After putting in time and effort to carefully craft your CV, it’s always a great feeling to receive an interview invitation. It shows that the employer sees potential in your unique skill set. However, it is important not to get complacent – the real work has only just begun.
Even the brightest and most qualified IT professionals still need to prepare for their interviews. Looking good on paper and looking good in person are two very different things. As anIT recruitment agency we know this fact all too well.
Fortunately, interview skills can be learned. All candidates can gain a competitive advantage in the job market by taking time to consider how to best present themselves in an interview.
While relevant technical skills, experience and education are obviously still important, it is often strong communication skills that will convince a prospective employer that you are the best fit for the role. But many candidates – IT professionals in particular – tend to overlook this key factor.
Writing in Science Magazine, psychologist Leslie Becker Phelps explained that despite new, sophisticated interviewing techniques, interviewers will still always take into account the general, personal impression given off by a candidate:
“Interviewers are limited in how much they can get to know a job candidate, so they will take in any information they can to help make a judgement. This happens on a conscious and unconscious level,”
In this post, we’ll go over some tips to help make sure you are giving off the ‘right’ impression when you show up to your next job interview.
Dress Appropriately for the Company
Grooming and the way you dress for an interview are indicators to your prospective employer about the kind of person you are and your suitability for the job. Being well-dressed communicates self-assurance. This in turn helps most people feel more confident during the interview. Whether you wear a suit or something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking. At Venturi, our consultants always provide candidates with advice on the dress code in advance of the interview.
“Statistics show that the way you dress, act and walk through the door for an interview account for over 50% of the first impression. Times have changed quite dramatically when it comes to dressing appropriately for an interview. This is because many companies have adopted a dress down or smart casual policy on an everyday basis. But this shouldn’t take away from the importance of looking and acting the part at the first meeting, regardless of the dress code. On the flip side, looking overly fashionable or trendy can also have a negative impact on that first impression. My recommendation would be to avoid brightly coloured suits/ties and dresses and stick to a theme of polished, smart and simple,” said Lewis Blades, Senior Consultant (Data & BI) at Venturi.
Be Aware of your Nonverbal Communication
The goal here is to demonstrate confidence. Make a conscious effort to stand straight, make eye contact and connect with a firm handshake. When you sit down, avoid slouching or fidgeting in your chair. That first nonverbal impression is crucial when it comes to getting your interview off on the right foot.
As soon you greet the interviewer, they will be giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not paying close attention to what they are saying, you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting your interviewer know you heard what was said. Observe how your interviewer communicates, and try to match their style and pace.
The best candidates are open about both their strengths and their shortcomings. Good employers will appreciate your honesty and recognise your potential to learn and improve on the job. However, it’s often difficult to accurately assess where your own weaknesses lie. Working with a good recruitment agency can help.
“At Venturi, we use our wealth of experience and industry knowledge to review candidates from an unbiased and well-informed perspective. Working with a Consultant who is a technical specialist in your specific industry is a huge advantage. While it’s not always nice to hear, having knowledge of your own weaknesses is invaluable when going for interviews. Preparing examples where you have had to be a quick learner, pick things up on the job, or self-teach are great ways to overcome objections.” said Anna Flynn, Co-founder of Venturi’s US division.
At interviews, it is inevitable that you will be asked to provide a number of examples when you have demonstrated a particular skill or trait. Such questions are designed to elicit an account of your past behaviour or assess your technical competency. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don’t answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills.
“I advise all my candidates to respond with a ‘FAB statement’ when faced with this sort of question. FAB stands for Features, Advantages, and Benefits. A feature is something unique to you that offered an advantage to a previous employer, who used that advantage to create a tangible benefit."
“For example, a candidate may have used their expertise with a particular data visualisation tool (feature), to identify a previously unrecognised business opportunity (advantage), which opened up a new revenue stream for the company (benefit). These statements are tricky to come up with on the spot. It is well worth taking the time to write down a few of your own FAB statements in advance of the interview. Of course, the benefits must relate to the desired skills listed in the job description.” said Daniel Thornton, Associate Director at Venturi.
When asked if you have any questions, “No” is always the wrong answer. Part of knowing how to interview is being ready to ask questions that demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. Don’t waste it. Hiring managers love to be asked about team structures, workflows and company culture.
Interviews don’t need to be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking affairs. While some nerves will be unavoidable on the day, it is worth keeping in mind that you have been invited on the strength of your skillset. The interviewer is not out to get you, they want the meeting to succeed as much as you do. It is your job to spell out in clear terms why you are the best person for the job. Do your best to be positive and engaging so the interviewer can get a good sense of who you are and how you’ll fit into the job and the company.