Everything about your body language sends a message to the person you are talking to. It is particularly important to understand the impact of body language in an interview, because it could make or break your success. Body language includes everything from eye contact to posture, and these signals help the interviewer gain a deeper understanding into your attitudes towards the job.
Body language encompasses all forms of nonverbal communication – everything about our feelings, emotions, thoughts and motivations is usually expressed through changes to our body. These changes include our facial expressions, posture, eye contact, hand gestures and general body position and movement.
The technique of “reading” people by watching their body language is an age old technique. It’s used across many situations including when an interviewer is sizing up a candidate’s suitability for a particular role. Many psychologists believe that non-verbal communication can reveal more about what we are thinking than what we actually say. For this reason, it is essential in an interview situation to pay close attention to your body language so it supports the story you are telling. Here are our tips for success:
1. Smile – greet the interviewer with a smiling hello which will create a warm and inviting engagement straight off the bat. Attempt to maintain a relaxed smile throughout the interview but don’t try too hard because it could look like you’re faking it.
2. Watch Your Posture – sit up straight in a neutral or slightly forward position to show you’re interested. Leaning back can be portrayed as being arrogant or too relaxed and slouching just appears lazy. Leaning too far forward can be seen as aggressive.
3. Maintain Eye Contact – eyes that dart around a lot are a sure fire indication that someone is lying or not sure of themselves. It is important to maintain eye contact with the interviewer when either of you are talking in order to convey confidence.
4. Don’t Stare – following on from tip # 3, while it is important to maintain consistent eye contact with the interviewer, if you ‘lock eyes’ or stare at someone, this can be perceived as aggressive or even worse – creepy. Staring at someone is often used as a way to distance yourself or assert authority and this is definitely not something you want to do in an interview! Try to maintain a balance by breaking eye contact momentarily every so often.
5. Don’t Do Too Much Talking With Your Hands – many people ‘talk with their hands’ and it is fine to be expressive in this way, however try not to use sharp hand movements that can be construed as ‘aggressive’. These include excessive pointing or hand chopping.
6. Don’t Cross Your Arms – this can indicate that you are defensive, resistant, unfriendly or simply not engaged with the process. Open arms resting comfortably in your lap will portray a much more approachable nature.
7. Make Sure Your Expression Matches Your Response – if you’re talking about something that you’re excited about like your dreams and passions and your facial expression is deadpan – this is simply not going to translate as authentic to the interviewer. Likewise if you’re talking about something serious – maintain that expression throughout, and then try to smile soon after.
8. Avoid Fidgeting – it will just distract the interviewer from what you are saying and could make you appear disinterested. Biting nails, playing with hair, squirming around in your chair, tapping your fingers or feet, or scratching are all no no’s. Apart from being a distraction, it could make you appear as someone who can’t properly focus – even for just a few minutes.
Remember, it is an interview – much of your body language that is construed as negative comes down to a lack of confidence so make sure you prepare. Do your research on the company and job and practice answering potential questions beforehand. Remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” and focus on communicating your worth in both verbal and non-verbal ways.
Do you struggle with nerves and negative body language during interviews? If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach to help you prepare for a job interview, to maintain positive body language throughout, build confidence and increase your success rate, see our Interview Skills Training service.
When using behavioural interview questions, the interviewer will usually identify core behaviours they’d like to see in a candidate. Obviously these behaviours are based on the position and the requirements of the specific role they are recruiting for and will vary accordingly.
There is absolutely no need to be scared of these types of questions – in fact quite the opposite – behavioural questions provide you with the ideal opportunity to showcase why you’d be perfect in the role. It’s important to remember that the recruiter will be looking for specific examples that demonstrate how you behaved in certain situations – not hypothetical answers on how you think you’d respond or behave.
You need to think back to previous roles and detail real-life examples from your work. To prepare for these types of interviews, you should first ascertain the competencies you think the employer might be looking for. This is where research is important. You can search for similar jobs online, read job ads and more detailed job descriptions, talk to the recruiter and ask their advice, and speak to trusted colleagues or superiors in your network. Most companies will be looking for some common skills that you can prepare for as standard, then you’ll want to consider what other competencies they’ll need that relate specifically to the role. Common competencies could include communication, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, and a proactive/innovative approach.
The best way to prepare for behavioural interview questions is by using the STAR technique. I’ve written articles before about how to prepare STAR responses – click here for detailed information. Briefly, thinking about examples in the context of STAR helps you formulate clear and concise responses to behavioural interview questions.
STAR stands for:
- Situation – What was the circumstance, situation or setting you found yourself in?
- Task – What was your role?
- Action – What did you do and how did you do it?
- Result – What did you achieve? What was the outcome and, if possible, how does it relate to the position you are applying for?
Once you have decided which examples to use for each identified competency, you simply write down your dot points next to each of the STAR points then formulate a response that you feel comfortable talking through. Don’t scrimp on detail – talk the recruiter through from start to finish but make sure you are concise and specific – and don’t ramble. You can use examples where the outcome wasn’t ideal so long as you explain how you learnt from it for next time.
The most important predictor of success with behavioural based interviews is preparation and practice. The more you think about and practice how to tell your story – the more concise you will be during the interview. Practice your responses so they flow – tell the recruiter some interesting stories about your real-life competencies and they’ll be more likely to consider you as a viable candidate. Have you been involved in a behavioural based interview? How did you go? How did you prepare?
Would you like to understand more about how to prepare for behavioural based interviews? Perhaps you’d like to put together specific responses that suit your experience and the roles you are seeking, as well as participating in a mock interview. If so, click here for our interview training services.
You will usually be asked questions you may find difficult to answer in an interview. We have talked before about taking time to effectively prepare for an interview by researching the company, preparing possible interview questions and practicing appropriate responses. Interview questions vary depending on the role, industry, company culture, seniority, and what’s expected of you. Many recruiters will take the opportunity to incorporate difficult or uncomfortable lines of questioning in order to put you under pressure. How you handle this pressure provides them with a great insight into your true capabilities and if not handled well, may cost you the job.
Whilst these difficult questions can be challenging, they also provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate your suitability for the role, as well as your ability to perform well under stress. If you take the time to prepare for these difficult questions, you’ll be far more confident at the interview.
An important way to prepare answers is by brainstorming situations you’ve been involved in to demonstrate your point. Interviewers often use behavioural based questions which focus on your past behaviour to determine potential future success. These questions can be applied to many different areas and they help the interviewer analyse how you’ve handled situations in the past. We recommend using the S.T.A.R. model (read more about that here) to brainstorm examples and develop suitable responses. I’ve provided six tricky interview questions that are commonly disliked amongst candidates:
1. What is your greatest strength? Many candidates feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in a positive way. You need to remove that barrier and remember this is a job interview. This is your chance to stand out so focus your answer on areas relevant to the role. Talk only about work related strengths and don’t just say (for example) “I’m really organised”. Tailor your response to fit the role and use a specific example that supports your point.
2. What are your weaknesses? Don’t reveal your worst weaknesses – instead prepare two or three minor work-related flaws. There are different approaches to take with this one. You could choose something that doesn’t matter for the role, identify a weakness that could be seen as a positive, or use a fault you are working to improve. The important point is to answer honestly and remain positive. If there is an obvious gap in your experience or knowledge, you could use that as your weakness and address it directly by saying something like “I’m aware of my lack of experience in this industry, so I’ve done some research online and spoken with some of your competitors. I am confident I can learn everything I need to know in a short time frame and quickly become an asset to the organisation.”
3. Why are you leaving your current job? Stay positive and don’t criticise your current or previous boss or company. Talk about new challenges/responsibilities, career progression, long periods in the same role having achieved significant success and the desire to develop new skills/knowledge. If you were made redundant, be honest and up front and say so, something along the lines of “Unfortunately the company had to downsize a number of roles including mine.” Practice your response so you don’t become emotional or stumble over your words – be brief and stay positive.
4. Tell me about a time you missed a deadline? (or something similar where you have to talk about a negative situation). It’s important to clearly explain what happened, then focus on the positives in terms of what you learnt and how you do things differently now. For example, you could talk about how you have improved your prioritisation and time management skills after missing a deadline.
5. Why should we hire you? Don’t just say “Because I’m great at what I do”. Think about your abilities, skills and accomplishments, match those to the job description and focus on why you’re a good fit for the role. Give examples and demonstrate success. Don’t forget to show interest in the company. For example, you could mention something about the opportunity the role offers to further develop some special knowledge you’re particularly interested in.
6. What do you like least about your current job/the people you work with? Again, try to think of something that may not apply to the role you’re applying for. Answer the question, but focus on the positives such as the fact that you stuck with it or learnt something new even though the task may not have matched your strengths. If you are asked specifically about individuals, never be negative – again remain positive and if you can’t think of something in a positive light, you could just say, “I get along with most people, and I don’t usually have problems developing good working relationships with colleagues.”
Remember, there are often no right or wrong answers with interview questions – the recruiter is simply trying to gain insight into the value you can bring to the organisation. No matter what the question, try to tailor your answer to suit the job you are applying for, always answer honestly, and remain upbeat and positive – that way the interviewer will gain a good sense of why you’d be a great fit for the job.
If you would like assistance from a Career Advisor to help you prepare for tricky interview questions and increase your success rate at interviews, please see our Interview Training and Coaching service.
Securing an interview these days can be tough. With increasing numbers of candidates applying for each role, it’s a very competitive market. Recruiters often use the interview to test candidates’ thinking and performance under pressure because people who can think quickly in business are an asset. The bottom line – if you want to succeed in an interview, you need to prepare.
Here are 10 top mistakes to avoid:
1. Arriving late or flustered – research where you’re going and how you’re getting there. If you’re catching public transport, catch the earlier service. If you’re driving, research parking options and, again give yourself some extra time just in case you encounter last minute problems. There is nothing worse than arriving flustered and red faced after running to make it on time or, worse still, arriving late. It really does give a bad first impression.
2. Dressing inappropriately – dress neatly and make sure you are well groomed – no thongs, shorts, t-shirts or revealing outfits. The actual attire may vary depending on the role, so it could be a suit and tie or business casual. Research the company and work out what would be expected.
3. Talking too much – there’s not much worse than a candidate who rambles without really saying anything. Ensure your answers are succinct and to the point. Research common interview questions and practice appropriate answers before hand, so you have an idea of what you might say in response to different questions.
4. Switching off – make sure you remain attentive. Concentrate on the interviewer and the questions they are asking. You only get one chance to impress, so make it count. If you find yourself becoming distracted, make a conscious effort to re-engage with the interviewer. Maintain eye contact, lean forward in your chair and sit up straight – don’t slouch or lean back. This will take more effort and concentration and help you to remain alert.
5. Not knowing your value – in an interview situation, you have to be prepared to talk about yourself. The whole process is about YOU and YOUR suitability for the role. Spend some time brainstorming strengths, weaknesses, recent projects, and accomplishments so when you are asked about yourself, you have something to say. Focus on achievements that you’ve made for your current or past employers and demonstrate how you’ve handled different types of scenarios you’ve encountered.
6. Not preparing for tough questions – you will more than likely get asked some tough questions so it’s a good idea to do some research, then prepare and practice appropriate responses. Questions usually focus on how you’ve handled various scenarios in the past and require clear thinking and succinct responses. There will often be multiple components to the question so try to address each area. Usually in these types of questions, there are no right or wrong answers – they’re designed to give the recruiter an idea of how you can think on your feet, and also a deeper understanding of the value you may bring to the organisation.
7. Not asking questions – this can make you appear uninterested. Research the company and role and put together a list of relevant questions. It’s acceptable to take some notes into the interview with you to refer to if you think you may forget. Ask questions about the role and the company and it will help you stand out as a highly interested candidate.
8. Not researching the company – there is no excuse not to know some facts about the company you are interviewing with. Research the company prior to the interview so when the recruiter asks what you know about the company you can appear interested and informed.
9. Being negative/low on energy – no matter how much you disliked your last job, boss or colleagues, this is not the time or place to discuss it. You should never criticise or undermine a past supervisor or company. The recruiter may get the impression that you’d be difficult to work with. Don’t come across as bored and uninterested – make the effort to show your positive and enthusiastic approach.
10. Asking about salary, hours, leave, and entitlements etc. too early – this should wait until at least the end of the interview or even until the recruiter raises it. This could also be raised during the next stage of the interview process.
Remember – you don’t get a second chance to impress at an interview. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your past that you may wish to put behind you! Preparation prior to an interview will help you feel more confident and will show in your performance.
If you would like assistance from an Interview Coach to help you prepare for job interviews, to overcome your nerves, build confidence and increase your success rate, please see our Interview Training service.
So you are in job application mode – you’ve created the perfect Resume and Cover Letter and applied for several positions. What next? As part of your job search, you should be preparing yourself for the interview process. Preparation ensures you appear professional and polished to the recruiter, but it also builds your confidence and helps overcome any nerves you might be feeling.
Here’s 5 things to do to help increase your success rate:
1. Prepare for a phone interview – this could happen at any time. Recruiters often make an initial call to screen candidates. Rather than feeling flustered and under pressure, be prepared. Keep a copy of your resume handy, together with a list of jobs you’ve applied for. Go one step further and keep a copy of specific job ads and/or position descriptions, highlighting areas you address well. In an initial phone interview, the recruiter may ask why you’re interested in the role and request you provide some detail about your background. Try to be relevant – hit on a couple of key points that highlight your suitability for this specific role.
2. Appear organised and professional. For the physical interview, dress neatly and appropriate to the company. It’s a good idea to take a copy of your resume, the position description, a pen and note paper. Don’t be afraid to take notes and ask questions during the interview. Asking questions is the perfect opportunity to find out more about the role and the company, as well as providing a chance to highlight your interest in the role and stand out to the recruiter. By researching the company beforehand and preparing a list of relevant questions, you’ll appear professional, prepared and organised – all positives for a potential employer.
3. Be punctual – plan to arrive 15-20 minutes early just in case you have any last minute problems. Research transport/parking prior to the day so you know how long it will take to get there! Punctuality says a lot about your general attitude and arriving a little early gives you the chance to calm your nerves and ensure you are not flustered and rushed when entering the interview.
4. Get over your fear of talking about yourself – be prepared to answer questions about yourself. The interview is about you and your suitability for the role. Brainstorm strengths, weaknesses and accomplishments prior to the interview, and think about examples you can talk about that might demonstrate how you’ve handled different work situations.
5. Research the company and role – take some time to look over the company’s website, social media pages, annual reports, newspaper articles, and anything else you can find. When asked what you know about the company – avoid a blank stare response! Get your hands on the position description and think about the types of questions that might be asked. Knowing a bit about the company and/or the role in advance will help you look proactive and well suited to the role.
Remember that the interview is an important part of the job application process. It is your chance to really stand out from other candidates and show why you’d be ideal for the role. In terms of the interview – a little preparation goes a long way.
If you are interested in getting assistance from an Interview Coach to help you prepare for your next interview, please see our Interview Coaching and Interview Training Services.
Asking questions in an interview provides an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company, but it also gives you the opportunity to showcase your interest and stand out to the interviewer.
In most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions. Asking no questions can be viewed in a negative light, so you need to come prepared. You can take a notebook containing questions into the interview if you need to. In fact some recruiters I’ve spoken to like candidates to bring notes to an interview (as well as take notes during the interview). Being equipped like this shows commitment, preparation and organisation skills – all positives for a potential employer.
Don’t worry if your prepared questions get answered during the course of the interview, just say something along the lines of “I did have a list of questions prepared, but thanks very much because you’ve answered all of them. I was interested to hear you talk about XYZ though, so can you tell me a little bit more about the impact that has on this role.”
In terms of the types of questions to ask, it really depends on the role and the company. Make sure you research the company and its competitors otherwise you may come across as uninterested. You may get asked “What do you know about us” or something along those lines, so researching for relevant questions will help you prepare an answer for that question as well.
In terms of your specific questions, view it as an opportunity to find out as much as you can about the company and role. Interviews are two way processes – it’s as much about you deciding if the role is right for you, as it is about the employer deciding if you are right for them. Some ideas to get you started:
- Show Interest: Do your homework and find out about the company. Devise question(s) that relate to recent news or events. Start your question by saying “I read about XYZ and wanted to find out more.”
- Training & Development: Ask about the company’s policy on training, development, workshops, seminars, conferences etc.
- Strategic Plans: Ask about the company’s strategic plan, or better yet, have some idea from your research, and ask how it fits with this role/department.
- Structure: Ask why the person is leaving the role OR for a newly created role, where has the work come from?
- Performance Review: Ask about performance review processes, and whether there are any KPIs/targets upon which the role is evaluated. Find out what the role expectations are for the first 6 or 12 months.
- Next Steps: Ask what will happen next, how long the decision is likely to take and whether you might be required for another interview.
I would strongly suggest not focusing your questions on benefits or hours but rather discuss the company, its strategic focus, general direction and/or competitive environment – and how that impacts the role you are applying for.
Remember, you should try to ask at least a few questions to show that you’ve come prepared and you are interested in the role and company. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s answer(s) and, if possible, devise further question(s) in order to expand.
If you are interested in getting help from an Interview Coach to help increase your success rate at interviews, please see our interview training and interview coaching services.