When university students start having their first job interviews, it’s normal for them to have a few reasonable doubts when faced with something so new and important for the first time. There are a whole host of tips available to help dispel these doubts. A quick internet search will provide you with hundreds of thousands of answers. And many of them offer valid and effective solutions, based on extensive work and research from professionals in the field.
If you were to ask me what the key elements are when it comes to a job interview, I would base my answer on the whole host of literature available, and also on my personal experience: what I like and don’t like in interviews. That said, if I had to describe in one word what would make me more inclined to accept or reject a job applicant, I would say – trust. It’s as simple as that. If I feel I can trust the person, I would be inclined to say yes. If not, it would be a no. In the next few lines, I will try to explain how I understand the vague topic of “trust”.
• Entrance: they present themselves well. To start with, while it might not be the best-known aspect, this doesn’t make it the least important. First impressions are everything. I think candidates need to approach the selection process with an enticing attitude, seducing the interviewer (professionally, of course). The problem is that we’re short on time, that's why a good start is vital.
I especially value how the person before me presents themselves; if they look me in the eye, smile, if they express themselves naturally and, also, what they first say to me. I also assess how they shake my hand and how smartly they are dressed. This aspect is particularly relevant since if someone turns up to a job interview looking scruffy, they are indirectly showing they’re not really interested. I think we can all agree that properly presenting yourself really helps win an employer over.
• Development: be yourself, but come with some answers prepared. And also some questions.
Once we've introduced ourselves and sat down, I generally don’t come armed with a set interview script. I let the conversation flow naturally, going into more depth in one or two different aspects as and when they come up. I try and leave the talking down to the candidate.
The entire conversation revolves around finding out more about their abilities, as a fundamental means of reliably and objectively assessing and identifying their talent, potential and skills. To do this, I use questions based on real, specific situations, making the candidate explain how they would react to real-life examples. By finding evidence of how a person has coped in the past, we can more reliably predict how they will behave in the future.
What we’re looking for in a recent graduate is not their unique, expert knowledge - we’re looking for potential. Candidates must demonstrate their aptitude and their attitude: ability to work in a team, analytical skills, ability to adapt, flexibility, willingness to learn, tolerance to change, initiative and focus on results and quality.
That’s why I want the person to talk a lot, so I can be assess exactly how much I trust them, and the key aspects we call skills. In this regard, it’s vital a candidate prepare their answers, so we can see evidence of their behavioural patterns in line with key skills. This is important, because the questions are always designed to provoke an elaborate answer. A “yes” or a “no” is not enough. Furthermore, this way we can be sure candidates can express themselves properly and use the right language. Here, it’s important to be natural. One thing that really makes me lose trust in someone is if they seem fake; if they overreact, exaggerate or oversell themselves. It's good to be yourself, but within reason, without blabbing away, knowing how to handle silence. And, most importantly, they should always tell the truth. The questions are also designed to weed out lies or half-truths.
I always leave a good amount of interview time for Q&A, so to speak. I do this because I think it’s vital for people to come prepared for the interview, and that’s when this really becomes apparent: Are you clear on your position? What will we expect from you on your first day? What are the promotion criteria? What clients do we work with? This is when candidates can either shine (if the questions are well thought out and they ask them with confidence) or stumble (if the questions are trivial or they don't really seem interested).
• Close: if you're interested in the job, show it.
When it comes to saying goodbye, there are various tips available on closing an interview properly. Naturally, in most cases, I have already made my mind up by this point. But one thing that helps build trust when closing the interview is the candidate asking about the next steps. If you are really interested in the position, you should make it clear. Make the most, right up to the very last second.