What exactly does a recruiter look for during a job interview?
I’ve created this handy-dandy guide to what I actually look for when I sit down and interview candidates for a job. Yes, obviously each interviewer and industry is different. However, these tips apply to most interviews, and most people.
With that in mind, this is what I look for when you walk into my office for an interview:
I can’t say this often enough, or loud enough!
I just read a popular work advice blog (to remain nameless) and I saw one of the first bits of advice for job interviews was to prepare a slick presentation of yourself and wow them with it. Ouch!
While this might perhaps be useful if you are interviewing for a high-powered sales job or maybe an industry like entertainment or advertising (although even there they want to see who they’re really hiring), for most of you the following of that advice will simply trigger a red flag, leaving the interviewer wondering if you’re all bluster and no substance.
Now I’m not saying to be all shy and gawky either (see next section), but real and conversational trumps one-dimensional and slick any time. Since most places do ask a version of tell me about yourself, it helps to think about your answer ahead of time. But when the time comes just tell it as naturally and 3-dimensional as possible.
Be Confident in Who You Are and What You Have to Offer
Don’t spend time worrying if I think you’re right for the job and what I (the interviewer) am thinking at any given moment. Just know who you are – and help me see that. Know that you are a good worker who is reliable and will go the extra mile when called on – or whatever your own strengths are. Everybody has their own unique strengths. I want to know what they are.
Make sure you prepare yourself ahead of time to be able to talk about who you are and/or what you have to offer so that YOU believe it as much as you want them to. It shows.
Look Me in the Eyes
I’m not saying stare at me… but when you answer my interview questions, I want to see you connect with me. I like to when eyes show real enthusiasm about something you’ve accomplished or sincerity about wanting to do a good job for me. Now, of course, I make room for nervousness. But if I see unfocused eyes skittering all about… how can I be sure you’re being real with me?
Tell Me a Good Story
When I ask you about things you’ve done, accomplishments you are proud of, or obstacles you’ve overcome I want you to have some stories to tell me.
Did you ever take on a tough situation and turn it around? Did you ever come up with a new process that saved the company money? Did you ever encounter something you knew nothing about and make a point of becoming an expert? Like I said…tell me a good story. And make it real!
Sit Up Straight
Slouching comes off as lazy, or uninterested. Use your body language to show me you’re fully engaged and can handle any situation – even one that makes you nervous. Job interviews are tough for most people, but you’ll think clearer and come off as a more attractive candidate just by having good posture and looking alive and alert.
I purposely listed this after my posture suggestion since some people go to extremes and sit like there’s a stick up their backside. When I interview people, I’m looking for someone who I want to work with on a daily basis. Too rigid would be a drag. Too loose and you don’t stand a chance of impressing me.
Practice Practice Practice
Spend time before the job interview doing mock interviews with friends or family. You can also record yourself to hear your voice (which is good for phone interviews, too). If you have access to video equipment, even better.
If your voice sounds weak, practice speaking with strength and commitment. Talk about something you really care about to see how you sound when you are relaxed and fully engaged. And if you find yourself using fillers (um, like, you know, etc.) practice the art of the silent pause, and know that a few seconds of dead air is okay.
Know the Job and the Company
So much information is available on the internet now. Please: take the necessary time to do research beforehand – it will pay off. One sharp Work Coach Cafe reader wrote us that he learned about a recent merger the company was going through and used this information to his advantage.
One warning from my own interview files: don’t get too personal! I went for an interview once and, in doing my research, learned the man taught at the same university I was consulting for. I thought it would break the ice to mention it, but he was not amused, or impressed.
Make Sure You Know Your Own Resume
Nothing casts more doubt on your veracity than having to glance through your resume to answer simple questions. Worse than that: giving different information than the resume contains. Study your resume carefully, well before you go in. (And always remember to bring a clean extra copy with you.)
Show Me You Understand the Role (And Have Skills to Match)
This sounds so basic, but I’ve had many people not even familiar with the terms in the job description! If there is anything you don’t know, look it up. If there’s a skill you don’t have, research and determine how you will acquire this skill. Have a plan!
More than anything I’ve mentioned so far, the ability to listen is a skill that can make, or break, your interview. Really listen to the questions. Whatever the interviewer is saying to you, focus on that. Don’t be thinking ahead or about other things while the interviewer is talking; your lack of attention to that moment really does show. Just be in the moment.
Concisely Answer My Questions
If I ask a question that you aren’t comfortable answering, it’s okay to answer briefly and then maybe shift to a short story or related thought. That strategy leaves a good impression.
However, jumping onto some tangent in order to divert me from what I actually asked only makes you look like you’re hiding something; it leaves the impression you might be slippery to work with. And don’t go on for too long with any one answer. No one wants to work with a wind bag.
Come Prepared with a Few Really Good Questions of Your Own
This is interviewing 101, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t have questions – or ask really lame ones like “”what’s the salary?” – especially when the salary was listed in the ad.
A great question shows you’re thinking about the work process or some of the interactions with other areas or what your typical day might be or something about the business or industry – or anything that shows you are really thinking about more than just surface details. Best of all, I love it when someone asks a question that shows they were listening to me, which helps me see you are a person who can think on your feet.
Many times I call people in who I already know can do the job. Now, I’m looking to see if there’s a good fit. Will we actually enjoy working with you? So smile… and show your likeable side.
When the Job Interview is Over…
Stand up, smile, say thank you, and shake hands. Then try to walk out without shaking too badly, or letting your body language fail you. You made it… now just make it to your car without letting your emotions escape in an inappropriate manner.
Good luck in your next interview. And remember… you got this! Oh…and feel free to share your interview stories and questions in the comments below!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Work Coach Cafe!
About the Author: Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant. Ronnie has a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and mentors from her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, Career Nook and on Google+.