In a good interview, you will need to show how your unique set of skills and characteristics make you great for the job; show your vision and passion; build rapport with the interviewer to make the best impression on the day. To achieve this you need to have two key things down, excellent preparation and excellent performance on the day.
Remember a time when you hadn't even heard of Zoom? These days, it's practically impossible to get through a single day's work without some form of video conferencing. There is no doubt that the pandemic has wildly transformed our working lives and Zoom, Google Meet, Teams, Skype and other common video interview software have become a lifeline for many businesses, allowing us to simply soldier on.
You might think the good news is that you don’t need to worry about your bottom half! Not quite.
These days, you wouldn’t know if every person you speak to on Zoom is starkers below the waistline. You can’t tell if someone is wearing joggers, shorts or a tutu for that matter! So, does it matter what your legs are wearing?
Well, for a meeting, it’s all about how your clothes make you feel. You want to make sure what you wear helps you to feel confident, dynamic and energised. Dress for the mood you need to be in to nail the interview. Bear in mind that your pyjama bottoms might be super comfy but could prevent you from getting into a professional frame of mind, which might affect your posture and body language. By all means, be comfortable during your video interview but you don’t want to feel odd - as that will impact your performance. Besides, you don't want to caught out if you have to stand up to turn the light on or close the window halfway through! Prepare for all eventualities!
As for the top half: make an effort! The way you present yourself in this interview will indicate how you would represent the company in a meeting should they hire you.
Choose clothing that accurately reflects the style and industry of the company. Don’t be afraid to wear colour - but make sure you don’t blend in or clash with the wall behind you. If you are applying to work within a regular office environment, keep it clean and simple. You don’t want to fill the screen with too many distractions. And leave the stripes on the shelf – they don’t show up well on camera.
If you are using a laptop, make sure it is at eye level rather than looking down at it. Use a stack of books or some leftover shoeboxes if you have to. You don’t want to give the impression that you are doing your virtual interview from the top of a hill!
Make sure that your interviewer’s picture on your screen is directly beneath your camera. This will prevent your eyes flicking from side to side throughout the interview as if you’re watching a tennis match.
It can be tricky to look professional from your home environment. Try to build an appropriate setup. Make sure no phones are around – there is nothing that destroys the mood of an interview quite like a ringing landline. Most importantly, avoid the cardinal sins of a virtual background – that means, no towels, bed, shoes or anything remotely intimate!
One of the upsides of an online interview is that you’re given a blank canvas to show something about yourself. For example, for a marketing role in a creative company, you can include a lovely piece of art on the wall behind you within the camera frame. This can act as a nice little icebreaker or conversation starter with your interviewer. For a serious role, go for something more neutral like a houseplant or a bookcase. If in doubt, go for a plain wall with lots of natural light – that always looks good.
Remember, this is an opportunity to curate your image – make it work for you, not against you.
Always research the company and prepare at least one question for them at the end. Understand what the role is and how you can harness your past experience to showcase yourself as a good fit for the new job. Think about your values, their values, and then look for alignment. i
Excellent interview technique, whether virtual or in person, requires you to know your stuff. They won’t just believe you - you need to have evidence, stories, statistics and examples to back up your points. Have clear structured examples ready in your head with positive outcomes.
The great thing about Zoom interviews is that you can have some notes in your eye line next to or above your computer (we don't recommend having them typed out on your screen), out of sight of the interviewer. Use these notes to keep you on track and stay on your A game, but don't rely on them.
How many times have you been in an interview situation and the moment you were asked a question, your mind went blank. Instead of the well-formed answer you ought to have given, a stream of panicked gibberish erupted?
The good news is that a bit of structured preparation is a great way to give yourself a head start and show the interviewers exactly what they want to see. The STAR technique is the perfect way to help you prepare consciously and intentionally, so you can respond to the questions that come up, do yourself justice and ultimately secure the job of your dreams.
Step one in the STAR interview technique is to set out the situation or background; this is about selecting something specific. Don’t talk about an abstract concept such as ‘monthly reporting’ – talk about a specific project that had objectives or key performance indicators (KPIs) all of its own. You’re trying to provide the background to the project, but only in as much detail as the interviewer needs – keep it high level and don’t be tempted to delve into the minutia.
“In my previous marketing role, we made a decision to focus on email marketing and specifically to work to increase subscriber numbers for our email newsletters.”
Next, describe the specific task or challenge that you, yourself, faced: the role within the project or the objective that you personally accepted. Don’t be tempted to pretend you were responsible for more than you were. Better to provide a detailed answer about a small but valuable role rather than a fluffy answer that comes across as generic.
“As the Marketing Manager, I agreed a target of X% over the next six months and then lead a brainstorm with the wider team to identify ways that we could make this happen.”
Once you’ve outlined the extent of the challenge, talk about the specific actions you took to meet your objective. You may like to touch on your values, but focus mainly on how you showed initiative and which parts of your skillset you used – these are the qualities that the interviewer will be looking for in order to document why they should recruit you above other candidates. The trick here is to keep it personal and use “I” not “we” in your answers.
"I went back through all evergreen blog posts and added a call to action to sign up to the newsletter. Then I lead a team to create a valuable webinar that required an email address to sign up.”
And finally, here’s your time to blow your own trumpet a little, to show the interviewer your greatness. Make sure you stick to facts and figures, don’t wander off into the realms of bluff. Quantify the outcome of your project and explain why what your specific contribution mattered and how it impacted the business.
"During the 6-month period, email subscribers went from 10K to 20K, exceeding our KPI by 20%. Enquiries and leads generated through email were up X% at the end of the period and the sales team reported an increase of X% which they attributed in large part to the increased email list.”
The STAR method works brilliantly when you’re trying to structure an answer, but it’s almost impossible to come up with the right examples and recall the data precisely when you’re in the moment. That’s why interview preparation is everything.
We recommend you take a very detailed look at the job description. The interview questions will almost certainly mirror the precise skills and experience it asks for, which stands you in good stead when you’re trying to predict the kinds of questions you might be faced with.
Our advice is to choose the top 3-5 skills or qualities that are needed for the role according to job description. Pick 5-10 examples from your past work experience that demonstrate these specific skills and answer them using the STAR structure. Write them down so you can ‘revise’ in the lead up to your interview.
There’s one thing that many of us forget to think about, and it can have a huge impact on whether or not the employer decides you’re the right person for the job. The way we use our body while we communicate will convince the listener that either you are confident, respectful and in control, or disengaged and even lazy.
Here are our top tips for using your non-verbal communication to your advantage and smashing that job interview!
Watch this video for 5 body language tips to use in your next interview:
Without even knowing why, people start to build a sense of you from the moment you enter a room, perhaps even before! That’s why it’s important to be aware of your non-verbal communication right from the start. If you have to knock on the interview room door, make it clear and confident, not a hesitant patter. Come in with shoulders back, a smile and eye contact. If there are two or more people, look at each of them and acknowledge them with a smile. They will be waiting for this smile - it’s a sign that the next hour will be good and not painful. For more on this, watch this video on body language tips in interviews:
This is a cliché but it's important and people still genuinely care about it. First things first, walk forward and offer your hand. Whatever you do, don’t let your handshake be limp. A firm handshake says ‘I step in and get involved, I engage with people, I am present.’ The limp handshake says ‘Here’s my hand, you can move it around for a moment and then I’ll have it back.’ No one wants to hold a slimy slug.
Be firm, but don’t squeeze their knuckles to oblivion - you're not desperate. The handshake makes a statement of the energy with which you come at things: too weak and it does not bode well; too strong and it can be a bit like a contest! It's about taking the hand firmly to show that you're ready, present and confident.
Put your enthusiasm for opening this new channel of communication into your hand and shake with confidence and conviction. You will have an intention as you engage in every conversation - in this case, you want to impress the person and land a job. Let your objective be purposeful and let that be reflected in your handshake. Think about how much you want this job, and grasp the hand with this.
Eye contact can feel scary and revealing, yet avoiding it is even more revealing. If you can’t look someone in the eye, you are effectively giving them license to think all sorts of things about you that you have no control over. Rest assured, the person or people interviewing you will have likely been doing this for hours and have had enough absent grins and floor-struck eyes. We're not talking about rabbit-in-a-headlight-style staring, nor do you want to look shifty or be looking all around the room nervously. You want your eyes to be warm and interacting - to help this process, smile or, if that doesn’t feel natural, nod and acknowledge the other person talking, to make them feel reassured.
When you sit down, there is a Goldilocks-style balance to be found. Confidence is good. Arrogance is annoying. You don’t want to come in and sit down like you own the place, but you don’t want to sit down like you are apologising for being in the room. Do one thing at a time, go calmly and you won’t drop things and fluster. Put down your case or bag, take off your coat, put it at the back of your chair and take your seat. This makes a clear statement: ‘I respect myself and I will take the time I need to do something and not fold under pressure’. Usually employers are looking for someone who is clear headed and self-respecting, rather than flustered and apologetic.
You've come dressed with a smile, you're wearing the appropriate attire, and you've nailed the firm handshake. Congratulations! You've passed phase one of the interview process (and that alone is an important phase!).
From here on, the way you speak during the interview could make or break your chances of getting the job offer you seek. To show how your unique skills and characteristics align with the job description and company culture, you need to articulate your responses with clarity and confidence. So let's review six common speech habits that you want to leave outside the interview room.
Preparation is key for nailing an interview. Being able to respond enthusiastically to questions shows the interviewer that you’ve done your homework on both the company and the role. It also provides a springboard for you to demonstrate how your values, skills and characteristics align with the culture and vision of the workplace.
Under preparing for an interview hampers your ability to deliver a composed and intelligent response to unforeseen questions. If you have ever under prepared for an interview you may have suddenly caught yourself using words such as "um," "ah," "you know," "OK" or "like". These are known as filler words. We use them to drown out the silence whilst we formulate an intelligent repost.
In everyday conversation, fillers are a customary part of speech. We cannot be expected to have a pre-planned response to every impromptu question. However, in an interview situation, you are expected to know what you are talking about when you open your mouth. After all, the questions are about you, and you are the expert on you! Over using fillers in this context shows the interviewer that you lack confidence in what you are saying, or; understanding in what is being asked. The resulting effect is a less authentic and engaging connection between yourself and the interviewer.
A better strategy is to think before you speak, taking pauses and breaths when you lose your train of thought. Pauses help you sound steady and in control of what you are saying. They give you processing time to work out what the next thought is or how best to articulate that thought. Most importantly, they allow your listener to keep track with you as you are speaking. Uniting up your speech with bite-size chunks shows your interviewer that you are calm and confident in what you are saying.
Upward inflection or rising intonation is when the tone of our voice rises at the end of an utterance. We use upward inflections in questions to provoke a response in our listener. “Can you pass the salt please?”
A singsong or rising inflection at the end of every utterance creates a tentative impression and makes it sound as though you're asking a question instead of making a definitive statement. This instils a lack of conviction in what you are saying. It suggests that you are seeking approval and therefore not confident in what you're saying. Bringing your intonation down when ending a sentence will ensure that you’re speaking with assertiveness.
The language you use to describe yourself creates the canvas for the impression you give. Use positive, strong, confident language, but more importantly own it. This gives your interviewer an impression about your level of confidence and conviction. Peppering your conversation with words that modify or water down your conviction will give the opposite effect.
Avoid using words such as "hopefully," "perhaps," "I feel," "kind of" and "sort of". These convey a degree of uncertainty and a lack of confidence. Instead, use power words such as "I'm confident that," "my track record shows," "I take the position that," "I recommend" or "my goal is."
First impressions make a lasting impression, or so the saying goes. Which means it’s extra important to get that first moment of meeting just right to win people over. Here we share our top tips on how to effectively build rapport in those early moments of meeting someone new, so that you can consistently get those new relationships off to the best start.
Making someone feel important fosters mutual respect. Recognise your conversation partner's unique qualities, notice the little things about them and make sure they feel you are interested in them. Bring a genuine curiosity as to what they are saying and who they are and your listener will feel valued and respected. That's a pretty positive start. Bill Clinton was a pro at this. Making people feel important was a key reason for his success.
There's a reason why we have two ears and only one mouth... When we give another person our attention, it tells them they are worth our time and energy. Listening is an important skill, and striking the right balance between sharing our own experiences and fully attentive listening is crucial. In fact, it can make the difference between the speaker shutting down or you forming a connection with them that can flourish and grow in all sorts of directions.
When we use positive non-verbal communication, we actively listen, and can instil a level of trust and confidence in our conversation partner, encouraging them to open up and become more receptive to what you have to say.
Good eye contact demonstrates that your attention and your interest is directed at them. Let your eyebrows move, and your eyes widen if you hear something particularly interesting or surprising. A simple nod with a slight smile or lift of the eyes, or the use of little affirmative sounds, for example, 'uh huh', 'yeah' and 'really?’, can also be powerful tools for rapport building. Whilst you're at it, face the individual where possible with your full body, showing that you’re offering your full attention. These tips are especially useful in interviews, when it's important to make the best first impression possible.
Investing in yourself. It’s a chance to step back from the grind, to remember what really matters and to take steps to achieve what is actually important to us. And if that’s getting a new job, then that’s what you need to invest your time, energy and possibly even money in.
So how do you go about finding that dream job?
One of the core parts of our interview training course - but often overlooked - ways you can prepare for getting a new role - whether in your own company or a different one - is to check this job really is the one you want. If your heart is in this, it’s going to be far easier to engage the employer authentically. They’ll feel your enthusiasm, without you needing to tell them.
If your values align with your employer, you can point out all the ways in which they connect. More than your skills, this will show the interviewer that you belong at that company. This is something we spend a lot of time working on with our clients, helping them to understand and highlight their USPs.
For every value you mention, you need an example of how it has played a role in your life. A value without an example is as good as a lie to the interviewer. So the more specific you can be with your examples, the more likely it is they’ll believe you.
You’re building rapport long before you sit down in the interview. It starts from the moment you apply, or when you email the HR team for clarity on an element of the role a week or two before the interview. It might be a tiny start to the conversation, but it’s still an important moment of connection. I find it impossible to understand that people apply for a job without some kind of cover letter or intro email. This is your first chance to strike up a conversation.
Once you've secured an interview, it’s worth arriving early, and not just because it’s inexcusable to be late. Getting there early allows you to settle, to have conversations with employees in the entrance hall, to take in the surroundings. Anything you notice might make for a way-in to small talk with an interviewer.
While we’d all love to be a little less prejudice, snap judgements are hard to dislodge, even for an impartial interviewer. Why? Because our gut instincts are often right.
This isn’t about pretending, it’s about tapping into that enthusiasm you found when you first thought about this company and this role. You just need to let all of you show up.
It’s not just the apparently important conversation that matters. The little exchanges you might have about the weather, the journey in, the site of the office all count. Employers are looking for people they connect with and will enjoy working with.
Even the most insignificant of remarks can be a lead-in for a conversation of weight, or of lighter connection. Simply being yourself will go a long way here.
You’re not trying to cram as many facts as you can into a 10-minute window. The more focused and considered your answers (and questions), the better. Condensing what you offer and what you’re looking for into three key points is a good start. Any more than that and you’ll likely run out of time, or fail to do each point justice. Your interviewer can only remember so much.
Your three points can be simple, but you should have a concrete example for each of those points. ‘I’m ready for the challenge of managing a team’ should be backed up by an example of when you used the necessary skills. ‘I combine compliance experience with technical expertise’ requires an example of when that benefited a business you worked for. And, ‘In my career I’ve developed an extensive digital transformational skill-set’ needs a seriously good case study to make it real.
While you’re technically the one being interviewed, your questions count as much as your answers. When you ask about the ins and outs of their flexible working scheme, it shows you’re serious about planning to settle in for the job. If you ask the interviewer what their work/life balance is like, it shows you’re picturing yourself in that company.
An interviewer on a panel once noted that the most interesting question they’d ever been asked was, “What do you enjoy most about working here?” You’re revealing a kind of initiative that you can’t show by only responding to questions.
If this is the job that you’ve been waiting for, it’s worth investing all you can to pull it off.
Go for it and good luck!