During Interview Coaching, I explore and analyse your answers during a practice interview, which can sometimes flag up certain beliefs or assumptions you may be making. These assumptions can negatively impact how you answer questions.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post on ‘6 ways to confuse a recruiter with your CV’ which shared six assumptions candidates regularly make with their applications that can result in rejection. So, this gave me an idea to write a similar blog to help improve your confidence and technique in answering interview questions. Here are my most common six assumptions you need to avoid when preparing for your next interview.
ASSUMPTION 1: They’ll already know everything about my application.
It’s typical that some members of an interview panel will not been involved in the shortlisting process, or have seen your actual application until the interview day itself. Interviews are a verbal skill and you need to bring your application to life with great, relevant examples that shine a spotlight on your achievements. Ensure you prepare a strong summary of your experiences to date that is not just a repetition of your entire career history.
ASSUMPTION 2: “I shouldn’t have to explain the skills and experience I have – it’s all obvious from my application’.
Nothing is obvious. Your career history may suggest that you have gained a certain level of skill and expertise, but you need to be super clear on the ‘how’. A job title alone means very little and can be open to interpretation of the level of responsibility or tasks you were involved in. Your interview answers need to showcase, summarise, reflect and highlight.
ASSUMPTION 3: They’ll ask me a follow-up question if they need more information.
Not always! Interviewers don’t want to have to tease a good answer out of you by asking follow-up or prompt questions! Ultimately, it’s up to you to provide comprehensive, well-structured, succinct answers that address all elements of the question – first time around! Yes, some recruiters will prompt or encourage more detail if needed. Sometimes recruiters will give you more time or rephrase the question as a way to boost confidence when your nerves are getting the better of you! But don’t wait to be asked follow-up questions in the hope it will give a second chance to give your best answer. You only have one shot at it!
ASSUMPTION 4: It’s better to give several brief examples of when I’ve demonstrated that skill or experience.
It’s only ‘better’ if that is what has been explicitly asked for. If you’ve been asked for a specific time when you’ve worked in successful teams, or how you’ve overcome a particular challenge – the clue is in the question. Choose ONE situation that is the best example of how you worked with others and solved a challenge – not several! Being specific is the way recruiters can understand how your examples and experience are transferable for their opportunity.
ASSUMPTION 5: I think this is what they meant to ask me.
If an interviewer has completely confused you by asking multiple questions or not expressed themselves very well, you need to ask for clarification. But if you have perhaps rehearsed a particular answer to a question that sounds similar to what you’ve been asked, then you run the risk of not fully answering theirquestion. Again, don’t always expect the interviewer to correct your understanding of the question or ask further prompts. Answer the question being asked, not what you think they’re asking.
ASSUMPTION 6: I’ve got no chance if I’m up against an internal candidate.
Equal opportunities and transparent recruitment practices aside, you have no way of knowing how that internal candidate will perform in the interview. Although they may have more insider know-how into the role or business, they still have to make sure they use that knowledge wisely to gain any benefit from it. I’ve witnessed many internal candidates put on pretty dismal interview performances, because they have made an assumption that the job is theirs! Focus on the benefits of a company recruiting from outside their business (new perspectives, applying different experiences from industry, wider networks…). Think about how you incorporate the benefits of hiring you into your answers.
So, if you are making any of the above assumptions as part of your interview preparation, and are not sure how to overcome them, my Interview Coaching could really help you improve your preparation and confidence. Take a look at what I offer and if you’d like to talk about your situation in more detail, please do contact me for a free, no obligation, consultation.