Interviews are time pressured, highly competitive meetings in which the candidate must convince the interviewer they will be the best person to solve the employer’s problems and the interviewer is trying to find out which candidate can best solve their problems.
Because interviews are pressurised competitive situations, very much like the exams we sat at school, your interview technique plays a large part in your success or otherwise at interviews.
What is interview technique
Just so we are the same page, we refer to interview techniques as the set of skills and approaches that go into communicating clearly and effectively how you can solve problems for, and add value to, a potential employer.
In purely economic terms, if an employer is not sure you can add enough value, you won’t get hired.
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So factors that go into interview technique include:
- Confidence (if you aren’t confident in what you can do, why should the interviewer be?)
- Explaining how you solve problems and deliver value
- Being clear and concise – both make it easier for the interviewer to understand what you deliver
- Matching what you can do to the employer’s problems
- Using examples to provide proof or create confidence that you can do what you say you can do
- Demonstrating a range of skills – understanding and solving problems, communication, ability to get on with others, teamwork, likeability, employability
- Showing how you will fit in the organisation culturally – showing how closely aligned your behaviours and values with the team you will be working with.
- Demonstrating technical knowledge and ability
The above are the main factors. Each job requires specific skills sets to solve that role’s common problems or challenges so there can be other factors too.
Why improve my Interview Technique
Improving interview technique may be a no brainer to many candidates. For the other candidates, let’s go through why improving your interview technique is so important.
Firstly, improving your job related skills and experience takes time. If you have got interview stage, it means your CV will be in the top 10-20% of CVs received and you have suitable job related skills and experience to do the job you have applied for.
So what is going to differentiate you from the other candidates at interview when everyone is similar on paper?
You guessed it. The next biggest factor is interview technique.
The good news is your interview technique can be improved quickly.
1,500 mid-level professionals were asked how long they spent preparing for interviews, with the following results:
- 60% spend four hours or less preparing for a job interview.
- 28% spend between five and nine hours preparing for a job interview.
- Only 12% spend ten hours or more preparing for a job interview
I have sat as a hiring manager in over 1,000 interviews, from junior positions to CEOs.
In my experience, only 10% or so of candidates are well prepared and have good interview technique. 40-50% are okay, and the remainder are poorly prepared and /or have poor interview technique. This applies to all level of roles.
All the candidates at interview should be able to do the role. 60%+ of the difference between the candidates is their interview technique.
Does Interview Technique really matter that much?
Yes it does. Let’s take a fairly simple example to demonstrate how much difference it makes.
Assume that, the person in the role requires resilience because they have to support and challenge 20 managers across the business, some of whom are quite difficult. So the interviewer asks “Tell me about a time that you have overcome adversity and how you went about this”
Let’s compare answers from two candidates that have both had to deal with adversity and challenges within the workplace and are both good in these situations.
Candidate one replies with this answer:
I have had to deal with difficult people doing my job. I currently support managers across 4 divisions. With the information I provide, we make decisions together relating the business units they look after.
This part of my role is really enjoyable; I think that I am good at it and get a lot of satisfaction from doing a good job. A couple of the managers were difficult which made doing my role hard to start with.
I looked for opportunities to help them, to prove my worth to them and I didn’t allow myself to be put off. I kept showing them how I could help them. This approach has won all of them round, and some of them are now my most vocal supporters.
Candidate two’s answer:
I currently support 20 managers across 4 divisions, providing information and analysis to support them. I use this analysis to challenge the business unit’s performance and make decisions with the manager to improve performance.
When I first started in the role, 4 of the managers were really difficult. They didn’t think I could help them or help increase the performance of the business unit they looked after. To overcome this, I was constantly on the lookout for ways to support them and demonstrate my value. I created opportunities to meet with them, get to know them and did lots of extra analysis on their business units.
I took me about 4 months to win all of them over and they are now my most vocal supporter. Each business unit’s performance has increased by over 30% in two years, and I am proud of my contribution to that. I think this demonstrates my reliance and how I over came adversity in a constructive and successful way.
The above answers are not that different from each other. Hopefully, you can see that candidate two employs better interview technique. Candidate Two’s answer:
- Is clearer and easier to follow, with a better structure.
- Is more specific and gives me (the interviewer) more confidence in their ability to deliver
- Gives me (the interviewer) a clearer picture of the outcome or results that benefited the company.
Interview technique matters a lot in an interview and creates a large gap between the best performer and the worst performer during each interview stage.
Remember, you can improve your interview technique quickly – in a matter of weeks once you know what to do.
How to Improve Your Technique
To improve your Interview Technique you will need to learn what to do differently and then practice it, so you get good at it.
Different ways to learn good interview techniques:
- Read a good book on Interview Techniques. My favourite is “Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions” which is a great book. Books give you knowledge but leave you to work out how to put this into practice.
- Take a course to learn interview techniques. See “How to ACE an Interview” for a proven job winning methodology. The course is packed full of exercises and questions to give you structured and progressive preparation for junior roles to CEOs.
- Trial and error – you will need to go to a lot more of interviews and reflect and try out different approaches. I would not recommend this approach.
Whichever route you chose, the work you put in on your interview technique will be paid back in less interviews, less rejection, better job offers and better career progression.