How to Succeed at a Job Interview

the academic job interview

When confronted with the scrutiny of selection interviews, many of us feel threatened, embarrassed, uptight, overwhelmed by emotion and totally uncomfortable. It’s not easy to accept a perfect stranger dig intrusively in the world of your experience, aspirations and dreams, even if it’s meant to be just a neuter discussion about career issues.

However, it’s good to know that butterflies in the stomach are not a pre-requisite to a hiring interview. Here are some tips & tricks to avoid recruitment traps and turn a ghastly encounter in a friendly chat.

Show Positivity and Drive
Enthusiasm, optimism and motivation to join the team are the catalyst for the interviewer to shape a strongly positive opinion upfront. A jovial sense of humor is also welcome, because laughter is an effective ice-breaker that brings people closer and creates a sense of complicity and shared togetherness. Nonetheless, don’t overdo it and stick to benign humor: Don’t crack jokes at the expense of others, avoid irony, sarcasm or long satirical anecdotes that divert from the objective of the meeting.

Do Your Homework Before the Interview
A selection interview FAQ is “What do you know about us?” The successful candidate must prove that he/she is reasonably informed about the organization and the targeted position. Be sure to gather relevant info beforehand,
Google down the company facts & figures, find out about the number of employees, main locations and headquarters, branches of activity, stock exchange value, profitability, turnover and forecast. It’s always useful to visit a forum about employees’ rating of the company. Refrain from gossip, rumors, controversies, criticizing former employers and other delicate subjects that tend to generate resentment and defensiveness

Add a Name to the Face
Inquire beforehand about the name and position of your recruiter. When you schedule the appointment, usually during the phone conversation, make sure to ask for contact details for the assessor you are going to meet: their department, and whether they are a manager or a specialist. Of course, you won’t either need or gain access to the abridged biography; still some background data can help you anticipate the direction of the discussion and the standing point at stake for your partner. For instance, when interviewed for an HR specialist position by a training manager, you will focus more on, say, soft skills, while when you meet a payroll manager, probably the dialogue will evolve in a stricter manner, on topics such as fiscal or legal issues.

Answer in Full Sentences
Pay attention to phrasing and coherence of speech when you express your opinions. Avoid monosyllabic answers, especially starting phrases with “no”. Be aware of the fact that, however shallow it may seem, what you say is sometimes less important than how you say it, in terms of message impact. When accurately modulated, not too loud nor too whispery, your voice is your brand, so use it wisely.

Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, Aware of Your Shortcomings
Be ready to give an example of achievement, as well as one when you failed to rise up to your own or the others’ expectations. Be sincere and promote your talent and interests without fake modesty. This is often discarded as either manipulation attempt, or under-rated self-esteem. When you acknowledge your vulnerabilities, you are one step closer to overcoming and converting them in strengths.

Ask for Feedback
You may ask for a debriefing feedback at the end of the interview, by restating the value of the interview as a learning experience. No matter how poorly or brilliantly you think you did, the interviewer must be available to state his / her perception and arguments on the spot. This off-the-record feedback will clear the air and prepare you for the official conclusion you will receive later on.

Remain Time and Space Oriented
If you are late or lost, this can be interpreted as absent-mindedness, unreliability or sheer disinterest. So make sure you have the necessary directions and the exact address (with landmarks) noted down. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario where you get lost, and have a back-up. Moreover, do your best to arrive on time. Leave 10-15 minutes as precaution buffer for unpredictable cases (weather conditions, traffic, other incidents) and call the company to announce if you anticipate even a slight delay.

Greet the Person Behind the Suit
Start the interview with a cordial smile and a firm handshake. Think about the interview as a genuine discussion between two or more people (in the case of panel evaluations). This will be the perfect beginning for a dialogue between two strangers who turn into partners in a non-aggression treaty.

Ward Off Stereotype Expressions
Be on the lookout for these speech-parasites that may jeopardize the assessment for even the most promising applicant. The interviewer will have a hard time dealing with ready-made answers learnt by heart or with inadequately repeated words or phrases. Compulsive gestures and noises like scratching, panting, and crunching will most likely cause your evaluation to plummet. In some cases, a little censorship pays off.

All this practical advice might seem a lot to handle, in terms of framework for a real-life dialogue, but it helps when you select what fits best to your own situation and personality. Above all, when faced with the career opportunity of a lifetime, keep in mind your most valuable assets: spontaneity and authenticity.