Interview

How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 3: What to do post-interview to seal the deal

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications — answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly.

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for jobseekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed them, check out the first two posts in this series — what to do before and during your interview.

So you just wrapped up your interview, and are feeling great about it! What can you do post-interview to seal the deal?

1. Take stock of your performance, and of your experience

Dedicate ten minutes to jotting down what you think went well, and what you could improve on the next time. If you were caught off-guard by any of their questions, take note so you can prepare an answer for future interviews.

Make sure you take time to reflect on how you felt about the experience, as well. Could you see yourself thriving in their office and working with the interviewers you met? If for some reason you feel you are no longer a fit, better to let them know now instead of at the end of the process.

2. Follow up promptly and persuasively

Be sure to send a personalized thank you note to each of the interviewers you met with, customizing the e-mail to include what you talked about and what you learned from each person. This is a crucial step — while sending thank you notes won’t ensure you get the job, failing to send them will cause the employer to doubt your interest and professionalism.

3. If you get a rejection

Even though you’re disappointed, be sure to respond promptly, thanking them for their consideration. Reflect on any feedback they shared about your performance, comparing this with your original post-interview notes.

Remember that the chosen candidate may eventually not accept the job offer and you could just be up next on the list. The employer may retain your information for consideration whenever there are other suitable openings in the future. They may also consider you for a different role altogether, if you’ve shown that you might be a better fit for a different position.

Regardless, if this is a company you really want to work for, try to maintain a positive relationship with the employer. You never know what could happen!

4. If you get the job🎉

Congratulations! No doubt your interviewing skills and etiquette helped you clinch the job offer. Way to go!

We hope this blog series helped you set yourself up for interviewing success. Even if you did not get the job offer, you can still have the comfort of knowing you fully prepared and tried your best.

We would love to hear from you! What other career-related topics you would like to learn about in our next series? Let us know in the comments below.

How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 2: The Interview

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications — answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly.

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for jobseekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed it, check out this post on how to prep for your interview. Up next in the series — what to do after your interview to seal the deal.

So you landed an interview, prepared thoroughly, and just walked in the door — what do you need to do next to make sure you leave a lasting impression?

  1. Make a good first impression

Greet the receptionist and warmly introduce yourself and explain your appointment. When you meet the interviewer(s) give them a firm handshake and thank them for seeing you for an interview.

There may be small talk, be sure to follow the employer’s lead and let them guide the conversation. They are busy and might want to get right to the interview questions!

2. Pay attention to your body language

We can communicate a lot without uttering a single word, even if it’s subconscious. The right body language can help you give the impression that you’re confident, personable, and extremely interested in the conversation you have with each interviewer. A few tips:

  • Sit up straight and display your neck and chest area to show that you are open.
  • When using hand gestures, keep your hands above the desk and below the collarbone — any higher can make you appear frantic.
  • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, as doing so can make you appear defensive and guarded.
  • Try to avoid fidgeting, which can make you seem nervous.
  • Be sure to maintain regular but not overly persistent eye contact throughout the interview.
  • Most importantly — smile! It creates a positive environment for both you and the interviewer, and can actually make you feel better throughout the conversation.

3. Be concise, focused, and yourself!

When the interviewer asks a question, it’s perfectly fine to collect your thoughts for a few moments before you respond. Make sure to answer each question truthfully and completely, but without rambling on for too long. Keep your knowledge of the company and open position in the forefront of your mind as you answer, making connections between your background and skills and what they’re seeking in this role.

4. What to do with panel interviews

If you find yourself in a panel interview, make sure you briefly address each individual with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.

5. Remember, you’re interviewing them too!

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. Don’t let this opportunity pass you up — not only does it give you the chance to learn more information, but it can show that you’re a critical thinker.

Some questions will flow naturally from the interview, but we recommend preparing a few in advance, too (see other ways to prepare in this blog post!). Some example questions include

  • I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
  • How could I grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the organization?
  • What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?

6. Get to know the next steps

You can directly ask the interviewer what the next steps of the process will be. Avoid settling for the common “We’ll get in touch with you” response that places you in a passive position.

Should the interviewer give you such a response, you may politely ask them to give you a timeline within which you can expect feedback or to follow up with them.

We hope these tips will be helpful for you to keep in mind when you walk in for your next interview — you got this!!

We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips in the comments, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

ace your interviw

How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 1: The Prep

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

In my role as Applicant Care Associate in our Nairobi office, I’m here for candidates from start to finish of their applications — answering questions over phone and e-mail, and always making process improvements to make sure the Shortlist platform is candidate-friendly. I even offer advice on how to ace your interview when we find a job opportunity that’s right for you. 

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for job seekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for the first step of how to ace your interview — the preparation. 

Congrats on landing a job opportunity! Here’s how to ace your interview.

Have you showed up to an interview unprepared and actually thought you could ace it freestyle? I totally have, and the second I sat in front of the panel of interviewers, I realized it was probably the worst idea I’ve had in my entire career.

Here are seven tips to show you how to ace your interview by being  fully prepared and confident:

1. Read, research…stalk!

Whatever you’d like to call it, do what you need to do to make sure you have a thorough understanding of what the organization is all about. Here are some questions to consider as you research:

  • What is the company’s mission and vision?
  • What are the company’s products or services? Who are their clients or customers?
  • What’s their latest project/product launch/offer?
  • What is the company’s work culture? Will you be successful in that work style?
  • Have they won awards or been honored for some of their work?

Hosting interviews takes a ton of time and effort on the company’s part, and nothing turns off an employer more than a candidate who shows that they never took the time to learn the basics. It won’t matter how good you are on paper and how well you have presented yourself, you will lose points if you don’t have a solid understanding of their organisation. So do the research if you want to ace your interview! Remember:

“Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.”

― Idowu Koyenikan

2. Understand the necessary skills and key responsibilities of the role

During the interview, you must be able to show the employer that you have the necessary skill set required for the role. One way you can approach this is thinking through instances where you have utilized them in your previous work experience. If you’ve never done them before, think through how you would approach these new responsibilities.

Also note the responsibilities that the role would involve and provide examples of instances where you have engaged in similar tasks.

If you’re applying for the role from outside the industry or are pulling off a career switch, make sure to thoughtfully identify transferrable skills and emphasize them during the interview. For example, if you’d like to move from administrative work to an operational role, you could explain how needing to be extremely organised in your past jobs would serve you well in an operations position.

We design our job descriptions to thoroughly explain the role to applicants. Make sure you know the JD from front and back, and have thoughtfully considered how you match the must-haves.

3. Prepare some questions in advance

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. To avoid becoming flustered and having to make up questions on the spot, prepare them in advance, and write them down. Some example questions might be:

  • I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
  • How could i grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the Organization?
  • What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?

Just remember — don’t ask questions that can be found on the company’s website. If you followed step one, you’ll already know everything there is to know 🙂

4. Plan what to carry

Ensure you have at least four copies of your CV with you, as you might not know what type of interview you will be having (it could be one-on-one, a panel interview, or something else entirely). It may seem unprofessional to the employer if you come empty-handed, assuming they will have made copies on their end.

You should be sure to carry a pen and notepad to note down information or questions that come up during the session.

5. Get your mind in the right place – to ace your interview

Before the interview, take some time to self-reflect and consider how you want to frame your past experience, strengths, and weaknesses to the employer. Know your personal and career journey inside out. Prepare your examples and references. And be authentic!

Even though you might be nervous, be sure to get a good night’s sleep! You do not want to find yourself distracted, tired, or yawning!

6. Look your best to feel your best

The right candidate should be hired based on their skills and potential, not their appearance. However, taking the time to look professional and polished can boost your confidence and help you ace your interview by feeling at ease on the big day.

Pick an outfit that is comfortable and fits well. Try to learn a bit about the company’s office culture when choosing your interview outfit. In certain industries like finance and consulting, most offices follow a business dress code, and you should as well. But for smaller companies or startups, it’s possible that they have a much looser dress code in their office. If you show up in a suit and tie for a job at a startup in a coworking space, it could indicate that you don’t have a clear idea of their company culture and expectations.

7. Be on time

Always plan to begin your journey to the interview location early (even earlier than you think you need to!). Look up the location in advance or if need be, call the organization to confirm to avoid the mishap of missing the location.

If for some reason you are running late, call the interviewer or contact person at the organization and inform them, letting them know when they can expect you. You are better off calling in advance rather than showing up late without having communicated.

If you are unable to make it to the interview or are no longer interested in the position, ensure that you communicate this to the employer immediately upon receiving an interview invitation. Maintaining your professionalism in this kind of situation is always appreciated.

We hope that these tips on how to ace your interview will be helpful for you as you prepare for your next job interview . Here are the second and third posts in the series, about what to do during and after your interview!:

We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips in the comments, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

Structured interviews

Everyone should be using structured interviews — here’s why

1080 565 Simon Desjardins

Interviews are often less predictive of on-the-job performance than we imagine, a problem we wrote about here. Despite their ubiquity, unstructured interviews — where we ask candidates different questions in different sequences that may or may not be tied to job requirements — have been debunked as an effective predictive technique.  The interview process is vital to the hiring process and using structured interviews may be a better approach.

Structured interview 101

Decades of research tells us that using a “structured interview” is more than twice as effective than its unstructured counterpart in predicting on-the-job performance, and even more so when combined with competency-based assessments. The evidence is clear, and yet it’s extremely rare to see structured interviews employed in practice.

The idea behind a structured interview is underpinned by the objective of keeping the interviewer focused on questions that can predict performance and reducing the variance of scoring that exists when different interviewers prioritise different attributes in a candidate. They are best suited to interviews for junior and mid-level roles involving multiple interviewers.

Anatomy of a structured interview

  • Candidates are asked the same questions, in the same order, by every interviewer.
  • Questions are explicitly linked to key competencies required to do the job.
  • A standard rating scale is used by interviewers to grade candidate answers.
  • Interviewers agree in advance what they are looking for in a good answer.

When used correctly, the structured interview reduces the risk of bias affecting the interview outcome, increases consistency in ranking candidates, and minimises the interview time.

The key to using this concept effectively is crafting predictive questions and understanding that you’ll only have time to ask a few. Forcing ourselves to prioritise which two or three competencies actually drive 80 percent of the performance in a given role is a good place to start.

Reducing the time we spend on the interview process

We often hear hesitancy to adopt structured interviews because they can be perceived to take more time. “We have to hire 50 people this month. We don’t have time to implement a new structure,” is a common justification. Some may be surprised to learn that adopting a structured interview process actually reduces average interviewing time, particularly when more than one interviewer is involved. This is achieved both by reducing the pre-interview preparation period (because the questions are already prepared and optimized for an efficient interview) and by reducing the time to make a final hiring decision (because interviewers are clear about what they’re looking for).

Pathway to building a predictive question bank

Ultimately, building discipline around data collection throughout the interview process will help move beyond improving just our “hire rate” to something far more valuable: improving the rate at which high performers are selected. Hasty bullets written in our notebooks from 6 months ago are all but impossible to link to the ultimate performance of a candidate down the line (“What did we ask her again?”). If we have consistent interview data — meaning which questions were asked and what the responses were — we can baseline those questions with their teams to identify which interview questions and corresponding answers are most predictive of identifying high performers. We’ll also be able to pinpoint which questions are ultimately uncorrelated and can be dropped in the future.

Why are structured interviews so rarely used?

The ultimate benefits of a structured interview process can take months to materialise. Responsibilities are spread across multiple people on the team. Half a year may have passed by the time the candidate has been onboarded and we’ve had a chance to evaluate performance. The original interview seems like a distant memory at this point. Taking a decision to adopt a structured interview process will probably require a push from senior management along with commitment to enforce the practice.

We often have a related challenge of convincing hiring manager colleagues to change their interviewing practices, particularly when our colleagues don’t necessarily perceive interviewing to be a process in need of fixing in the first place.

At Shortlist, we have worked with clients ranging from start-ups to large multinationals. We also design competency-based assessments to further enhance screening outcomes before a candidate even reaches the interview stage.

Not all organisations will transition off of the unstructured interview as a screening tool, but the evidence to do so is clear. It’s time to implement a better way to interview.

About Shortlist Insights

Shortlist Insights helps companies build capacity to improve how they recruit and manage talent. We combine best practices from industry experts, research, and our experience to deliver practical and tested solutions and thought leadership. Ultimately, we help our clients build a competitive people advantage.

Related: Unstructured Interviews: Less Predictive Than We Think

unstructured interviews

Unstructured Interviews: Less Predictive Than We Think

1080 651 Simon Desjardins

Interviewing effectively is surprisingly tough. It’s a process that sometimes seems straightforward and yet often leaves us feeling like we haven’t quite gotten the clarity we were hoping for out of an hour-long session, or that we’ve simply made a gut decision. The main reason for this feeling lies in fact that many people use unstructured interviews, which makes it much harder to reach a conclusion about whether the candidate would actually perform well or not.

In this series, we will explore some central challenges we face in the interview process, and highlight best practices and tools to make immediate improvements.

The statistics about interviews are both counterintuitive and somewhat alarming: the chances that unstructured interviews will accurately predict a candidate’s performance is less than 25 percent. You’d actually be better off flipping a coin, and would have saved several hours in the process!

Anatomy of unstructured interviews

  • Candidates are asked different questions by each interviewer.
  • Questions are not necessarily linked to key competencies required to do the job.
  • Candidates are not assessed using a standardized rating scale.
  • Interviewers haven’t aligned on acceptable answers beforehand.

With dozens of studies across multiple geographies and timelines showing them to be one of the worst ways to predict on-the-job performance, the evidence against using unstructured interviews is overwhelming. Yet we continue to rely on them almost exclusively to make hiring decisions. What’s going on?

Limiting the effects of bias

Bias plays a huge role in how we rate candidates in an interview setting. Humans are naturally and strongly predispositioned to favour people who are like them, which is a hazard when our objective is to build diversity on our teams.

Compounding this problem is our susceptibility to “first impression” bias, where we consistently end up asking easier questions of people who form a strong first impression, and harder questions for those who don’t. In their now-famous study, Tricia Pricket and Neha Gada-Jain showed how snap judgements made in the first 10 seconds of an interview could predict the outcome of that interview.

Mere awareness of these biases does little to counteract them, even for experienced interviewers. Asking candidates to complete a competency-based assessment process before the candidate reaches the interview stage adds a layer of objectivity to the screening process and can help put interview results in context.

Linking interview questions to competency requirements

Unlike unstructured interviews, great interviews start with the interviewers aligning on what competencies and other requirements will actually drive performance in a given role. It may sound obvious, yet we often see a majority of an interview being spent asking questions without a clear competency in mind.

Brain teasers, for example, are a perennial favourite, though they have been shown (most conclusively by Google’s HR team) to have no correlation to performance. By a similar token, academic scores (and by extension — questions about them) have equally little bearing as predictors of performance, unless we’re hiring people immediately after they graduate.

Asking questions that actually force a candidate to reveal a key trait can be risky without preparation and thought. For instance, if we wanted to understand a candidate’s “motivation to join,” we might be tempted to ask the basic question, “Why do you want to join our company?” This question, however, is easily answered by a clever candidate who has done their research. A less obvious but more revealing question, such as “What preparation did you do in the time between when this interview was scheduled and today?” might give us a much more meaningful data point on the same subject.

Interviews and the Stanford prison experiment

Back in 1971, Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo led a set of experiments that changed what we know about human behaviour. Zimbardo arbitrarily assigned participants to play the role of “prisoner” and “guard” in a role play exercise, and the inhumane behavior of the “guards” revealed the extreme psychological effects of perceived power. The results were replicated many times across multiple countries and cultures.

Interview rooms aren’t prison cells, of course, though much of what was learned in those studies applies to this context. Given that employers have a job to offer, we sometimes assume a position of authority in relation to the candidate, and act accordingly, without realising it. Imagine, however, that we’re interviewing a top performer who has multiple employment options. In this situation, we’re being interviewed as much as we’re interviewing. Leaving five minutes at the end to answer a candidate’s questions won’t be enough to properly address concerns and communicate why the candidate should join us.

Interviews driving improved performance

Admittedly, interviews tend to be high stakes environments for both parties. We’re under pressure to make the perfect hire. The candidate is nervous. Skepticism, hope, and bias are at risk of permeating every exchange. If you leave time to “sell” the candidate at the end, we’re down to 40 minutes at most to ask five to eight questions. Given the exponential impact that high performers have on organisations, these 40 minutes are crucial.

Putting more thought and structure to that time will separate you from the vast majority of other hiring companies, including your competitors how are using unstructured interviews.

If unstructured interviews don’t work, then what’s the answer? In the next article in this series, we outline the basics of the “structured interview” and when combined with competency-based assessments, will save time and significantly improve the outcomes of the interview process.

About Shortlist Advisory

Shortlist Insights helps companies build capacity to improve how they recruit and manage talent. We combine best practices from industry experts, research, and our experience to deliver practical and tested solutions and thought leadership. Ultimately, we help our clients build a competitive people advantage.

Related: Everyone should be using structured interviews — here’s why