Disastrous Or Superb? Where Do You Sit On The Interview Continuum?

Disastrous or superb - interview continuum

Job interviews can be difficult to get right.

And most people have experienced times when they get the interview spot on – everything went really well, they had a good rapport with the interview, and they nailed every question put to them with a fantastic response.

But most people have also experienced times when their performance was disastrous – they didn’t ‘click’ with the interviewer at all, they struggled to answer questions, and they left the interview feeling terrible.

In this guest article (see Guest Authors if you would like to write a guest post) Catherine Cunningham from The Career Consultancy provides advice on how you can consistently perform at the ‘superb’ end of the interview continuum.

Catherine’s biography can be found at the end of the article.

Over to you Catherine…

I used to be quite bad at job interviews. I’d walk out of so many, knowing that the job was within my capabilities and feeling that there was a good cultural fit, but never getting the offer.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have two friends who are just naturals – they basically get every job they ever apply for.

We all sit somewhere on the Interview Skills Continuum between disastrous and superb. It’s generally acknowledged that all too often the job does not go to the best candidate but to the slickest performer at interviews.

So it’s critical that you work with an astute friend or a career specialist to move yourself up the interview skills spectrum.

Where to start for interview success?

Before you actually start practising, make sure that you cover off on the types of interviews that are common in the market place these days.

Here’s some to consider:

  1. Standard interviews with questions like: “Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?”
  2. Behavioural interviews with questions like: “Give us an example of a time when you worked well in a team.”
  3. Assessment Centres or assessment centre-type activities
  4. Social interviews, e.g. coffee meetings
  5. Psychometric testing

It’s easy to get yourself up to date with information about the types in interviews you are likely to face. Just Google it and endless examples will pop up.

Do you pass the ten second rule?

Life gets tougher in the interview game when you get beyond interview formats and start looking at performance.

Basically, all of us make up our minds about a stranger in about ten seconds. We then spend a few minutes reviewing our first impression to see if we are going to change it and after that it’s pretty much set in concrete.

I recently participated in an interview panel where a senior Executive looked out of the window as he answered questions.  Being used to how nervous people can get in interviews, I was prepared to look past it.

Others on the panel were most disconcerted, however, and he did not get the job.

We can be a cruel species, at times!

If we make up our minds in less than 10 seconds, what do you need to cover off on in interviews?

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1. Avoid ‘corporate speak’ and check for bad language habits

I recommend what I call “coffee shop” talk.

Vivid, relaxed and energetic – the way we would talk to our friends in a coffee shop. Not overly formal business-speak and not slangy or coarse language, such as you might hear in a pub.

Check with a friend who is quite particular about language whether you make some of the following mistakes, as they make you appear uneducated:

  1. Fingernail down the blackboard words as in “When are youse going to tell me if I’ve got the job?”
  2. Years ago, a friend asked me to help her to stop saying “somethink”.
  3. A lot of people use malapropisms, e.g. “I pacifically insisted that she call the client again.”  (instead of “specifically”)

2. Use your voice like the instrument it is

Voice is an interesting one.

I cannot remember a single person who ever reported knowing whether people liked listening to their voice or not.

Serious issues with your voice will take serious effort, access to a specialist and a lot of time before you achieve the necessary improvement.

What I’m talking about here is how high pitched your voice is or how nasally it is.

British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, reportedly worked with a specialist in this area, deepening her voice so that she sounded less shrill in Parliament.

Quick voice fixes

There are some changes that you can make to your voice that are quicker and easier to achieve.

Rising intonation falls under the category of disastrous in an interview situation. It’s when you raise your voice at the end of every sentence.

If you do this, you instantly convey to the interviewer that you doubt the statement you have just made.

In addition, it generally makes you sound weak and ineffective.

Light and shade brings your interview performance to life, when you use volume changes to engage your audience.

Without this variation, the voice can become like an assault weapon, almost overwhelming the listener and causing him/her to want to lean back in her seat away from you.

Or, at the other end of the intensity spectrum, if you speak quietly in the same tone, you can put the listener to sleep, as your voice drones on and on.

Speed variations are there to signal important information to your audience.

You can have the most perfectly modulated voice in the world but unless there is variation here, people will either fall asleep or, if you speak too quickly, struggle to understand you and possibly give up as time goes on in the interview.

3. And then there’s Body Language

Where to start?

58% of the impression we make on strangers comes from the message that our bodies send.

What we’re talking about here covers a multitude of areas: attire, hair and grooming, handshake, eye contact, stance, seating position, hand gestures.

This, in my opinion, is where you need to bring in the experts. I often say that a good career consultant is likely to be the only person who notices how your behaviour might damage you in a job interview.

And, almost certainly, the only one who is brave enough to actually tell you – in a supportive way, of course.

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Improving your interview conversion factor

Once they have identified an issues with you words, voice and body language, a good career consultant will work intensively with you.

I find that it generally takes two sessions and then it’s like magic. There’s a wonderful improvement in your skill.

Working with an expert career consultant is probably the only time in your career when someone will force you to tell interesting, powerful stories about how good you are.

The result is that you end up with a much better job conversion rate, which means that you attend fewer interviews before being awarded the role.

And, the confidence that you gain as a result of understanding clearly how you have added value to previous employers stands you in good stead as you start your life with your new employer.

Catherine Cunningham

Catherine Cunningham is part of a team of Australian career specialists at The Career Consultancy.

They are experts in providing advice and support to professionals who are facing a sudden change in their job circumstances or who wish to maximise their happiness at work.

The Career Consultancy can be found at: www.careerconsult.com.au