How you say things at interviews is just as important as what you say.

crossedArmsDid you know that…
Communication experts tell us that only about 10% of our communication is represented by what we say. Another 30% is represented by our sounds and 60% by our body language!

Obviously what you say at an interview will go a long way to securing you the job. However, how you say things also plays an extremely important role. In fact, some experts strongly contend that how you say things is more important.

As a job seeker it’s your responsibility to ensure that you prepare for both. Below you’ll find five very useful tips on how you should be saying things at an interview. Follow these tips carefully and you’ll definitely improve your chances of winning that job. Good luck!

1. Avoid saying anything that does not put you in a positive light: You’d be surprised how many people are critical of themselves at an interview. They’re just shooting themselves in the foot. Research shows that negative comments are:

a) remembered more easily and
b) attract follow up questions! The last thing anyone needs at an interview is follow up questions on negative points.

2. Don’t just talk about your skills and experience, try also to show how they can benefit your new employer: Try to think of ways your skills and knowledge will benefit the company. Putting yourself in the shoes of an employer really helps. Here’s a tip: All employers are very interested in: productivity improvements (efficiency), improved customer service, attention to detail and quality and flexibility.

Here’s an example for you: “My extensive skills in Word and Powerpoint means that I will be able to complete many of my duties quicker and with less mistakes than they are currently being completed. This will release me to assist you in other areas.”

3. Avoid timid or uncertain language: Because of cultural norms we tend to use slightly belittling language when asked to talk about our strengths. For example: We often use expressions such as: I feel I could, I think I could, Perhaps I would. All these statements weaken the statements that follow so avoid them as much as possible. There’s a big difference between “I feel I could do a good job” and “I could do a good job.”

4. Use examples as much as possible: Where ever possible try to use examples of what you’ve done rather than just using descriptors. Examples are entertaining and remembered more easily! If, for example, you’re asked to describe yourself, instead of saying things like: fair, honest and hardworking use examples that demonstrate these qualities.

Here’s an example for you: “ If we’re busy at work I’m happy to stay back until the work is completed. I feel guilty about leaving things half done and going home. Also, if there’s a problem at work I’m the sort of person who prefers to gently bring it out in the open rather than turning a blind eye or sweeping it under the carpet. Experience had taught me that problems not dealt with quickly tend to get a lot worse.”

5. How to be humble: If you feel that “I” statements are beyond you or that your intuition is telling you that you might be coming across as a little too bold there is a technique on getting your message across strongly but at the same time maintaining an acceptable level of humility. That technique involves using the third person. For example, instead of saying: “I’m a hard worker.” You can say, “My boss always used to say how hard I worked.”

Good luck!

Ten pointers that will improve your interview performance

tenThingsNo one is born with great interview skills. Highly effective interviewees develop their skills through practice and preparation. One of the keys to success is to know what things to prepare before the interview. Failure to know what to focus on before the interview, often leads to people preparing the wrong things. This can actually harm your performance. The following checklist has been designed to put you on the right track – good luck!

1. Preparing your answers. The key to preparation is knowing that all employers want to know the following key things about you:

• Do you have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job?
• Are you the sort of person they can work with? In other words, what sort of person are you like at work?
• What are your motivation levels like? What are your motivators and de-motivators?

Preparing answers to these three questions means that you will be able to answer virtually any question put to you! No more having to wade through hundreds of practice questions.

2. When preparing your answers do not just focus on the specific skills that relate to the job you’re going for. You must also prepare answers to the generic competencies. These include: Planning and organising skills, communication skills, customer service skills, team work, coping with change and conflict resolution skills.

3. When possible send a positive letter confirming the interview and how much you’re looking forward to it – this will make you stand out.

4. Rehearse your answers out aloud before the interview – it’s one thing to know what to say quite another to say it fluently. Remember: how you say things at an interview is just as important as what you say.

5. Prepare specific examples of what you’ve achieved and how you’ve achieved it. Do the same when you’re preparing answers about your personal attributes and motivators and de-motivators.

6. Always avoid saying anything that does not put you in a positive light. When asked what your weaknesses are avoid saying you “work too hard” – it’s too common. A good strategy is to cite a skill that is not very relevant to the job you’re going for, then tell the interviewer what you’re doing to overcome it.

7. When preparing your answers don’t just think about your skills and experience, try also to show how they can benefit your new employer. Remember employers are more interested in what you can do for them rather than your skills per se.

8. Research the company. Demonstrating at an interview that you’ve done a little research never fails to impress the interviewer. The rule of thumb is: the higher the position you’re going for the more you should know about the company and the industry.

9. It’s very handy to have a short summary statement highlighting your strengths up your sleeve. You can use this at the end of an interview as a final flourish – good endings at interviews are extremely important.

10. Avoid asking too many question at the end of the interview – even though you may be asked to. Interviewers generally do not like being put on the spot.

Overcoming Interview Nerves

nervesDo you suffer from interview nerves? If you answered yes you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that you’re not alone. In fact, most people experience a degree of nervousness before and during an interview. Whilst some people can control their nerves and use the excess energy to their advantage others feel trapped and are unable to perform to their best. Moreover, some people completely undermine their chances of success due to out of control interview anxiety.

If you feel that your performance at interviews suffers as a result of your anxiety you’ll be pleased to learn that there are things you can do that will help you lessen those debilitating nerves. Here are five practical tips, some of which you can begin applying immediately.

Tip 1: Attend as many interviews as you can. The more you practice the better you’ll become and the better you become the less nervous you’ll be. The more interviews you attend the less strange and foreign they’ll seem to you. Also, it is likely that you will have some idea of which areas you need improving in which should make you better prepared for the next interview.

Tip 2: Prepare, prepare and prepare. The more prepared you are for the interview the more likely it is that you’ll be able to answer the questions with a high level of authority, and the better you can answer questions the more likely it is that your confidence will grow during the course of the interview. Of course, the opposite happens when you can’t answer a question properly. When you’re preparing make sure you cover all bases including the three very important questions:

• Can you do the job?
• Will you fit it in?
• Are you keen to do a good job?

Tip 3: Avoid thinking that the job you’re going for is, “The perfect job for me and if I don’t get it I’ll never be able to find a job like this one ever again!” These “all or nothing” attitudes are extreme and only serve to unnecessarily heighten anxiety levels. How do you know it’s the “perfect job” for you? Don’t forget that no one really knows what a job is like until they start it. It may seem great on paper but that doesn’t mean it is. And how do you know that there won’t be a better job for you tomorrow or next week or next month?

Tip 4: Avoid trying to give the perfect answer – you’ll only add to your anxiety. If you think about it the perfect answer is a virtual impossibility because what you may think is perfect the interviewer may not. So why not settle for a good answer that covers the important points?

Tip 5: Never belittle yourself. Too many people add to their nervousness levels by not believing that they’re good enough or that they’re as good as their competition. Rather than focusing on their strengths they focus on their weaknesses. It stands to reason that the less you believe in yourself the less confident you’ll be. Don’t think about the competition, after all there’s nothing you can do about it. Just focus on giving the best interview you can.

Six things to definitely avoid at interviews

6avoidPerforming well at interviews requires more than just convincing the interviewer of your ability to add value to the organization. You also need to establish rapport because at the end of the day an employer will baulk at hiring you if they suspect they cannot work with you, even though they may think you’re the most qualified candidate.

To improve your likeability at an interview there are certain behaviours that need to be avoided at all costs. Here are six big ones:

1. Never Argue.
Avoid arguing even if you know you’re right. Some interviewees will argue because they want to demonstrate their extensive knowledge or they want to show that they know better. Unfortunately for them the only thing they succeed in demonstrating to the interviewer is that they’re predisposed to arguing. Unless you’re applying for a job as a professional debater avoid this.

2. Avoid Eating & Drinking
If food or drink is offered politely decline (except for a glass of water). Interviews are fraught with stress. The last thing you want to be doing is eating under such circumstances. Also, you just don’t want to risk getting crumbs down your shirt.

3. Avoid Being Overly Merry.
In an attempt to demonstrate what happy people they are some interviewees go into an interview amplifying their happy characteristics. They smile excessively, laugh too much, nod too much, agree too much and generally go out of their way to please. Unfortunately, they often come across as insincere or far too nervous and can easily grate upon the interviewer.

4. Don’t Interrupt the Talkative Interviewer
Interviewees often tell me how frustrated they are when they’re confronted by a talkative interviewer who loves the sound of his/her voice. Interviewees worry about not being given the time to sell themselves, so in desperation they tend to interrupt the interviewer with the admirable purpose of pointing out what they can bring to the organization. Avoid this.

On the whole, the more an interviewer talks the more he/she likes you. It’s when they don’t like you that they start asking you really difficult questions. So next time you’re faced by the talkative interviewer smile and acknowledge his/her points. When you do get a chance to say something it helps enormously if you have a short “knock-out” statement (no longer that about 4-5 sentences) up your sleeve summarizing why you should get the job.

5. Avoid Meandering Answers
Interviewers absolutely hate the meandering answer, i.e., the answer that goes all over the place before it addresses the question (if ever it does). Often interviewers may be interviewing all day so the last thing they want to hear is someone waffle. The more you meander the less impressive you will be. Get to the point quickly – you’ll be doing yourself a great favour.

6. Keep Your End Questions To A Minimum
It is customary to be given the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview. Whilst it’s good to have one or two well thought out questions, make sure you:

• Avoid asking potentially embarrassing questions. The last thing you want to do is risk making the interviewer look foolish.
• Avoid asking too many questions unless you absolutely have to. On the whole interviewers do not enjoy role reversals. They’re the ones asking the questions not you.

The Dreaded Weakness Question

weaknessIt seems that these days most interviewers want to know what your weaknesses on the job are. This is not an easy question at the best of times, but in an interview situation when you’re trying your best to impress it can be extremely trying.

Unfortunately, most people fail to do themselves any favours when answering this question. Even worse, some job candidates talk themselves right out of a job.

But don’t despair. There’s good news. Below you’ll find several user-friendly strategies that will help you turn the weakness question to your advantage. In fact, with a little bit of practice you can actually make yourself look good!

Four things to always avoid:

1. Never say you don’t have any weaknesses.
2. Never say something that’s really going to hurt you.
3. Avoid transparent clichés like: “I work too hard.” Too many people use them.
4. Never offer more than one weakness (unless specifically prompted) and be as brief as possible.

Three strategies that work (choose the one that suits you best):

1. Talk about a skill that is unconnected to the job you’re going for, e.g., if you’re going for a job that does not require any knowledge in, say, Microsoft Powerpoint and Access, you can say: “Whilst I have good knowledge with Microsoft Word and Excel my knowledge with Powerpoint and Access is not up to scratch. (Notice how, in this example, you can air your strong points even though the question was about your weaknesses!).

2. Talk about something you’re in the process of learning, or wishing to learn, and make sure it’s not critical the job, e.g., “I have not entirely completed my studies in business. However, I have only x amount of time to go before I attain my qualifications. Once I finish I’m also intending to further my studies by enrolling in….” (Notice what you’re really talking about here is the fact you’re studying and are keen to keep on learning).

3. Talk about a past mistake and how you’ve learned from it, e.g., “I used to worry about not having the time to keep up to date with all the technical details in regards to the latest software changes. However, I’ve since learned that perfect knowledge in our industry is not a viable goal. And besides I am now accessing information on a need to know basis which I find to be a much more efficient way of using information.” (Notice that you’re talking about a) learning from mistakes and b) working more efficiently than you used to).

The Six Interview Sins

6SinsOK., so you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to do before and during an interview, but do you know the sorts of things that you should definitely avoid? Often, inappropriate interview behaviours or responses can cost you the job even though you’ve done a good job in answering the questions. What follows are six things that you should definitely steer clear from at all interviews.

1: Avoid criticising your former employer and/or colleagues.
Generally speaking interviewers do not like hearing interviewees criticise former bosses or colleagues. Given the interviewers only hear one side of the story they can never be entirely sure that it wasn’t your fault that the relationship did not work out. Furthermore, if you complain about others at an interview it’s likely that interviewers will think that you’re the sort of person who makes a habit of complaining.

2: Avoid wandering off the question
Don’t forget that interviewers generally do a lot of interviewing. The last thing they want to hear is details that have little to do with the questions they ask. What you may think is interesting detail they probably think is waffle. Make sure your answer addresses the question and not your own agenda.

3: Avoid extreme behaviours
In order to make a positive impression at an interview it is not uncommon for people to highlight certain behaviours that they think will win them points. For example, they may decide to demonstrate their confidence by acting in an overtly confident manner or they may wish to show how compliant they are by demonstrating a range of passive behaviours. More often than not all this does is make them come across as disingenuous applicants. The best advice is to relax and be yourself.

4: Avoid talking about money before you’ve established your worth.
Talking about money first up gives the signal that all your interested in is the money. Employers like to think that first and foremost you’re most interested in the job itself. Also, you’re undermining your negotiating strength by asking for a certain amount of money before you’ve had the opportunity to impress them with your value add capabilities.

5: Avoid going in unprepared.
We’ve all heard stories about people who walked into an interview without any preparation whatsoever and won the job. Do not be swayed by such stories. On the whole, people who prepare for interviews outperform people who do not. Preparation allows you to practise your answers, focus on the relevant matters, learn something about the company and arm yourself for the unexpected.

6: Avoid falling into the “This is the only job for me” trap.
One of the most often mentioned horrors of interviews is the nervousness factor. Many people fail to perform to their best because they are too nervous. It’s hard enough answering questions properly without the added burden of getting your words mixed up due to nervousness. When we think that the job we’re going for is the “only job for me” we’re dramatically raising the stakes and thus our nervousness levels. It is important to think that there will be other great jobs coming along, who knows there may even be better ones just around the corner.

By Michael Spiropoulos

What All Interviewers Want to Hear

dogA highly effective way of preparing for an interview is to put yourself in the interviewer/employer’s shoes before the interview. If you can anticipate what they want to hear you will have gone a long way in winning the job.

To begin with all employers want to hear that you can do the job! This may sound obvious but many people walk out of interviews failing to convince the employer that they can deliver even though they have all the experience and knowledge to do so. Not only do you have to convince the employer that you can do the job but you also have to convince him/her that you can do it better than the other candidates! Here are some great tips that work well:

• Talk less about your skills and more about your achievements. As much as possible quantify your achievements in measurable outcomes. Say, for example, “As a result of my actions our customer service satisfaction levels increased by 15% or product defects fell by 10%”. If you don’t have specific amounts offer a best guess. Make sure you can back up your best guess – in other words don’t just pull a number out of the air.

• Wax lyrical about key achievements that are meaningful to employers. What is meaningful to employers? Try these for size:
o Productivity levels
o Efficiency/process improvements
o Consistently good customer service
o Attention to quality in terms of service and product
o An ability for their company to respond to changes quickly

• If you were diligent you would have done your homework before the interview. One of the things you would have been keen on finding out would be the problems or areas of improvement relating to the job you’re going for. Your worth in the eyes of the employer will skyrocket if you can utter words to the effect: “My research indicated that one area where your processes can be improved is xyz. That’s an area that I can really help you with because I can do abc.” Be very careful not to inadvertently put down the employer’s operations when saying this.

Employers also want to hear that you’re a highly motivated individual who will be able to fit in with the existing culture. An effective way of doing this is by:

• Doing your research on the company (this demonstrates high levels of motivation as well as preparedness).
• Mention what it is about the job that motivates and excites you, e.g., duties, skills and knowledge required, environment, expected outcomes etc.
• Make a point of highlighting why you think you will be able to fit in with their environment. If, for example, you’re expected to be a team player, make sure you can demonstrate, by example, what a great team player you are.

On the other side of the coin there are some things that employers definitely do not want to hear. Avoid these like the plague:

• Being negative about yourself! Again this may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people insist on “opening up” and bearing their souls at interviews. Leave the soul bearing to when you’re in the company of friends. Interviews are about selling yourself by highlighting what makes you terrific.
• Avoid criticising former employers and/or managers. You may have legitimate gripes but criticising former employers does not make a good impression on potential employers.
• Do not dwell on all the problems you faced in your former job. Instead, mention them briefly and then focus on what you did to fix those problems. Don’t forget to mention the outcomes in measurable terms.
• Do not just talk about your skills and knowledge. By all means mention them but the successful candidate will demonstrate how these skills and knowledge will specifically add value to the organization.

For job candidates who are serious about winning a great job and who wish to improve their interview skills contact Michael at or 041 888 7293 about attending a personalised coaching program.

Important tips on what to do after an interview

afterInterviewHighly successful job candidates are alert to the fact that an interview often does not finish when you walk out of the interview room. One of the things these candidates do is adhere to a few simple but important post interview actions that often yield great results. Below are some of the actions they take. We’ve presented them to you in the form of seven tips. If you’re serious about getting a great job we urge you to follow these tips closely.

Tip 1: Change your existing mindset: Get out of the mind set that interviews finish when you walk out of the interview room. Post interview follow up demonstrates high levels of enthusiasm as well as professionalism. If the interviewer cannot decide between you and another candidate the post interview follow up will help your cause greatly.

Tip 2: The three-day rule: Initiate contact about 3 days after the interview. That’s usually too short a time for them to have made a decision.

Tip 3: Try to avoid ringing: You’re likely to make a nuisance of yourself. Telephone contact may cause you and/or the interviewer embarrassment. Only talk to the interviewer when you’re fairly certain that they’re ready to talk to you.

Tip 4: Send a letter or email: It’s best to write a thank you letter or email. In your letter reiterate your enthusiasm for the job, tell them how much you enjoyed meeting them and, if you’re in a position to do so, offer them more relevant information about yourself.

Tip 5: Contact your references. Tell them about

• The job
• The Company
• Your major responsibilities and key targets

Giving them this information will help your referees focus their answers to suit your needs even more. You’re also reminding them of how important the job is to you.

What to do if you’re unsuccessful
If you don’t get the job the first thing to do is not to beat yourself up. Do what other successful candidates do and put it down as a learning experience. Beating yourself up will only undermine your future confidence.

Tip 6:
Seek feedback. If you don’t get the job ring the interviewer and politely ask for some feedback for the purposes of self development.
• It helps to have a few questions ready when you ring.
• When seeking feedback, be absolutely certain that you do not become defensive or attack the interviewer. Remember, the point about asking for feedback is to learn how to improve for next time.
• If you learn during the feedback stage that you were very competitive take the opportunity to tell the interview that you would be interested in any future positions.

Note that some interviewers, unfortunately, view giving feedback as a waste of their time and/or feel too uncomfortable about making any negative comments so they may not wish to talk to you. If that’s the case, don’t take it personally. At least you tried.

Tip 7: Use the feedback to improve your future performance: Take the time to give some serious thought to what the interviewer said. Then ask yourself the all important question: “What can I do to ensure that next time I don’t repeat the same mistake/s?”

Good luck!

Michael Spiropoulos is Monster’s resident interview expert. He has helped many job candidates improve their interview skills and win exciting new jobs. Michael works closely with Monster to assist job seekers with their interview and job search skills. If you’d like to find out more about how Miichael can personally help you succeed with your interview skills you can contact him on: