It’s never easy to stand out from the crowd. But that’s exactly what employers search for when hundreds of CVs land on their desk. Megan Driscoll explains the importance of appearance, attitude and preparedness for candidates trying to impress a potential new employer.
The turbulent job market in the UK has resulted in a scenario where often hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants apply for a single position. It’s little wonder that employers no longer reply to each and every application. But, if you’re lucky enough to be selected from the lottery of applications, what do you need to say, do and look like to persuade your future boss that you’re the special one which should be selected for that prized role? Use a three-stage approach: appearance, preparedness and attitude. It’s as easy as one, two, three.
A professional appearance will allow you to act more confident. We often take this for granted, but wear a suit and dress as conservative as possible. The outfit doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy, just clean and well fitted. This rule applies even if the business environment is casual. It’s better to be over dressed then under dressed.
Also, make sure not to bathe yourself in cologne or perfume. Some people can be put off by the smell or even allergic. If you smoke, avoid smoking before the interview. Don’t start off the interview at a disadvantage.
More than 50% of interview questions and focus is directed at evaluating a candidate’s personality and cultural fit. To increase your chances of fitting in you must match the style of the interviewer and exhibit enthusiasm for the position and the company.
Your attitude throughout the interview process is incredibly important. Think of an interview like a six hour play where you have landed the lead role. This is the opening night, so although you have rehearsed for the show, you haven’t had any live practice and, like all opening nights, the critics are in the front row waiting to write about how you performed. You are on display all day, so you are going to need to keep your energy high.
First impressions are lasting impressions, so match a bright smile with a firm handshake. At the end of each of your meetings, tell the interviewer how excited you are about the company and the position. After an interview has taken place, I often ask interviewees if they have done this and many admit they forgot.
This is unfortunate. I have worked with hiring managers who have passed on candidates simply because they didn’t think the candidate was interested, so if you always tell them that you are, they cannot be mistaken.
Remember to exude humility. Arrogance at any stage in your career is ignorance. Some of the most successful scientists I know are humble and gracious. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves.
Conversely, don’t be a shrinking violet. No matter what the position, either a management role or not, interviewers are looking for candidates who can lead. Throughout the day try and work in examples where you have led others. Also, never speak negatively about your current or former colleagues or companies. If you did have negative experiences that come up in conversation, try to repackage them by describing what you learned and how you grew because of that experience.
The final key to face-to-face interviewing is being well prepared. Be familiar with the company website and any recent news or press releases about them. Companies expect that you will do your homework.
Read through your CV and be sure you can give examples of all the work you have listed. Different people gravitate towards different skills, so be prepared to speak about all of it. To that end, don’t put experience on your CV unless you can back it up in person.
You should also be prepared to answer behavioral interviewing questions. This technique has become extremely popular as it focuses on getting candidates to describe how they have handled a particular situation in the past. Past behavior being the predictor for the future behavior. This line of questioning shows the employer not what you think you would do in a perfect world, but what you have actually done in real life. An example of a behavioral interviewing question would be, ‘describe a time when you were involved in a conflict with another employee?’ There are many websites that offer examples of behavioral
interviewing questions, visit them for more question examples.
In today’s digital age, it is incredibly easy to find background information on virtually anyone. Research the names of the employees on the agenda on Google and look for presentations or publications that
they have given. Visit their LinkedIn page to find their previous employment and
the schools they have attended. Familiarise yourself with at least one fact about each person you will be meeting and be sure to mention that conversationally in your interview. Most candidates don’t even
think to look into the backgrounds of the interviewers on the agenda, but if you want
to stand out, you will.
Your goal is to impress everyone you meet, regardless of who they are or at what level they are within the organisation. Being a success during an interview is simple; dress well, show enthusiasm and be prepared at each step of the process and you will stand out amongst your peers.
Megan Driscoll is the President and Founder of PharmaLogics Recruiting, a global search firm exclusively
focused in the life science – also known as The Anti-Fee Agency. More information is found here: www.pharmalogicsrecruiting.com.