14 Oct 21, By Zebra People

Zebra People’s ten top tips for acing an interview

8 mins read

Landed an interview? Great! Are you excited? Nervous? Whatever you are feeling, the company clearly saw something they like in your application and want to meet you. All you need to do now is nail the interview with the help of our tried and tested top tips.

1. Do your research

First things first – have a proper look at the company that you want to join. Check out their LinkedIn, have a read of their company blog and generally have a really thorough Google. Get a good idea of what they are like, their goals, and what kind of candidates they are likely to want.

While you’re at it, you should do some wider digging about what’s going on in the industry as a whole. Are there any new corporate developments? Any exciting new tech? Or any other significant news that might change what is discussed in the interview? The more you know, the better.

Look into what your potential interviewers are saying on social media too, find out what they are passionate about both professionally and personally. This will give you a clear idea as to how to approach the interview and what topics are likely to get you traction in conversation.

2. Job descriptions are cheat codes

The JD is your Magna Carta when it comes to interviews. Getting to know it back to front is essentially like having the cheat codes to the interview, as it will point you to all the experiences, skills and competencies you are likely to need to demonstrate.

The job description should also show up areas of experience that you don’t currently have. Although this doesn’t sound great, it’s actually a good thing. It lets you know precisely where your weak spots are, so you can prepare for questions that might be aimed at them.

When this happens, be ready with responses that demonstrate how quickly you have learnt skills in the past and what experiences make you an adaptable person. However, be mindful of exaggerating. No one wants to be sat in front of a program they have no idea how to use on their first day.

3. Interviewers are people too

At the end of the day, an interview is a discussion. The person in front of you just wants to know if you’ll fit in well with the company and ensure you have the experience and skills to excel in the job.

To this end, it is always good to know who is interviewing you and what their perspective is likely to be. A CEO, for example, will want to know what value you are adding to the business and if you are going to be able to contribute to the business’s mission. A hiring manager will still want to know about your value but will also want to see that you hit all the essential points on the JD.

As we mentioned earlier, understanding the professional and personal outlook of your interviewers will help tremendously in finding common ground. For example, they might disagree with working from home full-time or on the personal side, they might really love dogs. Mutual interests are always good for being memorable. Finally, make sure you know the format of the interview/interviews. You don’t want to turn up expecting a chat and be given a painfully long written test, believe us.

4. Be a – S.T.A.R

Sadly, there is no clairvoyance trick for knowing every question your interviewer will ask you. If there were, we wouldn’t bother writing this article.

We would recommend looking closely at the job spec and coming up with questions based on the experience and competencies required. Once you have these, you should create some outstanding responses.

These answers should be structured using the STAR system. That is:

Situation – What was the issue that you or your team faced? Who was involved? Why did the problem occur?
Task – What was your role in this situation? What were your responsibilities?
Action – Discuss specifically what you did to resolve the situation and why you chose these steps.
Result – What were the outcomes of your actions? What were the successes? What did you learn having had this experience?

These responses should also include impressive metrics that illustrate in numbers the impact of your work. For example, you might say: “As a result of a redesign/build of a mobile app, we increased conversions by 17%.”

5. Practice Makes Perfect

Interview practice is never a bad idea. Even if you have been through this process many times before, sharpening your professional conversation skills is always a good shout.

Get a friend to go through some questions with you and make sure they are good critics. No one needs a “yes man or woman” when prepping for an interview.

Alternatively, use professionals like us at Zebra to go through the interview with you. We are always happy to do a couple of mock interviews with you to make you feel comfortable and in control.

6. Be all ears

People spend between 70 and 80% of their day engaged in some form of communication, and about 55% of their time is devoted to listening.
As wonderful as all the things you have to say about yourself might be, there is real value in making sure that you listen attentively to what the interviewer has to say.

Follow this process:

  • Listen intently to what the interviewer is saying.
  • Pause and consider what they have asked you.
  • Reply thoughtfully with a response that proves you understood the question.

7. No one wants to know your last boss was awful

It is entirely acceptable to be constructively critical of your former employer. However, the information that you share should be helpful in the context of the interview.

Going on and on about how your last boss was a tyrant won’t win you any points. It will just waste time and give your interviewer a headache.

8. It’s all in the eyes

Most experts agree that 70% to 90% of all communication is nonverbal. That means that your body language has a lot of power regarding the message you convey to your interviewer. Here is some quick advice:

  • Posture – Sitting upright and leaning slightly forward indicates you are listening and actively engaging in the conversation.
  • Facial Expression – Keep your face open and smiling without grinning. This indicates that you are open to communication and in a positive mindset.
  • Arms and Hands – Use a firm but non-aggressive handshake. Don’t touch your face, and don’t cross your arms.
  • Eye Contact – Maintain good eye contact with all interviewers in the room, do not focus on just one person. Make sure you give your attention to the person asking the question. Putting all your attention on the senior staff member in the room gives off a bad vibe.

9. Dress to reflect

We all know how to dress smartly for an interview; however, some of us forget that we should try and reflect the business aesthetic of the company. You want to harmonise with the group – casual for a casual office, smart for smart.

If in doubt look at their website or even better, ask the contact at the business what they expect employees to wear.

10.  Interview the interviewer

At the end of the interview, you know that bit when they ask you if you have any questions? This is your golden opportunity to find out what working for them would really be like. To that end, think of a few questions that fill in any blanks you might have about the company or the role.

Some example questions include:

  • If I was starting a week from today, what project would I be involved in?
  • How could I impress you in the first year of being in the role?
  • What is it that you like about working for this company?
  • What are the training and progression opportunities like?
  • Are there any missing areas of experience in my CV that make you think I am unsuitable for the position?
  • Do you have any concerns about meeting me face to face?

Good Luck

As we said at the start, the company invited you to interview because they saw something they wanted. All you need to do is show them they were right.

If anything is unclear in this article, or if you would like to chat through interview techniques with a professional, feel free to ring us. We’re always here to help.

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