Almost five years after I wrote Stand out from the crowd, I find myself surprised at how some of the candidates my colleagues and I interview fail to follow basic interview practices, so I guess it’s time to share some tips with anyone trying to do well at their next interview.
These tips apply to face-to-face interviews: Skype and Google Hangouts are fundamentally different. Except for my number one tip, which is:
Be on time
Account for traffic, public transport meltdowns, too many red lights, slow tourists walking in front of you, getting lost, doing a pee, and at least 5 minutes to get through reception at any medium to large building.
Bring your portfolio
Do not assume the person who will interview you will have a laptop or tablet at hand, or even reliable Wi-Fi access. “But how can a respectable business not be supplied with reliable Wi-Fi access?”, you might ask. That is true, but unexpected cuts do happen, and you might just be unlucky enough that it happens at the same time you need to open your website.
Don’t be a lazybones. Bring your laptop or a tablet loaded with examples of your work in a PDF, or running locally. The sight of a good old-fashioned printed portfolio, while quaint, is also quite exciting.
Listen, do not interrupt
Interrupting is okay in very few circumstances. Be polite, wait, and listen carefully. When you don’t interrupt, and wait before you start talking for a second or two, the person who is conducting the interview might speak a little bit more, giving you precious cues on what they want to hear from you.
Let yourself be interrupted
Build pauses into your speech. Being stuck in a room with someone who will not stop talking can be anxiety-inducing. Don’t assume the people you are meeting have all the time in the world. They might be hungry and only have 10 minutes to grab lunch before their next meeting, or they might have to get back to their desks and do some super urgent work right after talking to you. You might have gotten off-track and be talking in circles. Let them stop you without it being awkward.
You can practice doing this with anyone you have to talk to. Pay attention to the way you speak, and add subtle pauses to your speech at key moments.
Make sure you understand the question
This follows on from the previous point. Ask the interviewer if you’re answering the question they’ve asked you, or if they meant something else, when you’re not sure. And even if you are sure, sometimes you understood things incorrectly, so, again, if you build pauses into your speech, it will be easier for them to swerve you in the right direction.
The other side
I would say that these tips apply not only to the candidate, but also to the person conducting the interview. If you are the one running the interview, on top of the tips above, I think that making sure you know what role the candidate is being interviewed for, and taking the time to read through their CV and look at their portfolio are pretty basic requirements.
There are so many more things you want to make sure to avoid during an interview, like being completely distracted or looking at your phone, but I guess if you go that far, you’re probably not interested in the job.
For me, the tips listed here are no-brainers. Surprisingly, candidates repeatedly fail to follow them, sometimes forgetting about more than one or two in one go.
Did I miss anything important? And what about golden rules for someone conducting an interview? Let me know in the comments.
(By the way, as usual, we are hiring.)