Ask All4Women is a feature where we partner with an expert to answer your burning questions about different topics. For the next few weeks, career coach and personal growth expert, Lori Milner is answering our readers’ questions about personal growth and how to take action on things that matter.
The reader question: I fail at interviews, how do I prepare better for interviews?
Lori’s answer: Interviews can indeed be daunting, but also a great opportunity for us to show who we really are. Here are some tips to really own your interviews.
In the context of a meeting or an interview, what matters is how quickly you make eye contact. Direct eye contact signals you are present and giving the other person your full attention. It also shows confidence and a willingness to connect.
Preparation is critical to a successful interview. Have you ever thought to research who you are being interviewed by? Look over their LinkedIn profile, read some of their tweets or blog posts if available. When chatting in your interview, use your knowledge to show them you have taken the time to research them and planned appropriately.
You can say something like, ‘I really enjoyed your article on X’ or ‘I saw a few of your tweets and I think you would find this site really interesting.’ It is not sucking up or coming across as inauthentic – quite the contrary, actually. It is about forming a genuine connection. In addition, research the company and the industry at hand. Have a good knowledge of what the company does and use this to your advantage during the discussion.
An interview is a two-way street. You are also there to find out about the company, the culture, and their policy on training opportunities, for example. You can also ask your interviewer how long they have been at the company and what they most enjoy about it. Be as interested in them as they are in you and always try to build a connection.
Stress can raise us up to the challenge or it can bring out the worst in us if we let it. Interviews are a forum for people to learn about who you are, not who they expect you to be. Authenticity is about being genuine; people can pick up when you ‘try’ too hard. Go in with the mind-set that you are an asset to the company and you have real value to deliver. This kind of enthusiasm is contagious. Remember – skills can always be taught, but attitude is golden. Show them that you are a go-getter and a problem solver – this is what makes for a powerful candidate.
Walk into the room with the posture that says ‘I am enough, I deserve to be here’. Walk tall with your shoulders back and head up. Don’t slouch at the table or sink into your chair. Our body language projects what is going on inside us. Even if you are completely nervous, use your body language to project a source of personal power. You may not get what you want, but you can always show up in a way that projects the best version of yourself.
Put away the tech
Arrive with a notebook and pen to take down notes. Do not even take out your cell phone even if it is on silent and face down. Give the person your undivided attention and focus.
This for me is the most important advice. If you arrive late, you are signalling to the interviewer that you don’t respect their time or you are unable to plan adequately. Leave an extra 20 minutes earlier than you would have for traffic, signing into the parking and security at reception. When you arrive early, your head space is clear and ready for the conversation. If you arrive with 5 minutes to spare, you are completely frazzled and this will come across in the interview.
Research done by Harvard says that it takes 250 milliseconds to make a first impression. Largely, this is shaped by the way you choose to dress. It has nothing to do with brands or budgets, but trust. Show up looking like someone who takes pride in themselves; if you take the time to look after yourself, you are saying you are someone who can be trusted.
It is more than a first impression, but signalling to that person you are capable of great things. As a pilot wears a uniform to inspire trust, your attire for the meeting needs to do the same thing. However – always be appropriate to the environment and authentic to you. If you are going to a professional firm, then dress in a more corporate style. But if you are going to an advertising agency or something edgier, you can have a bit more freedom.
No matter the industry, people do business with people. Don’t let nerves get the better of you where you tense up the whole interview. Relax and always just be yourself and do your best.
Lori Milner is a facilitator, mentor, entrepreneur and author, known for her insightful approach to balancing being a modern woman with a fulfilling job and leading a full life outside of the office. Lori started her consultancy, Beyond the Dress, to empower women with the tools and skills they need to fulfil their potential in both their careers and their own lives.
Clarens, Free State Province