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Two things you must bring to impress at your next interview.

A successful interview starts well before you walk through that door; and your preparation can determine if you slump or skip through it on the way out.

Sure, there are some obvious things we know to do for an interview and they mostly focus on the answering the technical aspects of the job: which is fine, but what happens if two candidates have similar technical skills? Why would they pick you?

This is where a little lateral thinking in your preparation can squeeze you past the competition. Here are some ideas for your next interview.

Let’s start with a little interview psychology.

Practice being likeable under pressure.

Don’t underestimate the importance of likability. Business-like, and likable, are not mutually exclusive. Be polite, friendly and sociable from the moment you step foot on their premises—that includes security guards, and people at the front desk. Remember, you don’t know who anyone is, and the person on the gate may be your interviewer’s brother or sister.

If you are not naturally sociable, then practice by being extra nice to everyone you meet in the run-up to your interview so that it feels more natural.

Sounds daft? I can tell you of many, many times when the more likeable, beat out the more skilled, candidate.

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Be ready to sound enthusiastic. (Especially, if you aren’t)

This is the first-cousin of likability. Let’s face it, not every job we apply for is our dream career. Quite often, we just need the work. That’s only natural, but equally naturally, don’t expect to get the job if you sound indifferent to it.

This is even more important if you fear that you may not be the most skilled candidate for the role. Enthusiasm trumps knowledge, almost, every time.

If you recall my mantra that Interviews are a performance, then you can begin to see how you should prepare for it like an actor in a play. How often do actors really feel the emotions they are portraying on-screen? Exactly.

Our team of “likability and enthusiasm” are best determined by someone asking you interview questions, and honestly assessing your performance. Ideally, consult someone who won’t just tell you what you want to hear. After all, you don’t want to be one of those people on “talent” shows whose mother thinks they sing like a Pavarotti-styled tenor, when they wouldn’t actually get change from five pence.

Next, some preparation that supports our "likability and enthusiasm" paradigm.

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Be knowledgeable about their business.

Here is a great way to impress your potential employers. Find out everything you can about the business. What have their profits been like? How many employees do they have? What is their staff-turnover? Have they won or lost any big contracts recently?

This knowledge can be used strategically to your advantage. One, it demonstrates that all important enthusiasm, we discussed, and two, it can be used to push back when you are being pressured by the interviewer.

For example: “I see that you have left your last two jobs after only 6 months?” After you explain the reasons why that happened, you can ask, “I see that you have a high staff attrition rate. Why is that, do you think?”

This sort of dialogue—at least, by you—should be exchanged politely, with absolute interest for their answer, and not in any way as an insult. It demonstrates your decision-making thinking, and process, and like any potential relationship, it is best to make it clear that you are equals. They may be the boss, but that doesn't mean you are less important. I expand on that, in another Blog post--Combat Interview-nerves with a Mindset.

Learn something about your interviewer(s)

As soon as you know the name of your interviewer(s), look them up. What are their interests—do you both play golf? — where have they worked, have they stayed in one job for a long time?

The more information you know about them the easier it will be to make a connection. Just be subtle about it. Rather than say, "I see you play golf?"—no one likes to feel spied upon—at some point, maybe when discussing stress, mention “… well, I play golf to relax after a particularly hectic day …”

This all feeds into the likability requirement. Managers want someone who can do the job, certainly, but they also want someone around they deem as easy-to-manage.

These are just some ideas to get you thinking and improving, but if you need more help with your interview technique, then the Interview-fit Maximiser takes an in-depth look at it. If a specific part of your interview technique is causing you problems, then consider the Interview-fit Focus option.

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