Eleven Alternative Interview Tips

In interviews, qualifications may not be the most important factors.


Illustration: Cosette Puckett

Interview is often the most intimidating step of any application process. Most candidates know the basic preparation tips do research, look confident, dress for success. However, at the present time when multiple qualified candidates are vying for one position, are these tips enough for helping you stand out? In the words of Miles Young, former Chairman and CEO at Ogilvy & Mather, “when candidates have gotten to the interview round, their qualifications don’t matter too much.” Rather, Young looks for differentiating skills such as cultural intelligence and insight. With that in mind, the list of tips below hopefully provides us an alternative angle to approach our next interview.

Before the interview

  1. Research the company holistically

This does not merely include the company’s mission and its statistics, but also its company culture. Are their employees serious and opinionated, or casual and demure? Are they into company camping trips and night-out activities? Knowing the company culture would help a candidate better tailor his or her answer to the company’s interests. As a matter of fact, when employers recruit people, they not only look for qualified ones, but also ones whom they would enjoy working with.

2. Decide on what impression you want to leave for the recruiter

Given that employers have to interview multiple candidates, it’s inevitable that some will be forgotten the moment they walk out the door. Thus, it is important for you to think about how you would like to be remembered. Thinking strategically about how you would like to present yourself, which stories you want to tell, and which strengths you would like to emphasise that would help create a lasting impression.

3. Prepare for interview questions and ponder on their purposes

A lot of the time, we go straight into answering interview questions without questioning their purposes. Putting ourselves in the shoes of employers would clarify why certain questions were asked, and what answers would satisfy. For instance, a potential question is “where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s quite likely that the person asking this question is not only interested in the candidate’s future, but also in seeing how this company would help further the candidate’s goal, whether the candidate plans on staying with the company in the long run, etc.

During the interview

4. First impression counts

As human beings, we have a tendency to make certain assumptions about new people we have just met. While different people have different ways of introducing and presenting themselves, friendliness and enthusiasm never fail. Don’t wait until mid-way through to let your personality shine. Engage employers as soon as you can because they often have a gut feeling of whether they want a candidate or not way before the interview ends.

5. Connect

The ability to connect to your interviewer is definitely a plus. If possible, research your interviewer beforehand to grasp a sense of their personality and interests. This would help you steer the conversation in your favour. Additionally, being candid and authentic makes connecting with other people easier.  

6. Pay attention to nonverbal cues

What you say is only as convincing as how you say it. Watch your body language, eye contact, and tone. People are more likely to be charmed by how you say something rather than what you say. You could practise with friends or simply record yourself and play it back to observe your body language.

7. Let the evidence speaks for itself

Elaborating on your experiences and accomplishments rather than just giving descriptions  makes your case stronger. Just be sure that you are being concise and and not wasting your interviewer’s time with unnecessary details.

8. Pause

Encountering tough questions, don’t feel pressured to blurt out responses. Control the situation by taking your time to build an organised and thoughtful answer. When presenting a difficult scenario, employers are keen to know how you approach a problem, not just what solutions you come up with. A pause gives you time to think about the content and the structure of your response.

9. Ask insightful questions in the end

Asking questions is not only to answer your curiosity, but also to show your enthusiasm and originality. This is the time for you to discuss how you would fit in and grow at the company. You could also subtly bring up facts that you want your interviewer to know if you did not get a chance to mention them earlier. Many candidates score low either by not asking questions or asking ones that can easily be found on Google. Use this opportunity to your advantage.

After the interview

10. Follow up with a thank-you

Writing thank-you emails or a personal note might not be deemed vital, but it could go a long way in close calls. Or, it would just give you an edge for your thoughtfulness.

11. Reflect

At this point, you might have already had a hunch on the result. Whether you are feeling confident or disappointed, don’t forget to reflect on how the interview went. What could you have improved, how to prepare better for next time? Keep your perspective because chances are, you still have to go through numerous interviews throughout the course of your career.