Ask James Caan 3rd February 2011
This week, James Caan reminds readers of the importance of re-mastering the basics of interview preparation, and suggest tips on how to really stand out.
When there is an overabundance of good candidates, employers are spoilt for choice. And this means showing a potential employer how you can add value has never been more difficult.
Especially in today’s climate, it is worth reviewing your interview technique and in some cases, re-mastering the basics.
Take Michele’s email:
‘I would like to ask how I can gain my confidence when going through the interview process. I have had my CV reviewed and amended as advised and have been given very positive feedback however I cannot translate the depth of information and the complexity of my experience in interviews and have been told I do not sell myself.
‘I do recognise this is my area of weakness however it has now affected my confidence and I am concerned this may have a more lasting impact on my career’.
Michele, unfortunately there isn’t a science behind the perfect interview. Indeed there are many factors – how you performed, what frame of mind the interviewer was in, or if your research was up to scratch – that will affect the overall result. But if you’re repeatedly failing to clinch the deal, you’re right to recognise it as an area for improvement.
Candidates are expected to adhere to a number of interview ‘rules’ to show they’re professional. Turn up to the interviewer’s office on time, research the company in full, and find out as much as you can about the role on offer – these are all fundamentals everyone should know off by heart. But if everyone’s following the basic rules, how can you stand out from the competition?
Don’t worry; selling yourself in an interview setting is a stumbling block many fall at. You’ve put the hard work into your CV and secured the interview, only to find that you’re not quite ticking the employer’s check list. It can be a frustrating experience.
What is it that’s holding you back? Is it nerves? Or perhaps is it not enough preparation? Either way, there are a number of things you can try to ensure success next time.
At a basic level, you should treat it like a presentation. Your experience will have shown you there are a number of generic questions you’re bound to be asked: what interests you in the role? Why do you want to work for the company? What are your strengths and weaknesses?
To avoid a situation where you have to think on your feet, put in some ground work. These questions will provide you with a platform to shine and ultimately sell yourself – so make sure your answers are to the point and impressive.
I look for candidates that are different – applicants that think outside the box, tend to stick in my mind. But before you start coming up with questions or angles that will really put an employer on the spot, it’s important to master the basics.
Everyone is cost conscious, so look at what you can offer and identify how it would make a contribution to a business. A Personal Assistant, for example, adds value by freeing up a director’s schedule. A customer service professional on the other hand, can help to stimulate business by providing a helpful service to clients, one that fosters loyalty.
Overall, know your selling points; identify your USPs and how an employer would benefit from them. Don’t focus on your own concerns and needs: think about what an employer is looking for.