The Job Interview – Win it (or Blow it) in under 20 minutes

First impressions count, no more so than in a job interview. The opening minutes can make or break your chances of winning (or blowing) that job opportunity. Here are some tips on how you can impress.

Most of us who have conducted interviews for new staff over the years seem to agree on a few points. One of these is that many hiring decisions are tentatively made within about 20 minutes. Only 5 minutes into an interview, and many candidates may have ruled themselves out of the job while others may have begun to present themselves as someone of high interest. Here are a few pointers to make sure you stand out from your competition for that dream job.

First, know your story and how to tell it. Commonly, interviews start with “Tell me about yourself.” This is your great ‘selling opportunity’ so use it to your advantage. You should elaborate for no more than 4 minutes, beginning with an impact statement of roughly 30 seconds, outlining the very essence of your experience, education and expertise. Remember, 30 seconds goes very quickly, so get straight to the point. Then rapidly progress through the early days of your career (particularly if you are a mature-aged professional) moving to the present. This should take you another 3 minutes, so you should ‘qualify’ the most relevant skills and experiences to the job for which you are being interviewed. Close by summarizing why you feel these skills support your case for this role and also why you are in the market for a new position, but keep it brief!

Second, don’t waffle. This will quickly unravel an interview, particularly when the interviewer begins to ask those dreaded behavioural interviews. Remember to articulate your answers within the STAR framework. When outlining the Situation, always mention its implications, as it makes for a better story. When describing the Task, keep it short and simple, as you are only describing what had to be done. When discussing your Actions, outline them in steps. You can always ask the interviewer(s) to invite more detail, but by explaining the specific steps you took you can avoid waffling and losing the attention of the interviewer. When describing the Results, try to quantify the outcome. You might refer to a percentage increase in sales, market share, or a reduction in costs, risks, time to do a job, or some other improvement to the business.

Third, learn how to handle questions about main strengths. Instead of talking generalities like being a good manager or having excellent written communications skills, provide some context for each point. For example, as a manager you might say that you engage people by being accessible and approachable or that you have an open door policy when people need to discuss things, or that you ensure that you respond to any emails the same day you receive them. For communications skills, you might say that you regularly write blogs, create website content or write business tenders.

We could write a whole book on the subject, but there is a consensus that these are the most frequently asked interview questions. So be prepared for them!

Posted by Scott Spaulding

BonnieSue Nevin

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