HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION?
Iseult C O'Brien
Montessori Teacher & Supervisor | Volunteer
Tutor with Second Level Students
See the second last Section below, which is based largely on an article by Carol
Kinsey Goman, PhD, on ~
READING INTERVIEWERS' BODY LANGUAGE
HOW TO SHOWCASE YOUR
SOFT SKILLS IN AN INTERVIEW
in the last Section of this Article.
THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF ADVICE WIDELY AVAILABLE ON HOW ONE SHOULD PRESENT ONESELF AT AN INTERVIEW
We are advised what to wear; how to answer questions from a panel, including all of them in our responses.
This advice covers everyone from students interviewing in school or college hoping to change some of their course subjects; it is for students who have just finished their final school
exams and are looking for a place in a college, university, in a trades school, or any type of group / organisation or company of interest to the student; it is for post graduate students looking for a first job / internship; it is for all of us attending
any type of job interview.
It is always Interview Season - we should keep our CVs
/ resumes up-to-date, and ensure we add every new achievement, experience, and attainment.
HOWEVER, THERE IS SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION WE NEED TO KNOW BEFORE WE EVEN BEGIN CONSIDERING ANY OF THE ABOVE
Research reveals that PEOPLE READ a CV for just SIX SECONDS! **
They may know little more than your first name, if that. PLEASE DO NOT think your CV has been read carefully, noting impressive accomplishments, experiences, or excellent exam
Prospective Employers / University / Society / Interview Panellists MAKE SNAP CHARACTER DECISIONS in HALF
As soon as the half second is up, their "subconscious confirmation bias" kicks in, and it is actively looking for reasons to confirm the initial
HAVING SWALLOWED THIS SCARY INFORMATION
LET'S LOOK AT INTERVIEW PREPARATION ~ BACKWARDS
The interviewer(s) may know your first
name, and that's probably it. After mutual greetings, you have to take the initiative and OFFER to give a very quick summary of your CV. THEN, START IMMEDIATELY, do not wait for full agreement from the Panel ~ interviews
are VERY SHORT.
Use 'key words' used by the Company in the job description and in its corporate
profile. You want them to know you understand their thinking and are comfortable with it.
Also, BEAR IN MIND the PROCLAIMED ETHOS of the organisation for which you are interviewing, and what you have been able to discover about HOW IT WORKS.
You should know this summary off by heart, and if interrupted with a question, answer it, and carry on.
KEEP IT SHORT AND PUNCHY, giving your highlight achievements, qualifications, and experiences RELEVANT to this particular Interview.
You have taken a degree of control in the Interview, and the information you want to get across is getting its chance NOW!
From not knowing anything about you, the Panel now knows three or four of your very impressive achievements and traits.
YOU ARE NOW A PERSON!
ASK IF THE PANEL has any questions on your CV. Your prepared answers must be adaptable to any type
of question or approach. This requires lots of practise.
THE TOP TWELVE
1. What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
3. Why are you interested in working for (insert company name)?
4. Where do you see yourself in
five years? Ten years?
5. Why do you want to leave your current company?
6. Why was there a gap in your employment
between (insert date) and (insert date)?
7. What can you offer us that someone else cannot?
8. What are three things your
former manager would like you to improve upon?
9. Are you willing to relocate?
10. Are you willing to travel?
11. Tell us about an accomplishment of which you are most proud.
12. Tell us about a time you made a mistake.
DO NOT BE AFRAID to ask what kind of candidate the Panellists are looking for.
Having taken note of the various answers the Panellists give, try to gauge where their interests lie IN ORDER
OF IMPORTANCE, and give your most appropriate example(s) from your scholastic / sporting / extra-curricular subjects / work and volunteering experiences, naming the school(s)
/ clubs / coaches / charity fundraising, or personal experiences with a charity.
You will have found out about the company
ethos, department and career structures, advantages and disadvantages of working for the Company and so will be able to answer their questions using 'inside' phraseology.
[While volunteering at weekends with the "Mary Matthews School for Deaf Children", I chose to learn the deaf language, and was surprised how useful I found it in many social and part-time
work situations, where I could help people get what they wanted, or give directions. My skill gained me kudos with the families and friends of the students, and the management of the School. It also taught me a great deal about being on the inside, and being
on the edges of society. (This is just an example to show that you make the extra effort, how it leads you to being able to help and engage with others, and how you benefit at the same time.)]
WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?
Aside from an occasional gesture to emphasise a point, it is best to keep your hands folded on your lap or, better still, placed on the interview table, folded in a relaxed style ~ that is an indicator
of confidence. People may not be aware that they have a habit of waving their arms about, especially when nervous ~ it is very distracting.
"We are all hardwired to forecast a huge amount from other people's hands so make sure yours deliver the right message." *
It is best to keep them under control, and show a calm demeanour.
OUTSIDE THE INTERVIEW ROOM
"Adopt a confident but relaxed pose". *
everything is play-acting. Playing 'confident' makes you feel 'confident'.
Make certain your mobile / cell phone is turned off and not just on
Go to the lavatory and check your flies are done up, your skirt is straight, you've nothing stuck in your teeth, and examine your hair. If you're wearing
make-up, check for blobs.
STARTING YOUR INTERVIEW
When an interviewer comes out to call you in, walk up to beside the interviewer and make a friendly, small-talk, comment. Subtly, take on
a similar posture to that of the interviewer.
YOU ARE starting the Interview before you get in the room, SMILING!
Have your 'short and punchy' CV on top of any documents you are carrying, so that you
have it to hand as a comfort, and in case you get a blank.
Have approximately six extra copies of these
'short and punchy' CVs next on your pile. If you know how many will be on the Panel, bring sufficient for everyone, plus a few spares.
If you realise that the Interview is going like the clappers, ONLY after you have finished delivering your Summary, hand out copies
of your single sheet spoken CV, IMMEDIATELY. Have a photograph of yourself at the top right-hand-side, across from your name and contact details.
DO NOT distract the Panel from listening to you give your spiel, and remember to speak to each of them. Speak slowly and clearly ~ sometimes, people speak very fast
[You put the photograph on the top right-hand-side of the sheet because if a bundle of CVs is gathered together, your
photograph will be clearly visible when someone is going through the pile of interviewees' papers; it will act as a reminder of YOU, even if subconsciously.
into your computer, a good head shot from a choice of many taken by a friend, against a plain background. Create your one page CV and insert the photograph that makes you look pleasant and approachable, but not smiling widely. You want
to look professional, capable, and reliable.
Change the size of the photo when you have entered your text, until you get a good balance. Update your photograph
Some interviewers like to throw in an awkward comment or question to see how you respond. If you are inclined to disagree, bite your
tongue. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Be positive, and give the impression that you are on the same page as the interviewer, even during casual chat. *
AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW, no matter how you think it went, be pleasant, and THANK THE PANEL for the opportunity of the Interview. It would be fine to say that
you would be happy to take any phone calls or supply further information required.
You may wish to shake hands with
the Panel, but make a decision on what you choose to do before attending the Interview.
Especially if you are a woman, consider if offering to
shake hands with a man on the Interview Panel may be inappropriate. If you have a list of the Panellists, there may be a Muslim name, for example, which you recognise as such. You should learn the appropriate gesture to use with this
We should all know the appropriate gestures
and forms of greeting for people of various religious and ethnic backgrounds.
A general, small, nod while thanking the Panel, standing
and resting a hand on the back of your chair, would be a polite exit, if you are in doubt.
Within two days of the
interview, send a handwritten note to the person who organised the interview to thank him or her for the opportunity. A personal touch, displaying your good manners, leaves a very good impression and may pay off some time in the future.
SHOULD I WEAR?
I HAVE TO LOOK MY BEST!
In fact, clothes are only important in as much as they give YOU confidence.
Wearing something COMFORTABLE is
best, possibly something a friend has said looks good on you.
is much more important than
DO NOT wear new shoes, in the heat and stress, they may become uncomfortable and distract you from your purpose.
BE CERTAIN that any top or shirt you wear does not show off more of you than is proper. Put it on, and facing a mirror, lean forward fully, if you can
see down the top or shirt, so too would a Panel when you lean forward to hand over a requested document!
would rather hire a scruffy candidate and tell them to update their wardrobe than someone well dressed and teach them a better attitude." *
DO NOT carry in a briefcase, folders, loose papers, pens, etc. That is an untidy look, and it suggests you are not organised, not good at making decisions.
Have a slim folder, with two working pens clipped onto it, and it should contain the following, starting from top to bottom:
(i) All your copies of your one page 'short and punchy' CV, including the one you will have visible to use as a prompt;
Paper onto which to take notes of questions, so that you can be sure you cover everything asked of you, and where you could note down a question to ask the Panel;
(iii) Two copies of your full, detailed, CV;
(iv) Two copies of your Letters of Reference and details of Referees;
(v) Two copies of details of any 'Student of the Year' type award(s); details of winning sports / debating / writing competitions, or any award that makes you stand out;
(vi) Two copies of certificates, and most recent important exam results;
Two copies of your application for this position, plus two copies of their letter offering you your Interview;
(viii) If it has been some
time since you studied formally, make sure you emphasise that you have been keeping up-to-date on your subject(s), and use your details of work experience to highlight your skill base.
You may well have ideas to add to this list ~ please let me know, it would help others.
YOU BRING TWO COPIES of everything (at least) because if you are asked for particular details of something you may have mentioned, or for any reason, you have one copy to give to the Panel, and one to keep for yourself to refer to if asked any
DO NOT leave yourself without a copy of a document the Panel has.
NEVER STAPLE documents or bundles of papers together.
FIRSTLY, if you are asked for a document so that the Panel can have it copied to share amongst themselves, it makes the job much quicker if it involves just removing a paperclip, and gets the information to the Panel faster.
SECONDLY, while keeping each document intact by using paperclips, you could use small pieces of different colours of paper under the paperclip
for each type of document, with a shorthand note describing what is in that particular bundle. For example, 'REF' would be on your bundle for copies of your Letters of Reference and details of Referees.
You could pull out this bundle quickly and hand over a copy of one or both documents to the Panel promptly ~ neither you nor they would
waste time removing a staple.
This will help keep you calm, and reduce time flicking through
the contents of your folder.
You will be, and appear to be, organised.
AS WITH ALL ACTORS, you must
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse!
DO NOT be afraid to be YOURSELF,
but DO NOT tell any jokes!
Every interview is worth attending. All practise is good.
Best of Luck!
Iseult C O'Brien
* Robin Roberts, qualified zoologist, and founder of "Rehearse It". He was formerly a partner at global executive research firm, Egon Zehnder.
** Janey Fothergill of "Rehearse It".
quotes were taken from an interview with journalist Rosie Benson of Marie Claire UK, May 2017 Edition.