As a consultant specialized in recruiting top executives and middle managers, my job basically consists of presenting my client company with an adequate number of candidates capable of successfully facing the challenges and demands of a vacant position in their organization.
After contacting a potential candidate and discussing with him/her the interest of the position to be filled, and the value it could bring to his/her professional career, I spend a lot of time during the interviews to get to know the candidate in depth, to analyze his/her background, career path, type and size of challenges faced, his/her successes, as well as their possible failures and occasional derailments. I also try to understand the competences and personal traits needed for the job and which may help (or not!) this candidate thrives in the new environment. I define that part of my professional role as a process of “accompaniment” to help the potential candidates make the best possible decision in relation to the enhancement of their professional careers and the meaning and impact that their decision to apply for the position may have on their professional future. If everything is OK, I will include this candidate in the shortlist which I present to the client company. From there onwards the candidate is on his/her own.
And I have to admit that sometimes I am surprised (and disappointed!) at seeing how very promising candidates fail at making a good impression at the interview with the client. And it saddens me to learn that very often this failure happens in the initial 5 minutes of the meeting, frequently because of a lack of sufficient understanding (and preparation on the part of the candidate!) of the critical importance of those initial minutes to convey the image of professionalism and competence that their interviewer is expecting.
The first moments of your interview can have a decisive impact on how the rest of the process will go. So, if my candidates would ask my advice (which most often they don´t!) here are some tips on how to start a job interview to enhance your chances of success:
1. Do your homework
If you are truly interested in this professional opportunity, you should prepare thoroughly for the interview in which your suitability will be established, not only to successfully carry out the functions and challenges of the position, but equally importantly, to fit into the corporate culture and values of that organization and to further develop in that environment. Apart from what the consultant may have already explained to you in the initial contacts, nowadays a lot of information is easily accessible through the internet, social networks, the company´s own website, online specialized media etc. to gather all the relevant aspects and characteristics which you can use to form a sound and complete idea of what this opportunity may be all about. Part of this preparation would definitely be having solid answers to questions like: “What do you know about our company (our business, our industry, our markets, our brands…)?” “Tell me why you want this job?” or “Do you understand what this position entails”, What makes you think you are the ideal candidate for this job”? Failing to provide a firm answer to these questions can only be interpreted by the interviewer as an obvious lack of interest on the part of the candidate.
2. Treat everyone as if they were your interviewer
Make sure you are polite and friendly to everyone you come across during the selection process. From greeting the person at the reception desk, to the people you share the elevator with, or the people you pass in the office corridor… These are all points of contact with your potential future employer. Co-workers often share their impressions of candidates, so make sure everyone you come into contact with has a good impression of you.
3. Make a good first impression
First impressions are very important, and non-verbal cues sometimes matter more than verbal ones. The first few minutes of an interview are all about smiling confidently, shaking hands firmly, making eye contact, and generally being happy to be there, showing that you want the job. Lean in slightly, arch your eyebrows slightly, and wait to be invited to sit down. In everything you do project an attitude of energy, enthusiasm and interest.
Dress for the occasion, try to adapt your style to that of the company for which you are going to be interviewed. Sure, you want to project your personality and charisma, but you also want to feel comfortable, if you have any doubts, always opt for the more formal side.
4. Be prepared to have a small initial conversation
Getting the conversation right can have big consequences. This first talk can build the affinity necessary to start generating that “chemistry” that characterizes all effective business relationships.
As part of preparing for your interview, it´s a good idea to think ahead of time about some potential topics that may come up to help keep the conversation flowing and natural. The key is to get to the topics where you have a common interest with the interviewer or the company, so that you are able to ask and answer questions in a credible way. For example, if you´re a fan of a sport and you see signs in his office that your interviewer is too, you could ask a suitable question for which you have an interesting answer (“Who do you think will win the cup this year?”).
Also think about some current issues. For example, has the company you are interviewing for recently been featured in the media? Or you could ask about the potential impact on the company of something recent, like a serious malware attack. In each case, make sure you have an interesting idea about the topic to contribute as well.
5. Focus on 3 key messages from the beginning
Politicians are recommended to communicate a maximum of three key messages to the media, messages to which they must abide and which they must influence throughout their speech.
Similarly, it is a good idea to have two or three key points about what you have to offer and what you are looking for, for example: “I am ready for the challenge of managing a team”, “;I combine knowledge of the area with technical expertise”, “in my career I have developed an extensive skill in digital transformation”.
These will be the three key points that you want your interviewer to remember about you. So, try to repeat them naturally whenever you can, even in the first few minutes of the interview.
6. First impressions count (a lot!)
Various surveys highlight the importance of making a good impression during the first few minutes of a job interview:
- 6 in 10 managers agree that the way a candidate dresses has a big impact on their hiring (source: monster.co.uk survey).
- 33% of bosses say they know if they are going to hire someone within the first 90 seconds of the interview (source: Classes and Careers).
- It can take a person between 1 and 10 seconds to form an impression of your confidence level – and that impression rarely changes later (source: Psychological Science).
- Maintaining eye contact with your interlocutor can help them perceive you as more intelligent (source: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin).
- The most conservative colors, such as blue and black, will be the safest bet when it comes to your clothing according to a survey of more than 2,000 search and selection professionals. Orange is the worst! (Source: CareerBuilder).
Of course, there will always be other candidates in the process and, for different reasons, not always you will be the selected one. But if you don´t get selected, let it be for compelling reasons and not for lack of attention to issues that may seem minor but are of fundamental importance when it comes to generating a bad first impression that jeopardizes your chances of success in the selection process.
Article written by Carlos Cámara, CFR Global Executive Search Spain
Photo source: Freepik