Some people seem fated to repeat their interview blunders and never quite get to the point where they know how to be their ‘best self’ in an interview. If there was a way to systematically improve each interview performance by learning from previous ones, wouldn’t you be interested?
Selection processes are becoming increasing diverse and unpredictable as employers combine established recruitment practices and with a range of technology-enabled selection tools – all with the aim of discovering the best talent for their organisations. The larger employer’s selection processes may involve a range of ‘interview-type encounters’ with applicants and shortlisted candidates and other face-to face activities during which candidates are examined, judged and measured in relation to a range of critical performance criteria.
Technology is playing an expanding role in selection, adding levels of complexity or simply more stages to selection that can make navigating the selection process feel like participating in a triathlon. Application forms and assessment tests evaluate applicants scientifically, while automated selection software records, times and analyses candidates answers to interview questions. Video software is also popular with employers allowing flexibility in relation to when and where candidate’s videos can be viewed by selectors, and also the chance to assess candidate’s personal grooming, confidence and body-language. For candidates applying for several graduate programmes simultaneously, managing and fully engaging in such processes becomes a measure of their problem-solving, organisation and stamina.
So what does this mean for YOU as a prospective candidate? By the time you secure your first ‘graduate’ position you will have had many ‘interview-type’ encounters with potential employers. This may have been for part-time or full-time work, tutoring or mentoring, voluntary work, internships, and also graduate programmes.
Whatever the outcome of the process, each interview experience can help you become a more competent interview candidate. You may believe that you already learn from each experience – this can certainly be true for those that go through several selection processes over a short time frame. However, in the course of a lifetime you will have many interview-type experiences for new jobs, performance reviews, and promotions. These may be months or years apart. Something more structured is called for.
Consider having an Interview Journal where you can debrief and reflect on each interview as you experienced it. Follow these steps while the experience is fresh and front-of-mind.
- Write down details of the upcoming interview. What is the title of the role and with what organisation? Note the date, time and place. What type of interview will it be? (eg phone, panel), and how long will it last? Record the name(s) and job title(s) of the interviewer(s).
- Review your pre-interview preparation. What have you done to prepare? Job description analysis and research; employer/organisation research; interviewer background research; practicing answers to likely or common questions; preparing real examples of your experiences (STAR) to answer behavioural questions; preparing your own questions for the interviewers.
- What questions were you asked? List each one that you recall.
- How did you answer each question? Write down what you said and highlight your key points.
- Write down what happened during the interview. What was you initial impression of the interview environment and the interviewers? Was there a handshake, small talk? What were the roles of the interviewers (eg HR Manager, Senior Analyst). What was the general style of the interview – formal/informal or structured/unstructured? How confident were you in answering questions? Did the interview become conversational so that you could ask questions too? What signals from the employers indicated your answers were well-received? Did the interviewers ask you prompting-type questions (this would indicate that your answers lacked detail or relevance)? Did the interviewer(s) take notes? Did you pick up any signals from the interviewers that they were strongly interested/disinterested?
- For each answer, score yourself from 1-10 with 10 being “I did a great job”. Where you didn’t do a great job, try to recall the reason for this. Were you nervous or under-prepared?
- What questions did you ask? List these and indicate how these were received.
- Your Scorecard. Do you think the interview went well? How did it prepare to your previous interviews? Did you feel the interviewers ‘liked’ you? Is there a pattern to the types of questions you answered well? Is there a pattern to the types of questions you answered less well?
Complete your Interview Journal after every interview. You then have solid information about your previous performance rather than relying on memory. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your past performances will help you improve your performance every time.