“The problem with first impressions,” Oscar Wilde said, “is that they are almost always right.”
Like it or not, job interviews are about perception.This guest post below is by Victoria from www.randstad.com.au, an Australian job search and recruitment firm, and offers some techniques for improving your interview skills. I posted this because the advice really resonated with an experience I had last summer.
Last June, I sat on the other side of the hiring table. As I helped select a winning candidate from about 10 people, I realized how small perceptual details mattered in my decision. You try to be objective, but the small details do influence you.
Your resume gets you an interview, but the job interview is about social and personal chemistry.
I can remember one job candidate that barely looked us in the eye. It was uncomfortable interviewing her.
But it wasn’t just the introverts that didn’t make a good first impression. Another extroverted candidate at first presented himself very well. He was confident and barely nervous. But as the interview progressed, he didn’t practice “balancing” (a technique discussed in the article below).
This led the hiring committee to believe he was arrogant and difficult to work with, a perception that his references later confirmed.
If you have an job interview, I can say from personal experience that the techniques below do matter. While perception matters, it can also be adjusted and corrected.
For example, an old professor of mine once said to me, “You have an annoying habit of disappearing deep into thought when you present to the class . . . I know you are trying to be a casual presenter and think of things on the fly, but like it or not public speaking is a performance.” That insight stuck with me and I’ve tried to correct that habit.
Your interview is also a performance and the best way to improve is with live practice.
Here’s the post . . .
You’ve scored an interview. You can’t believe your luck as the phone falls to the couch and you squeeze your hands together, excited; suddenly, the accumulated drama, effort, tears and trials of squeezing through the last few months all seem worth it, or they will, if you can blitz the dreaded group interview.
An organised panel of professionals is intimidating enough without sharing their scrutiny with ten or so other people, maybe more, as entry level positions, hospitality and retail generally invite along whole groups to measure and meet. The questions will be curly, the friendliness contrived and a furtive sideways glance speaks volumes; their eyes follow the brightest and you’re determined to shine.
But how? Extroverts are rarely troubled by the demands of critical eyes, playing up their strengths and naturally capturing interest, holding it and drawing decision makers out. Introverts on the other hand, must overcome their quiet confidence for a moment and adapt its inner mechanisms to suit the temperament of the hiring manager.
Admittedly, this goes against the basic interview tenant of be yourself; instead, be the best version of yourself that they will be dying to know more about by the end. Tease them, titillate them, and make them pay attention, even if they prefer the loud mouth in the corner.
How Group Interviews Work
Group interviews are designed by external HR bodies, like a local Randstad recruitment agency, to get inside a potential candidates head and place them in an uncomfortable situation (on purpose!), forcing them to strategize, partner and analyse a problem with personalities that may not be compatible with their own. Sounds like a bit of a cruel experiment, no?
As diabolical as it may sound, group work (like at University) allows assessors and managers to identify those with strong leadership skills, dynamic listening skills and the ability to play diplomat to conflicting position within the group.
They will look for talkers, strong handlers and people who speak too often; they’ll keep an eye on the quiet ones, dismissing those who appear too shy, don’t engage at all or argue every little point.
Body language will be measured, every smile or eye roll accounted for, and whether you can adopt a team orientated approach.
Some Practical Interview Tips
Every assessors has a different criteria bouncing around in their head; some are instinctive selectors, others play favourites, a few have clipboards and criteria sheets. A couple have even recorded the introductory sections, to analyse articulation and confidence.
Preparing for absolutely every situation isn’t possible, despite what well-meaning articles may tell you; the following guidelines are not fool proof or close to perfect, but they have reaped positive results.
Based on our experience of working with thousands of job candidates, most people need coaching on the following areas. These areas seem obvious, but add nerves to the situation and we often forget them. You need to practice your interview skills until they become second nature.
Start Balancing: Speaking up and keeping quiet exist on two opposite ends of the communication spectrum, and the perfect employee needs to be able to do both, at the right time. Leadership qualities shouldn’t be confused with aggression and speaking over your fellow interviewees; yes, it would be fantastic to be picked, but respecting their space and agency at the right times will do more for your chances than trumpeting over them. That said, try and answer a question straight out of the gate once or twice.
Research: Do your groundwork and cover off the bases of the position, the company and the values they espouse. A lot of character based answer can be tailored around the values of the organisation (integrity, drive and excellence etc) — know your goal, and know yourself.
Look the Part: Don’t show up wearing last week’s pants or a recycled blouse. Clean, press and synthesise an elegant appearance, even if you feel like a bit of a dill. If you have a few extra hours on your hands a couple of days before, scope out the office and get a feel for how employees dress; if they’re fun and casual, feel free to add accents and colours to your business attire — It will help you stand out positively!
Be the Ideal Candidate: The mini title should really read, be the ideal candidate from day dot. When your prospective employer speaks to you, look them in the eye, smile and nod every so often (preferably during parts where physical cues are appropriate) — this indicates you’re a listener, a thinker and you appreciate their insight. Don’t slouch! Slouching is for meeting mates at a bar or chilling out in front of the computer, be straight backed and confident.
Admittedly, there’s a lot to remember when it comes to acing the group interview.Have you already notched up a few experiences of your own? Let us know in the comments below.
Additional career resources
You can also search for careers with Atkins’ job search tools. It’s easy to search by region, keyword, and a good place to explore different sectors.