How to Nail the Interview? Just cut the Crap.
Your suit is pressed and steamed, your shoes are shined to a mirror finish and you’ve picked the perfect tie, the blue one that just shouts ‘HIRE ME!’. So far so good… What’s next? You Google interview tips and come across the same old tired tricks, buzzwords and robot answers that bore employers to death and keep candidates from getting the job. If I could send my younger job seeking self a message back in time, it would be to cut the crap. Most people treat an interview like an audition for a play, and assume that employers want to hear answers as if straight from a script. This is not the case at all.
To get the clichés out of your head, let’s start by replacing Interview with Discussion, replacing Interviewer with Person and completely disregarding words and terms like Skills, Driven, Team Player, Synergy, Communication Skills, Passionate and Motivated. You’re not a dictionary and this is a conversation that should be straightforward and devoid of buzzwords and jargon. This is a simple discussion with another person so that BOTH of you can determine if you should be doing this job or not. Simple! Remember that you still need to maintain a sense of professionalism and your honesty shouldn’t put you at a disadvantage, but you’re a real person, not a robot. Now let’s look at examples of interview clichés and why they should be avoided.
Q: “What are your weaknesses?”
A: “I pay too much attention to detail, but counter this with effective time management.”
Cringeworthy if you think about it. This is the response used by candidates 90% of the time, and already sets you up for failure for the rest of the interview, because now the other person thinks you’re a liar. Tell the truth. What are you bad at? I’m mostly bad with people, and that’s something I’m not ashamed of telling my interviewer now. Working alone is my comfort zone and when I perform at my best. If you tell the truth, your interviewer will gain respect for you, and you will actually be able to determine whether or not this is the job for you. If you’re bad with numbers, say so. How do you know the position won’t require setting up and keeping track of a huge budget?
Q: “What are your strengths?”
A: “I’m a good communicator, passionate, dedicated, driven and a hard worker .”
Just stop. I already know you’re not a good communicator from the shaky introduction earlier, you can’t possibly be passionate about working in a call centre, you weren’t dedicated enough to give me honest answers, and I don’t even know what driven means. Hard worker? I guess we won’t find out. Be honest about what your strengths are. I would never call myself a good communicator, and if you aren’t either, don’t lie about it! The more honest you are, the more of a connection you’ll build and the more memorable you will be. So maybe don’t have “The ability to build strong team synergy” like one of the other candidates, but at least you’ll be remembered as the honest and straightforward one.
Q: “Why do you want to work here?”
A: “I’d like to grow in your organisation and I know I can make a difference.”
You’d like to grow? Into what? Think about why you really want to work for this company you’re attending an interview. What about working for this place really excites you? Interviewing for a job as a Video Store Clerk and explaining that you’d like to become the Supervisor of the store in the long run is not only false, but also just depressing. If you told me you need a job for the short term while you save up for studies, and you’ve seen every movie in this store so I might as well hire you, is something I can relate to as a human being. As for making a difference, don’t kid yourself unless you have some spectacular ideas. If you say you can make a difference, you better be able to back that statement up with some solid facts. Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, and if you genuinely have concrete ideas, share them. If not, don’t say you do. Be humble enough to know when you’re out of your league.
Q: “Do you have any questions?”
A: “Yes. What are the organisation’s long term strategic goals?”
Now you’re just asking something that you think makes you sound clever, and frankly, it’s really none of your business. This is your opportunity to find out if this job is right for you! Perhaps you’d like to know why the position is vacant – are you replacing someone who couldn’t do the job? What is a typical day like working for the company? Ask the interviewer to show you around so that you can get a feel for the environment you’ll be in. Walk around and let it soak in – this is as much your decision as the interviewer’s. Asking clever sounding questions doesn’t make you sound as clever as you think, so just keep it simple and be real. Pretending to be something you’re not alienates the interviewer – even if it doesn’t seem that way to you.
Being yourself is an amazing thing – especially in an interview. You’ll be able to breathe easily and start off with your potential employer in an authentic way, instead of cheating your way into a situation you can’t get out of. Being a genuine person is a rare commodity these days. That being said, don’t forget the basics! A smile, a firm handshake and a solid introduction is always essential. Once you forget about trying to be the perfect candidate, you could actually end up being the perfect candidate.