Sometimes you can stand out for the wrong reasons in an interview. It could be being unprepared, giving incoherent answers or going in with a negative attitude.
You obviously want to make a positive impression at every interview, whether it’s with the employer directly or with a recruiter. But the stakes are even higher with recruiters, as they represent multiple employers.
Sometimes we say or do things that inadvertently put ourselves at a disadvantage. Here are five things Suzie McInerney, Director at Six Degrees Executive, wants to say to applicants in their interviews.
- Do your research. Recruiters spend all day interviewing people, so they can tell when you haven’t paid attention to a job description. “Candidates often show up to an interview for a specific role having taken no time to research it,” says McInerney.
“If we’re speaking about a particular role, read the position description, jump on the company’s website and work out how you will fit in. You should be able to talk to your own situation, your current employer and the role you’re going for. Know what your salary and notice period is.”
And have stats on hand, “for example, portfolio performance from when you stepped into your role.” This shows that you take the opportunity seriously.
- Challenge me. You should always have at least one question prepared for every job interview. But instead of asking something generic like “How is success measured in this role?”, McInerney recommends posing thoughtful, role-specific questions and challenging things that she says, to show that you’re really engaged.
“Ask probing questions about the role and the business. Push back if you disagree, and challenge our knowledge or understanding of and the process – it will lead to a better outcome for both of us.”
As long as you’re keeping your questions relevant to the role, asking in a polite manner and “being inquisitive and respectful”, McInerney says “you won’t come off as being disagreeable.”
- Don’t be so defensive. Sometimes constructive criticism can be hard to take. Say a recruiter tells you that you need more development – it can be tempting to get defensive, but don’t. McInerney says, “Getting honest feedback is part of the process that will help you in the long run.”
She adds, “I’m giving you feedback because I want you to be better – I don’t want you to flounder in front of a client. You want to put your best foot forward.”
If a recruiter gives you constructive criticism, “take it on board and take notes. Try to implement the feedback in the next examples you give, and make sure you practice and implement it in your next role.”
- Trust me, I’m here to help. “Candidates who have had poor experiences with recruiters sometimes have a chip on their shoulder, and it shows!” says McInerney. If this sounds like you, try to approach new encounters with an open mind.
“Have the conversation, and don’t be rude. If a role isn’t right for you, that’s fine. You might not need my help now, but you never know what might happen in the future. Maintain a relationship, even if you’re not looking,” says McInerney.
Try not to take it personally if an interview doesn’t result in a job offer. “I know what my client is looking for – if you don’t fit the brief, I will tell you. I don’t want to waste your time and put you forward for roles that aren’t going to be relevant for you. I want to help you!”
- Less is more. Sometimes nerves get the better of us and we start rambling. While it’s good to provide plenty of information, try to keep your answers concise and relevant, just like your resume and cover letter.
How do you tell if you’re waffling? “When the consultant stops taking notes, needs to interject to move on to the next question, or isn’t doing any of the talking – and you’re not moving through new questions every two to three minutes,” McInerney says.
“Be structured in your responses, develop the structure of your answers beforehand and practice telling them, just like you would before an exam. If someone gets lost in your waffling, they might move on before you have an opportunity to get to the good stuff.” So keep it brief!