How to impress at a job interview
Your impression at a personal interview is crucial in landing the job. It must therefore be prepared down to the last detail. Pick up a few tips on how to go about it.
It is not enough just to show up for the job interview on time, at the right place, nicely dressed and tell them about your skills. You need to pay extra attention to a number of things before you can actually win the job. This applies before, during and after the first interview with the company.
Step 1: Collect information before the interview
The more you learn, in advance, about the industry, the company and the person or people who will be interviewing you, the easier you can talk in a context that resonates well with the interviewer. By being well prepared, you will be more interesting to the company, and you will at the interview show that you take the meeting seriously.
Contact people in your network who know the industry from the inside, or contact relevant trade associations, the Confederation of Danish Industry, the Danish Chamber of Commerce or other similar organisations to ask if they have any industry guidelines, reports/profiles or the like for you to read. You can also search for articles yourself on the Internet.
The financial sector is changing rapidly; for instance, there is an increased focus on digitalisation/automation, and employees in the sector must be ready to handle changes to an even greater extent than before. Study the latest trends in the area, including which skills will be in demand in future. You may be asked to consider the development of the sector at the job interview.
Study the company's website in detail and note the impression you get of the employees' profiles, the company's products/services, organisational structure, values, staff policy, etc. You can also call the company, but only if you have prepared relevant questions in advance, and remember only to ask for information that is not already stated in the post. Check LinkedIn to take a closer look at the company's employees, their duties, educational backgrounds, etc. You can also get an impression of the company by contacting colleagues, friends and acquaintances who may know something of value to you.
Check in advance the location of the company, how long it will take to get there and whether parking is available if you plan to come by car.
Carry out research on the person or persons who will be interviewing you. For example, search on their names on Google, Facebook and Twitter, or check if they have a LinkedIn profile. What background, education and role/duties do they have?
It is important that you before the interview prepare a number of relevant and exploratory questions that you want to ask the company so that it can become an equal conversation. Remember that the company is not the only one that will have to decide whether there is a good fit between you and them; you also need to determine if the job is right for you. The job advert is one thing, the corporate reality another.
You could try asking some slightly ‘probing’ questions. For example:
- What are the guiding values of your company?
- What is the working environment like
- How does collaboration work in the department?
- What are my training and development possibilities?
- What is my immediate manager's leadership style like?
- How much does the company value the social aspect?
- What are the most important success criteria for the job?
- What are the biggest challenges?
- What will I be measured on?
- What do you expect from me in the first six months?
Before the interview, you should also prepare answers to questions that you think the company might ask you during the interview. For example:
- Tell us a few words about yourself
- Why are you applying for this particular job?
- What crucial value can you add?
- What are your strongest professional skills?
- What results have you achieved in the past in a similar field?
- What motivates/drives you professionally?
- What are your weaknesses?
It’s a good idea to prepare specific examples linked to these questions to keep in reserve. These examples can be how your competencies are manifested, your experience in this particular area and previously achieved concrete results that are important in relation to the advertised position.
It may be a good idea to prepare a short and precise pitch about yourself as you will typically be asked to tell them something about yourself. It should not take more than 1-2 minutes.
The pitch should be based on:
- Who you are as a person. What are your core values and personal strengths?
- What you want. What motivates and drives you professionally?
- What your skills are. What professional competences are your strongest skills? (not to be confused with the duties you are able to undertake)
Determine which impression you want the company to be left with of you after the interview.
Step 2: What to pay attention to at your interview
The interview starts the minute you check in at the reception desk. So, always be polite when interacting with the reception staff. Remember, the staff might be asked afterwards what they think of you.
Do your very best to make a good impression on the person who comes to meet you at the reception. Smile, and feel free to express a few complementary words on the surroundings.
The first contact with the person interviewing you (if this is not the person who comes to greet you) is always very important. It is essential that you seem relaxed and friendly, so always walk straight to the person. Make eye contact, smile, and give the person a firm handshake.
While the first impression is very important, there are other things to consider too.
A job interview is a mutual exchange of information serving to establish if there is a good match between you and them. An exciting job is at stake, so there is nothing wrong with being nervous. The company will understand this. The people interviewing you want nothing more than for you to feel comfortable throughout the interview. And it is crucial for them that you can be yourself.
Be curious about the company and the job during the interview. Display your initiative by taking occasional control of the conversation, for example by asking some of the questions that are most important for you to get answers to.
Remember to use your time wisely based on the time planned for the interview. This will usually appear from the invitation, but if it doesn’t, you may send an email or call them to get the information. The time available should give both you and the company the opportunity to speak – usually with most speaking time for the company, ideally at a ratio of 60:40. Never interrupt the person speaking to you and listen carefully to the question being asked so you respond in the best possible way. The goal is not for you to get as much speaking time as possible; it is to ask the right questions to put you in a position to decide if you really want this job.
In some situations, you could experience interviewers putting some rather personal questions to you. If you feel that the interviewer is crossing your 'personal line' or goes beyond what they are allowed to ask, find a kind way to decline to respond. That way you will be showing your confidence and independence.
The interviewer is not allowed to ask you questions relating to:
- Sexual orientation
- Political affinity
- Diseases you might have
- Ethnic origin
- If you are pregnant
- Membership of a trade association
- The number of sick days in the past
If you are asked questions about any of your former employers, never speak negatively about them in any way whatsoever. And never disclose confidential information about your previous or current employer at the interview.
It is important to be open and genuinely interested. You should act competently and professionally and show that you are energetic and proactive without overdoing it or coming across as false.
You make a more confident appearance, for example by keeping your chest high and leaning about 10 cm towards the table. It will help you appear more convincing and engaged. If you lean back in your chair, you will achieve the opposite effect, which might make you look too confident, casual and as if you are not all that interested. It is also important that you maintain eye contact with the person talking.
But what matters the most is being yourself.