Author: James Caan CBE, LinkedIn
You’ve cracked the nerves, now you have to impress your interviewer with knowledge, confidence and experience – becoming more than just a CV in a pile of other, perhaps more impressive, CV’s.
There is only so much you can pick up from a piece of paper. I have met some people who, conventionally, tick every box – they have good grades, great experience, are fully qualified – but as soon as they walk through the door, they are as dull as dishwater. You can be mediocre in content and experience yet still convince the interviewer and get the job. It’s about how you present yourself, about your communication skills. If I listed the things that stood out about every person I have ever hired, personality and the ability to communicate would rank the highest. Here are a few of my key ‘take home’ tips on how to communicate in an interview.
Break the ice
It’s always good to connect with the interviewer on a personal level, this will not only show your communication skills, it will humanise you both. Look at your surroundings; perhaps you might see a family photograph or an award certificate. Now you can say ‘I notice you won X award, that’s a great achievement. Who were you up against?’ engaging in conversational dialogue is an essential skill and your interviewer will be impressed.
Once the conversation has started to flow, it’s time to engage with the interviewer and apply the research you’ve conducted about the business and the role in question. I will always ask a candidate what they have learnt about my business in every interview I conduct and expect a little more than a quick Wikipedia search response. You should be able to tell me about our ethos, our competition, who we’re comparable with and any interesting news we’ve shared recently – now that tells me you’re serious about the job on offer. Here is your opportunity to ask as many questions about the role as you can, ready to match your experience with the required skillset and prove you’re more than competent.
The pinnacle of the interview process is illustrating how you can add value to the role and become the missing part of the puzzle in the interviewers’ eyes. This is where STAR comes into play.
Start by giving a backstory and setting the scene – the who, what, where and when. Introduce a challenge you faced by giving your interviewer a little context.
JC example: ‘When I was a young boy I spent a lot of time watching my father and knew that one day he would want me to carry on the family business , but didn’t want to’.
Next you explain what was required of you, what did you have to achieve? Share your thought process and how you intended on accomplishing the task.
JC example: ‘I had to find a way of starting out on my own and find an alternative route that would help convince my father I was able enough to make my own decisions’
What did you actually do to make it happen? How proactive were you in ensuring the completion of the task? Here you can highlight any personal attributes that were tested, always referring back to your desired role.
JC example: ‘I decided to challenge traditions and start my own business. I was continually challenged throughout my journey and like many other entrepreneurs, sometimes questioned whether the long hours were worth it or not’
What did you learn and how have you effectively applied this? Explain what your actions achieved and whether or not you met your objectives.
JC example: ‘I managed to identify a gap in the market and used every bit of passion, drive and dedication I had to make it happen, whilst continually developing essential soft skills such as communication, teamwork and decision making.’
If you have followed this process, 9 times out of 10 you’ll be in a very good place. You will instinctively know whether the interview has gone well or not but leading the interview like this shows you are eager yet respectful and sure to make a lasting impression.
Then it’s time to play the waiting game…