Acing Your Next Job Interview: Gaining An advantage in a Saturated Job Market
Job interviews come in different forms and stages. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a few basic principles that underpin a candidate’s chances of success.
The world as we know it has been turned on its head for almost 2 years owing largely to a totally unexpected yet historic pandemic. In a manner reminiscent of the last major pandemic of 1918, Covid-19 has been the most dominant feature in the news from December 2019 till date. Irrespective of this snag, organizations have continued to engage and empower their workforce in line with the requirements of what is called “the new normal.” Most traditional ways of employment are now being tweaked especially with the normalization of virtual interviews.
Despite the digitization of workplaces, the first step in landing a job interview remains the application phase where résumés are reviewed in advance. With not much changing in this aspect, it is critical to note that recruiters are now more intentional about checking web and social media footprints of prospective employees. People must be more conscious now than ever before about their online representation to reflect their suitability for the desired positions. Having an updated LinkedIn account may be simple enough to provide advantageous positioning to candidates eyeing new jobs. With successful scaling of the prescreening, preparation for the interview(s) remains the only hurdle to be overcome.
Job interviews come in different forms and stages. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, there are a few basic principles that underpin a candidate’s chances of success. For keenly contested roles in a market that is getting more saturated than ever, the certifications and competence of individuals are just about enough to get them into the interview room. Whereas technical competence or subject matter expertise is a basic requirement, it is the ability to showcase this to the interviewers that matters. The way to achieve this is through Competent Communication and Emotional Connection. The preparation process for interviews should therefore include an understanding of these non-technical elements that play a significant part in the decision-making process.
Communication skills development is a highly ranked and significant attribute of desirable employees from entry to management level. Developing this skill requires intentionality and consistent practice over time. There are a few key notes that underscore the role of communication skills in the interview process.
Perception is stronger than reality. “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.” This is a popular line from the movie Training Day that highlights the fact that knowledge alone is not enough. When faced with an opportunity to land a new job, convincing the panel about your competence is more important than your competence itself. Whatever panelists sense or deduce from interacting with a candidate ultimately supersedes whatever the reality may be.
The way you look matters: Visual appeal is paramount for virtual as well as face to face interviews. Though it needs no repetition, we must echo the reminder that a candidate’s appearance sends a strong impression about their personality. Basic things like grooming can make the difference between who gets picked and who does not. In a virtual setting, this includes ensuring the camera is well positioned and the environment is clear and clean.
Exude confidence. Another element of competent communication is a show of confidence. Notwithstanding this great attribute, it’s important to not cross the thin line between confidence and cockiness. A show of overconfidence can be repulsive to interviewers and bring the interview to a quick end. In the same vein, panelists are drawn to candidates who exude confidence as this reflects healthy self-esteem and likely mastery of the role being discussed.
Research works and various articles from online publications like Forbes have shown that majority of people make decisions based on emotions rather than logic. This awareness has helped individuals involved in sales, negotiations, and people management redefine their approach to work and business situations. An interview can be aptly described as a sales pitch. In this case, a candidate is selling their services to panelists from various backgrounds who possibly have different inclinations. Hence, candidates have to be creative enough to appeal to the emotional side of the panelists considering that they place a role in their decisions. Here are a few ways to elicit the emotions that will help you clinch the final nod at your next interview.
Relate the value they need to what skills you can bring: In conversations, most people are subconsciously seeking out some mental triggers that point at what they stand to benefit. This is much more the case in an interview scenario. The best positioned candidate is often the one who answers the unspoken question in the minds of the panelists “What value will you bring to the table that is needful for us right now or in the immediate future?” Candidates must understand that value propositions can be “nice to have” and “must have.” The candidate who gets the position is the one who presents a proposition that the organization considers as a “must have.”
Display a high level of emotional intelligence: Well known psychologist and author Daniel Goleman highlights self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills as five key elements of emotional intelligence. According to Mind Tools emotional intelligence plays a significant role in achieving success. Candidates should be sensitive to pick up the unspoken nuances during the conversation in order to make necessary adjustments. A superior showcase of emotional intelligence within a few minutes of engagement would not only impress the panelists but also impact the final choice.
Find common ground: People from all walks of life have an unconscious bias for those who share similarities with them. These could be beliefs, passions, background, education, food preferences, habits, and so on. A smart candidate who is intentional would actively seek out these similarities and exploit them once found. Common ground is a known influencer of emotions as it often causes a liking to be developed and may influence the thought process of the interviewer.
To summarize, interviewers often align positively with competent communicators who showcase confidence, have great appearance, and drive strong perception. In addition, striking an emotional connection through emotional intelligence, finding common ground, and showcasing value skews the conversation and decision in favor of the discerning applicant.
While there may be no guarantees that all candidates who applied these concepts always got the jobs, there are significantly higher chances of acing the interview if there is sufficient intentionality on the part of the candidate. Bearing in mind that technical competence is not to be jettisoned completely, it just must be said that it is not enough in our highly competitive world today.