The 4 Most Important Interview Skills
Looking for a job can be one of the most stressful, and exciting, times in a person’s life. The mix of anxiety over needing income – especially when the job seeker is currently out of work – and the anticipation of moving up or moving on can cause people to skip over the preparation and strategizing required to really nail an interview.
The keys to effectively interviewing include preparation, energy, enthusiasm, and strategy. Taking the time to do company research, understanding where you fit within the organization, and having a clear idea of what you can contribute is time well-spent. Research and preparation will differentiate you from other candidates and may be the difference between landing your dream job and being passed over.
When participating in an interview, adopt a consultant mentality and clearly communicate your ability to solve the unique challenges of the company with which you are interviewing. Be careful to not be either too positive or too negative about the company with which you’re interviewing. Understanding what is already working, and having a clear idea of what you can help improve is a good mix of perspective and will position you as a thoughtful candidate rather than a phony flatterer or overly-negative critic.
While you’ll want to use the interview process as a way to clearly demonstrate your value and ability to contribute positively to the company’s goals, you’ll also want to use the time to determine if the position is a good fit for you.
If you’re currently in the market for a new job, or think you might be soon – start getting prepared now. When you’re assessing your readiness to begin the job search and interview process, take stock of your interview skills.
Here are four critical essential skills to help you excel in interviews and land your dream job:
#1 Communicate a clear and strong personal brand
Before you attend an interview, you should already have created a strong personal brand and professional brand messaging. Your professional value statement should answer essential questions, including:
- Who are you?
- What do you offer?
- What makes you unique?
Be sure you have complete clarity on the answers to these questions before you write your resume, and definitely before you accept an interview. The answers to these questions will be essential to developing your unique brand messaging. The professional value proposition you develop by answering these questions will convey to an interviewer what you bring to the table, whether you will fit in at their organization, and if you are the right person to do the job - or not.
#2 Tell a compelling story
Information about you is everywhere today – people will read your resume, read your LinkedIn profile, check out your Facebook, and look at your Twitter feed. The interview is your opportunity to tie everything together and tell a cohesive and compelling story about yourself, your brand and, most importantly, promote the impact you will have on the organization - should they hire you.
Through your interview answers, paint a very clear and compelling picture of why you are the absolute best candidate for the job. Through your story, potential employers should be able envision the contributions you will have made to the organization six months from now. Tell a story that ends with you hitting it out of the park and making a positive impact. Creating vignettes that tell a story of your accomplishments and your career trajectory that are tied into the needs of the employer is considerably more compelling to the interviewer than listening to a disjointed list of past job responsibilities and a description of your skills.
#3 Identify measurable accomplishments
Everyone has accomplishments. Whether you’re an entry level intern, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you have accomplishments from your career that will help you position yourself for future roles. The key to selling yourself during an interview is to identify your unique accomplishments and incorporate them into your brand and your stories.
As you make a list of your accomplishments, be sure they are measurable. Whenever possible, include a statistic to put your accomplishment in perspective. Perhaps you provided customer service to more than 120 customers per week and achieved a 75% resolution rate. Whatever your contributions were, quantifying them will legitimize your accomplishments and will sound more compelling than simply stating that you provided customer service and resolved issues. If you’re having trouble identifying your accomplishments and making them tangible with data, look at past performance reviews or ask your colleagues. You might even have a family member who might remember notable moments you have shared. Sharing measurable accomplishments are critically important to successfully interviewing and landing your next job.
#4 Exude a positive and engaging attitude
Enough cannot be said about the importance of your attitude and enthusiasm when interviewing. Most people who lack these two key traits don’t realize how they are coming across to the interviewer. Even if you feel confident in your interviewing skills, it’s always a good idea to do some practice interviewing with someone you trust.
Since there’s no quicker way to kill an interview than to come across disinterested, bored, or unengaged; having an opportunity to practice and get feedback will help you overcome the little nuances of your interview persona that you may not be aware of, yet. For some people who aren’t used to exuding enthusiasm, you may have to push yourself out of your comfort zone to make sure you appear as excited about your profession, the opportunity, and pretty much everything you are discussing during an interview as you feel.
Once you’re in an interview, be aware of your energy level and body language. In some cases, it’s easy to seem eager and interested at the beginning of the interview process, but by the time you’ve met the fourth person on the team and 3 hours have lapsed, your energy may be drained. Don’t be afraid to ask for breaks and take some time in the bathroom to refresh and breathe. Then, walk back in with renewed energy and verve!
Other tips for making the most out of your interview experience include:
- Treat the interview like a meeting – ask questions as well as answer them
- Be an active listener
- Watch your body language
- Make eye contact
- Arrive early
- Practice at home