Job interviews are tough. And so they should be – a company works hard to develop and run it’s business, and a key factor in their success is the people they have hanging around there. Do they fit in? Do they contribute what the business needs them to – and a bit extra? Are they saving money? Are they making money?
So job interviews are important for everyone. And as usual with pretty much everything in the job market – it’s a minefield. With interviews there are a ‘bunch’ of factors that could determine either success or failure. To help you cover all the bases, as best you can, here’s a checklist of some of these factors – and of course, some further articles are posted below dealing with specific job interview topics:
The Job Interview Success Checklist
So you go for an interview.
And afterward a friend asks, “So, how did it go?” And you say “Ja, I thought it went okay? But I don’t know really.” After 3 weeks and not getting any feedback you wonder, “What went wrong?”
Here are some things that could have gone wrong. It’s worth going through the list below and doing an analysis – for the purposes of improving your interview skills – either BEFORE or AFTER an interview.
Ask yourself – next to each question I’ve provided a comment (bad news/good news) which will guide you to understanding how the point might affect the interview.
1. Did I arrive on time?
(Bad news if you didn’t. Aim to arrive NOT early or late but on time. “On time” means 5 minutes early. Arriving earlier or later is just impolite, unprofessional and won’t create the right impression.)
2. Did I arrive feeling harassed and rushed or fairly calm?
It’s hard to hide that rushed feeling – bad news if you had it. Good news if you were in control, on time, had a few moments to relax and breathe before you faced the fire.
3. Did I give the receptionist a pleasant smile and greeting?
If you did good news! Bad news if you were rude, irritated, abrupt, had “attitude” when asked to fill in a form or if you flirted with the receptionist. Often receptionists pass on their impressions to the interviewer.
4. How did the initial meeting/greeting with the interviewer go? Did I look them in the eyes and smile? Was my handshake firm?
Good news if you were comfortable and confident. Bad news if you shuffled, mumbled, broke into a sweat or fumbled with your bag, phone, papers, and keys, or if you brought your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/neighbour along to the interview.
5. How was I dressed? Was I dressed more casually than the interviewer?
Bad news if you weren’t smart. It’s better to err on the side of smartness than on the side of sloppiness. Rather be more conservative. This is not the time for short skirts, revealing clothing, bold colours, old faded jeans with holes, creased shirts, etc. In rare instances the company culture may dictate otherwise, but generally a neat, conservative look is best.
6. Did I have strong perfume/aftershave on?
Bad news if you did – it’s too overpowering. Interview rooms are often quite small. So a strong perfume becomes unpleasant – no matter what you paid for it. What it does is focus attention away from your professional skills/expertise/knowledge and onto a negative factor. You really want the interviewer to concentrate on YOU, what YOU have to offer, and the BENEFITS YOU will provide the company with. NOT on your perfume – bit of a frivolous point but in a competitive market you want NOTHING to detract from your ‘message of benefit’.
7. Was my breath fresh and my teeth clean?
Bad, bad news if it wasn’t fresh and your teeth were, in fact, not clean. Smoker’s breath. Lunch breath. Coffee breath. Halitosis – rotten breath. Cheese breath. Just avoid them all. Good career tip: Spare tooth brush, small tube of toothpaste in your bag, 2 minutes before a meeting do a quick brush/clean. “Can I work close to this person” – that’s what the interviewer/employer will be asking him/herself.
8. Were my shoes polished?
Some interviewers have this as their ‘pet’ deciding factor – so bad news if they weren’t. Not the most important thing in the world but if your shoes are dull and scuffed, it says something about you. And it’s not good.
9. What did my bag and its contents look like? Neat and organised or bulging with papers, keys, phone, lunch, etc?
Good news if it was organised and professional. An employer would be completely correct in assuming that if your bag is disorganised, your desk, computer, files will be too. Why wouldn’t they be? Aside from that it’s a distraction to you and them – bad news.
10. How did I feel answering the interviewer’s questions? Did I ‘um’ and ‘er’? Or did I give brief, to the point answers?
Good news if you were calm, composed and felt in control and well prepared. Preparing by trying to predict the questions you may be asked and formulating answers is a good practice.
11. Did I give any specific examples of good work I’d done?
Examples make you more believable – the more specific the better – good news if you did. There’s just something about an interviewee who substantiates his answers with examples.
12. When asked about my strengths – did I give a good confident answer with examples to back my answers up?
Good news if you did. It’s all very well saying you’re, for example, a “hard worker”. Most people give that as one of their strengths. But it’s rare for anyone to back that up by giving an example of a recent project they worked on which required a big overtime commitment.
13. When asked about my weaknesses – did I answer in a positive way?
Good news if you did. What’s meant by “in a positive way”? In a way that shows you’ve given attention to the weakness, have mastered it, overcome it. Or show how you cope with it. Keep it professional. It’s not a “confessional”. Don’t make it too personal. Also think of what weaknesses your references are likely to raise when questioned, raise them upfront and put a positive spin on them by explaining how you’ve improved.
14. Did I ask more than one or two questions about the company, department or position?
Bad news if all you did was ask “how much will I get paid?” – show an interest, find out what the key challenges are in the position, in the company, industry, department. Ask the interviewer how long they’ve been in the company, how they enjoy working there – show some personal interest. Although be careful – some interviewers are very closed up – you’ll have to judge how far to go with each interviewer on a case-by-case basis.
15. Did I continue to smile in the interview?
Good news if you did – you didn’t just put it on for the greeting. It wasn’t put on. It’s you. You may have to do some work on YOU to get this right. But to be sure, confidence can be built.
16. Did I listen intently to everything?
Bad, bad news if you didn’t carefully pay attention. Make sure you understand every question. Don’t make assumptions. Rather ask clarifying questions. You risk going off the point and boring the interviewer. You also risk being labeled as someone who doesn’t listen. It’s a key communication skill. And communication is a cornerstone business skill.
17. Did I feel like I was waffling a lot?
Bad news if you did – keeping things brief shows focus, good preparation and you come across as someone who thinks clearly. Do a post interview de-briefing. Look at the questions you found tough, think of how you could have improved your answers, make the change and do better next time.
18. Did I make a clear statement at any stage about how I felt I could be of benefit in the position being discussed?
After all this is what the company wants – some benefit from hiring you – tell them clearly what it is! So good news if you did. If you’re asked, “So why should we hire you?”, it’s a perfect opportunity to give your concise, clear benefit statement. Or if you don’t get the chance during the interview, why not say, at the conclusion, “There’s just one more thing I’d like to say”, then give your statement confidently. It’s bound to have great effect.
19. At any point did I get the feeling that the interviewer was bored or not attentive?
A bad news sign. Are you waffling? Are you talking too much? Are you addressing the needs of the interviewer or are you off the point? And don’t be seduced into waffling by awkward silences. Silence beats waffle.
20. Did I leave only after asking politely if I could follow up on a certain date?
Good news. It shows assertiveness and a desire to wrap up loose ends – good business skills/qualities to have.
21. Did I send a thank you note to the interviewer?
Good news if you did. It could make all the difference and frequently does. It’s not “sucking up.” Well it shouldn’t be. Don’t “gush” in your letter. Make it quick. Refer quickly to the 3 key reasons why you’re a good candidate for the job and that you appreciated the opportunity to apply.
So how’d you do? The whole idea is to identify some weak areas to work on – and think of ways to improve. Take the weak area and discuss it with a trusted friend or colleague – then practice before your next interview.
But remember, too, that there’s a lot ‘stuff’ that goes on behind the scenes that we have no control over. There are people involved in hiring decisions. And as long as that’s the case there always will be those ‘mystery’ situations where someone else gets the job you wanted – even when you’re more experienced and qualified for it.
Remember – there’ll be more interviews and more opportunities to shine. Make sure you’re prepared.
More Job Interview Articles
Job Interviews – First Impression don’ts (a Brutal List!)
The interview may last 30 minutes BUT the decision NOT to hire you may have been made in the first 30 seconds! Here are some examples of things to watch out for. Not everybody has these problems – very few in fact – but for those that DO have them – it’s a DISASTER.