Since March through May is a heavy recruitment time for summer internships and graduate positions, just about every second student coming into our office is asking for advice on interviews. Louise has written an excellent blog on this earlier in the month, and I thought I would just add a few additional tips.
Just as in life, interviews are not always fair and objective. Interviewers come with all sorts of biases – cultural, gender, age, qualifications preferred, work experience, how you dress, the tone of your voice, etc. They form an opinion about how you would perform a job without any evidence that this would be the case. What can you do to overcome some of these biases? Here are a few strategies to minimize the risk of and/or take advantage of interviewer bias.
Make the most of your personality – never underestimate the power of your own personality. Likeability plays a crucial part in making hiring decisions. Do you give the impression of being enthusiastic and keen? Are you polite, courteous, and sincerely interested in learning more about the interviewer? Remember the interview is not just about you – the interviewer, like yourself, also wishes to be respected, acknowledged and valued for their experiences and skills. Creating a good rapport is key to success. What do you both have in common? Find out if you have similar interests, experiences or studies. Building relationships is a key competency for most jobs – show your skill in doing this by building a positive relationship with your interviewer.
Create and make the most of your ‘halo’ effect – the “halo” effect occurs when an interviewer scores you highly in a particular strength or skill and then allows this aspect to overshadow everything else. For instance, you were able to give a great example of how you demonstrated strong leadership skills. As a result, the interviewer considers you to also have good communication and relationship building skills. Have ready two or three of your most important experiences that you would like the interviewer to remember you by.
Use every opportunity to steer the conversation into areas which enable you to highlight your suitability for the role – you might like to ask what key skills differentiate employees who are great from those who are good. Use this information to illustrate your strengths in the areas most relevant to the role.
As I mentioned at the start, interviews are not always fair and like it or not, it is hard to avoid interviewer bias. Use these biases to your advantage by planning ahead and being prepared for them.