Neglect these 5 interview basics at your own peril

28 June 2017

As General Manager, Human Resources of one of the fastest growing companies in Australia, candidate interviews are a regular part of my day. I interview almost every employee who comes through InfoTrack’s doors and I’ve started to notice that many people have forgotten (or maybe just underestimate) the importance of basic recruitment manners.

We all learn the basics of interview prep at some point, but lately it seems that they’ve gone to the wayside. I recently started running workshops on interview skills for youth at our partnered charity with the Salvation Army, OASIS, and the kids that I’ve been working with can easily outline interview basics that are lacking in practice in many of the interviews I conduct today.

These are young people that can count their interviewing experience on 2 fingers, yet know exactly what the do’s and don’ts are. I’m not sure where the disconnect is - maybe this knowledge is getting lost along the way or maybe people are just getting lazy but there are a few basics that should be top of mind for everyone interviewing, no matter what level.

1) Be able to describe the job and yourself 

You’d be surprised at how often I have candidates in front of me who don’t have a solid understanding of the role they’re applying for. Take time before your interview to familiarise yourself with the main tasks of the job so you can pinpoint what stands out to you about the specific role. You should be able to explain which aspects of the role you’re most interested in, which ones you’ll find the most challenging and why you are suited to the role. This demonstrates not only a firm understanding of the role, but a high level of self-awareness.

Prepare your elevator pitch and deliver it to me confidently. If you don’t know why you are perfect for the job, how will I ever know? Don’t put me to sleep with a 15-minute sales pitch about yourself - tell me in a high-level, personalised statement who you are, what you have done and why I need you to work for our business.

2) Have at least 3 good questions prepared

It’s always a bit of a disappointment at the end of a great interview when I ask if a candidate has any questions for me and they say no. This is your opportunity to show insight, curiosity and hunger for the position. It gives me an understanding of how you think and where your priorities lie. Yes, my main goal in an interview is to get to know you, but a big part of that is being able to understand how you’ll fit into the company.

If you’ve done your research and have a good understanding of the company and the role, you should be able to come up with at least 3 solid questions that can demonstrate your insights. Really think about these questions beforehand, and choose ones that are specific to you and your interests. Do you love improving processes? Then ask what kind of opportunities you’d have to contribute to process improvement. Are you an idea person who loves innovation? Then ask what type of innovation processes we have in place and how you’d be involved.

Don’t forget, it’s got to be a fit for both of us so ‘interviewing’ me shows me that you’re making an informed choice, not just looking for a job for a job’s sake.

3) Ask for the job 

If you take away one piece of advice from this article, it should be this: ASK FOR THE JOB. No matter how great your resume and experience, I need to see that you want the job. The best way to do that is to simply be direct and say it. You may think your presence at the interview should automatically imply you want the job, but that’s not the case. If you’re genuinely engaged and interested, then say it loud and clear and make sure you end the interview with a strong statement of interest. If I’m choosing between two equal candidates, I’ll be more inclined to go with the one who actually asked for the job.

I often finish interviews with asking “What would stop you from taking the job?” and invariably the response is “Nothing………….oh but perhaps the salary/working hours/job title” etc. If you have waited until the final interview to cover these areas off, then it’s too late. If these things are deal-breakers for you, then cover them off early. And if you really do want the job, then tell me that absolutely nothing would stop you and ask me where to sign!

4) Be aware that every interaction counts

Nerves can get the best of anyone in a recruitment setting, but you should always be conscious of the impression you are making because in reality, you are being assessed from the minute you engage with our business. Whether you’re talking to the recruiter, the HR professional, the office assistant or anyone else along the way, make sure to put your best self forward in every interaction. Industries are smaller than you know and people talk. One negative interaction can kill your chances, and on the flip side, one small positive interaction can tip the scales in your favour.

Give me something to remember you by. Some of the most memorable candidates have been those that were at first unsuccessful, but due to their perseverance and positive interactions, have ended up working for us.

5) Mind your interview manners

These might sound like common courtesy but it amazes me how often the below interview hygiene-factors get overlooked.

  • Be on time
  • Know who you are meeting and research them
  • Experience the business (use their services, consume their products, visit their sites)
  • Use people’s names
  • Dress appropriately
  • Don’t swear
  • Don’t bad-mouth your current/previous employer
  • Don’t exaggerate (I will find out!)
  • Give me a call to action and follow me up

These pointers may seem obvious, but I’m not seeing enough of them in practice during interviews. It’s time to get back to the basics and do them well; they’re all simple things that every candidate can and should do. If you master these habits, you’ll have a strong base for all your interviews and give yourself the best chance of landing the job.

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About the author

Fiona Crawford

With over 15 years human resources, training and coaching experience across a range of industries including sport, fitness, finance, hospitality and automotive; to say Fiona Crawford is passionate about HR is an understatement. She has operated her own HR consulting business and worked on start-up HR functions, transformational cultural change programs, mergers and acquisitions, strategic and operational HR initiatives, delivered group-wide HR projects, and managed extensive coaching and training programs. Fiona has a BA Sports Studies (majoring in Psychology, Marketing and Science), and was awarded the AHA NSW HR Manager of the Year. Her uncompromising commitment to high performance and continual improvement stems from her sporting background - a two-time medal winning Olympian in the sport of softball (Silver 2004 and Bronze 2000).