by Jody Bischoff
Senior Practice Leader at Charles Aris Inc.
At Charles Aris, we talk a lot about the importance of preparing for an interview. As anyone who has been through a Charles Aris interview prep can tell you, this includes reviewing the logistics of the interview (what to wear, when to arrive, where to go, whom to ask for, etc.); discussing those you will be meeting and their backgrounds; and how to best prepare for the interview.
If you think about it, the two biggest things a candidate needs to demonstrate during an interview are (1) that she is qualified for the position being discussed and (2) that she is truly interested in the organization and the role. This article will focus on the latter.
Would you believe that the typical organization bases approximately half of its hiring decision on how interested it thinks a candidate is in the position? Most candidates we talk with are surprised by this number, but it’s absolutely true. I cannot tell you how many times we’ve heard a client say, “The candidate is more than qualified but we’re going to pass because we just didn’t get the sense that they are truly interested in us.”
And the worst part about that feedback is that 90 percent of the time, the candidate really was interested – they just did a poor job of demonstrating it. Candidates are often so focused on showing why they are most qualified for the role that they often don’t spend enough time focused on why they are interested in the role.
To help remedy that, here are five recommended ways to demonstrate interest during an interview:
1. Show great energy: Simply saying you’re interested in a role isn’t enough – you also need to show it. If you are doing a phone interview, this means making sure your energy, enthusiasm and passion come through in your voice. Try smiling or talking with your hands. They won’t be able to see you, but I can assure you the energy will come through the phone. For in-person interviews, first impressions are critical: Make sure you smile, give a firm handshake, make good eye contact, use good posture, etc. You want your body language to show that you are interested and engaged!
2. Articulate your motivation for change (i.e., why are you interested in this company – and why now?): Every single person you meet with will ask you this question in some form or another, so make sure you spend time thinking about why this opportunity is exciting to you and why it’s exciting to you right now. Keep in mind, your answer should be less about why you’re leaving your current job and more about why you are interested in this one (in other words, you’re not running from something … you’re running to something). It’s fine to mention why you would consider leaving your current role, but the majority of your answer should be focused on the opportunity you are pursuing.
3. Do your homework on the organization: This will not only help you feel more prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue with your interviewers; it will also send the message that you are truly interested in the role and the company. Make sure you visit the organization’s website, read its annual report (if the company is publicly held), search online for recent news stories, review the job description once more, talk with friends or former colleagues who work there, etc.
4. Ask great questions: We often say, “You will be judged as much by the questions you ask as by the questions you answer.” Every recruiter at Charles Aris can tell a war story about a less qualified candidate who got a job simply because he asked more thoughtful questions during the interview than competing candidates. Spend time before your interviews writing down five to seven thoughtful and detailed questions which can be asked of any interviewer. These questions can revolve around the organization, the role, the culture, the career path, etc. – anything, really, as long as you avoid questions about compensation and benefits (which will come later). It’s also helpful to have customized questions for each interviewer, so think about which questions would be best directed to each one. Write the questions down (or type them up) and bring them with you. Don’t try to memorize them, as nobody cares; in fact, make a point to bring them out during the interview. It will show that you prepared!
5. End the interview with a closing statement: I am a big believer in closing techniques. I am always amazed whenever I debrief with clients and they ask me if their candidates are interested! There should rarely be a reason for this to happen. A simple closing statement thanking interviewers for their time and expressing (or re-expressing) your interest can be a nice way to wrap things up and make sure the last thing interviewers hear from you is that you are indeed interested. In addition, it’s wise to follow up with a thank-you email that also expresses your interest, making sure to send it within 24 hours afterward.
It is hard to predict whether a role is really the right fit for you before you actually meet the team and go through the interview process. The goal, however, is for the ball to be in your court at the end of that process.
The best way to increase the odds of that is to demonstrate your qualifications and show true interest throughout the interview process. Once an organization feels like you aren’t interested, it is nearly impossible to prove otherwise – so follow these five recommendations to help ensure the decision is yours!