Ten Tips to Improve your Interview Skills

| by Beth Briggs

COVID is still with us and over the last eight months we have been adapting to the ongoing challenges it presents. Conducting professional job searches has changed as interactions are now virtual. In 2020, I directed four professional job searches for Armstrong McGuire’s clients. Six hundred sixty-six individuals applied for these positions and I spoke with about twenty percent.

What differentiates a prospect who will be interviewed from someone cut in the first round? The following tips can improve your chances of advancing your application.

At Armstrong McGuire, the first step, as stated in the position announcement, is to submit a cover letter and application through the online portal. Pay attention to what is asked and how you present the information for consideration.  

The Introduction

  1. Read the job description carefully. Do you possess the experience the position requires? If the job description asks for “ten years of demonstrated management experience” don’t waste your time applying if you don’t meet the criteria. That is not something you can learn on the job. 
  2. Cover letters and resumes are carefully evaluated to select candidates based upon their skills and qualifications. The skills described in the job description are the primary filters used to screen applicants. Personalize your cover letter and resume and highlight why you are a good fit.

Submitting your Application  

  1. Pay attention to your submission. When the cover letter is addressed to another organization for a different job, it does not reflect well on your attention to detail. Competition is fierce and mistakes can mean the difference in you getting an interview.
  2. Proof your cover letter and application for grammatical and spelling errors. Most organizations seek a candidate with strong oral and written communication skills. At the very least make sure you do a spell check.
  3. If an interviewer invites you for an interview, please review the job description before the interview. This is an opportunity to put your best self forward and sell yourself. Be prepared to respond to questions about your resume that relate to the position for which you applied.

The Interview

  1. Appearance matters, even on a virtual call. When applying for a professional position, dress appropriately for the position. For an executive position, wear a tie or a jacket. Don’t show up for the interview in a ragged t-shirt, a shirt with an inappropriate logo, a halter top or looking like you just stepped out of the shower. Believe me, I have seen all of these in interviews. Show me you care about your appearance.
  2. Many people use a virtual background for their interviews. Before the interview, check out what that looks like to the person on the other end. I have seen people’s heads or entire body evaporate as they are speaking. They become an apparition, disappearing in and out of the screen. One candidate had a blazing red background that was so distracting as she kept coming in and out of the screen that I had a hard time focusing on her comments. You want the interviewer’s full attention, and that background image reflects on you.
  3. Test out the technology before the interview. Several candidates are ten to fifteen minutes late for their interview because they cannot access the technology. One client appeared upside down throughout her entire interview. I tried to address the problem, but she asked that we just continue with the meeting. It was a highly distracting interview.
  4. Sit at a desk or a chair for the interview and look directly into the camera. One candidate sat in a swivel chair and kept moving around as he spoke. I finally asked if he could hold still, which he did for about five minutes and then started spinning again. I know he was nervous, but he didn’t get the job.
  5. Turn on your video and audio at the beginning of the call. The purpose of a video call is to make a face-to-face connection. If your computer does not have a good microphone, use your cell phone.

Virtual interviewing is arduous, and it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. Don’t sabotage your chances when you might be the best person for the job. Help the interviewer get to know you without these distractions and highlight the relevant skills that make you the best person for the job. Good luck.

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