pass, you may still not have the highest score.

I’m providing this analogy because when interviewing your ultimate goal should be to interview well. Don’t be too pre-occupied with getting the job. Yes, that is the end goal, but this may make you more nervous and hinder your performance. If you go in with the mindset of simply interviewing well, you are more likely to learn from and enjoy the experience, regardless of the outcome. So go get those rings!

Phone Screen

Often the first interview will be on the phone and I find many candidates take this first impression conversation for granted. When being interviewed on the phone what you say and how you say it stands out. You must be be engaging.

Your approach

If you applied for the role, do not expect to be sold to. Do not expect the conversation to start off with the interviewer telling you about the role and company. Since you applied, you must do your due diligence by doing your research in order to demonstrate:

  • your genuine interest in the role
  • the way you approach your work
  • your ability to learn / retain and understand new information

Candidates who do this stand out significantly.

Your voice

The biggest telephone interview killer is a monotone voice. When you listen to someone, what type of voice or speaking style keeps you engaged? Consider this when attending a telephone interview.

Personally, when I’m speaking on the phone, I love to stand up and walk around… and (this may seem a bit weird but) I also smile while speaking. Even though no one can see me, this method positively impacts the energy of the conversation, and keeps me alert. If you don’t already do this, try it out and see how it goes. Certainly makes the conversation more fun. 😄

Your answers

In Part 2, I refer to your CV impacting your ability to effectively interview. Like your CV, your interview answers “should be punchy, presenting a high-impact snapshot, highlighting relevant key skills, experiences and achievements.”

A big part of this is answering questions confidently. In order to be able to do this you must:

  • know your CV
  • know your skills
  • know your experience
  • know your achievements
  • know how you can apply everything in this new role

This is essential for any and every interview stage.

Online Interview

Prepare for an online interview as you would an onsite interview. The work you need to do does not halve because you didn’t have to physically travel, in fact, it doubles. It is much more difficult to connect and build rapport through a screen.

Prep the environment

  • Check your surroundings and test your camera view, find a spot at home with little to no distractions in the background
  • Test the link provided and download relevant software at least a day before
  • Dress for the interview from head to toe — be prepared to have to get up from your seat unexpectedly 👀
  • Log into the video call 5 minutes before the start time to ensure you are not late, even 1 minute lateness can create a poor impression
  • As soon as you recognise you are having a technical issue, contact the interviewer or recruiter straight away — so you don’t appear to be late
  • Where you are late, address this straight away; apologise and explain

Body & Language

As there is less opportunity to read body language and it is more difficult to be engaging, you have to engage more

  • Look into the camera lens, or at the person on the screen — don’t look at the image of yourself, minimise it where possible
  • Sit up properly in your chair
  • Your voice should reasonably project and have varied tones
  • Smile, this gives the impression you are enjoying the process, and in turn makes the experience more enjoyable for the interviewer
  • Be animated, don’t be afraid to use your hands
  • Don’t read your notes when answering questions (yes, we can tell when you are doing this and it’s very frustrating)

Reading notes to answer questions detaches you from the interviewer and actually shows a lack of understanding and preparation.

Panel Interview

Panel interviews are becoming more and more popular. This shortens and streamlines the interview process, however, as a candidate this can be an extremely intense and stressful scenario. I’ve curated some tips to help you better perform in such cases.

Know your audience

Humanise the panel by looking up the LinkedIn profiles of the attendees. This will help you:

  • Understand their roles and how you would potentially work together
  • Feel a little more familiar and comfortable with the participants during the interview
  • Better prepare for questions they may ask you

It’s all in the eyes

Aim to give everyone an equal amount of eye contact, and when a specific person asks a question — focus on them a little more but don’t forget to share the love.

Don’t rush!

With so many eyes on you, you may be eager to show everyone you know your stuff. Candidates often think answering a question quickly shows competence. However, the panel wants to see how you would communicate and interact in normal circumstances (granted, under abnormal circumstances). When in work, you would not normally rush to answer, so take time to digest the question before responding. This results in you giving a thoughtful answer, rather than a rushed answer.

Everyone matters

Don’t ignore the “junior” person. They matter just as much as anyone else in the room. I have personally been on the receiving end of this, even recently, where candidates have underestimated my seniority or value in the company or made assumptions about my (lack of) influence. This type of behaviour is noticed and off-putting to many hiring managers. Everyone matters, so treat everyone you interact with with the same level of attention and respect.

Onsite Interview

Arrival Time

When you are given a time to attend an interview, take this as the interview start time rather than expected time of arrival. I always like to arrive 10–15 minutes early, this gives me time to wind down from the commute, mentally run through some of the research I did in preparation for the interview or simply relax. I have seen candidates arriving just in time (or late) and being flustered, which naturally impacts interview performance.

Connect

From the moment you meet the first representative of the company, you should be trying to connect. Smile, shake hands respectfully (not aggressively) and don’t be afraid of small talk (as long as it’s genuine). You want to become comfortable as quickly as possible, and you also want others to become comfortable with you just as quickly.

Your Things

Now this one is a personal pet peeve. If your coat is not taken from you before you step into a meeting room for an interview, where do you put it? On the table, on the seat next to you or the back of your chair? Where do you put your handbag? Where a candidate places their personal items during an onsite interview is telling. Here are a few Do’s & Don’ts from my own perspective:

✅ Coat or bag on their own seat behind them

✅ Bag or briefcase on the floor

➖ Coat or bag on spare chair

❌ Coat or bag on table

Some Extra Notes for Any Interview

Dress Code

Check the website and company social mediums to understand dress code. You can also double check with the person who arranged the interview.

Where the dress code is casual, you still want to appear to make an effort. In such cases, smart casual is always safest.

& please don’t forget to iron your clothes!

Prepare Properly

This is in fact your first hurdle but I have put it last, because you would not believe how many people do not do this part properly and believe they can blag their way through. Even if you are not the perfect fit for the role, showing you have taken the time to understand the role and company goes a long way.

A good recruiter and hiring manager will know when you have not done your research. There will be unique points in the job description, on the website, etc. about the role, team and company that you will miss if you don’t spend time reading the information you’re given properly and researching.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s position. Would you want to progress someone who has not taken this basic step?

  1. Research the company, role, people, culture — know the history of the company, how it came to be, purpose and values, etc.
  2. Really dive into the job description to get a solid understanding — often candidates feel they can get away with providing generic descriptions — in such cases it’s obvious you don’t care enough about the opportunity

Do you have any questions?

You should always have questions, prepare them. What do you not know after researching? What additional information do you need? I have provided some inspiration below:

  • History / purpose of the role
  • Team, cross-departmental and company culture and dynamics
  • Current challenges (role, team, company)
  • Ask the interviewer to give an overview of what they are ideally looking for
  • Ask what success looks like, and expected timelines

🎉 Enjoy It!

When you go into an interview, go in with the mindset of enjoying it. You are not only being hired for your skills, but also who you are, so don’t be afraid to show it — within reason. 😉

Have fun and get those rings, honey!

You can find the full catalogue of my articles on my personal website and LinkedIn.

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Lola Oguntokun

Lola Oguntokun

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I help build, shape and champion innovative companies and culture.