I saw an interesting quote attributed to the Carnegie Foundation doing the rounds on LinkedIn recently that got me thinking. It read: “85% of your financial success is due to your personality and ability to communicate, negotiate and lead. Shockingly, only 15% is due to technical knowledge”. This statistic is a favourite of salesmen, but I also think it’s a great way to approach job interviews.
Doing your homework in advance of the interview is of course mandatory if you’re looking to impress, however what’s just as important, but greatly underappreciated, is your ability to develop the interview into more of a mutual exchange of ideas and passion points.
Unless you’re applying to be a neurosurgeon the reality is that there’s probably a handful of other people who are, on paper, just as qualified for the role as you are. What’s going to separate you from the crowd is being able to establish a connection with the interviewer.
This isn’t to say CVs are obsolete, although an increasing number of companies are doing away with them, but that they are merely an opportunity to get your foot in the door so that you can convey your full suitability and enthusiasm for the role at the next stage: interview.
Your CV and cover letter are where you need to be exhibiting your relevant ‘hard skills’, and your interview ‘soft’. By soft skills I’m referring to your interpersonal and communication skills, emotional intelligence and attitude. In a progressively global world where employees are often expected to speak to colleagues and clients across the globe via a range of media, those amongst us with good soft skills are an increasingly valuable asset.
You can begin to display your strong soft skills set at interview by establishing some common ground with the interviewer. This could be as small as unearthing a mutual hobby. Just remember that they are going to be sat there trying to determine whether they can work with you day in, day out, year on year, and so you want them to have at least enjoyed your discussion.
Your boss will know that one of the main reasons employees cite for leaving their job is a poor relationship with their boss, and so even at interview will be looking to see whether that rapport is there.
A big ask
Ultimately you want all of your job interviews to feel natural; almost like a thorough conversation with a friend on your best day. You should really be asking your interviewer about half as many questions as they’re asking you, but not in a contrived, bullet point-like manner.
There are few greater interview crimes for me than when a candidate answers “no” to being asked whether they have any questions. Remember, the interview is as much an opportunity for you to decide whether you like what’s on offer as it is for the interviewer.
Prepare a robust list of questions for your interviewer in advance of the process. This way you won’t feel like you’re ticking them off one by one at the end; you’ll have an array to draw upon throughout the conversation. The sort of topics that you definitely want to ask about include: the company culture, the business itself, the interviewer, the team, prospects for learning and development, your role and how it might evolve and, at the conclusion of the interview, next steps.
Don’t ask questions which a cursory glance at the company website would be able to resolve. Instead use your research to better inform your enquiries. For example, “I saw last year that the business achievedabc,how does that affect the plans going forward forxyz?”
Another good way to focus on fit and find commonality with the interviewer is to make a note of the most recurring adjectives on the company site, while also taking a look at any company videos that are available. Try and mirror the company culture based on this research, without totalling reinventing yourself.
Interviewers are just strangers you haven’t met yet
Deconstructing the formality of an interview can be difficult when you’re sat in a meeting room, but it’s important not to become overawed by the process. Do your research, plan plenty of questions and then use this preparation to try and establish a connection with the interviewer.