How to succeed at interviews
Interviews can be nerve-wracking. Join Oxford university careers adviser Jonathan Black for crucial advice on how to handle them, see what it's like to get put through your paces by Naomi Strong of Morgan Stanley, then learn how to make a great impact with Charlie Walker-Wise at RADA Business
Directed, produced, filmed and edited by Joe Sinclair. Co-produced by Janina Conboye. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis. Edited by Richard Topping
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How are you? Me too. How are you? Please have a seat.
So in this section, we're going to talk about interviewing... how to ace the interview. So there's really only one question people have in an interview, which is, do I want to work with you? And everything else is going to flow from that. With all aspects of the job search, it's worth thinking about, what are they looking for from their position to work out if they want to work with you. How will they assess if they want to work with you? And if you knew that, how would you show them?
But first things first, you're in the room because you deserve to be and because they think on paper that you can do the job. It's not an excuse. You're not a make weight or a wild card. They genuinely think that you could do the job.
So this video will show you how to ace the interview. I will also be hearing some top tips.
So when you're going to an interview, part of the preparation I would suggest is, what are the, let's say, three things - we can all remember three - three things I want to get over to this panel. Depending on the job, it might be, I really deliver projects on time, I keep to budget, and I've worked in this industry before, or something like that.
So you've got your three things. And you're going to make sure that in every answer, you're going to weave one or two or three of those aspects into the answer. So they're coming away with the message you want to deliver.
The first question we always ask, which you need to answer, is, what attracts you to the job? And it's the most obvious first question, and you'll be amazed the number of people who haven't prepared the answer for that. We want to know, what are you going to bring to the job? That's a great open question where you can immediately talk about the three things. I've got these three skills, and I'm going to apply them.
I would also encourage you to think of the worst question that could come up. And it might be, explain this gap on your CV. Or it might be, why did you leave this organisation? That way, at least you're ready for it. You can hope that it doesn't come up, but you want to plan for it to come up. And make sure you've got a story that fits.
So obviously, this is an interview. But I'd love to get to know you and understand how you got to this point of applying. So would you mind telling me what your motivation to apply for a role within the financial industry is?
Yeah. So I think one of the most important things are the people that work within this industry. So when I look at all my friends who work as bankers or in wealth management, they all come from very diverse backgrounds. And because I myself am doing two degrees - psychology and business management - at the same time, I am hoping to find that diversity within the people that I work with, too.
So I'm looking for a role in consulting, and particularly what I'd like to do most is find out about each industry. So whether it's banking, whether it's wealth and asset management, whether it's capital markets, whether it's challenger banks, I think the broad range of industry knowledge that you get from consulting is something that I'd really value.
Can you talk about what your personal strengths have been when you've been faced with a team environment before?
Yeah. So recently actually at university, we had to build up a firm that is a consultancy. And we were put together in a group, and I really wanted to do an entrepreneurship consultancy. Found some research and tried to convince the group with evidence that I think this would be a great idea.
One of my biggest achievements was actually going from that place where the project looked like it was going to fall apart to a place where it was actually very sustainable and is now a sustainable project that's been passed on.
Great. Thank you very much for coming in. That was brilliant.
So just in terms of feedback on the interviews, from my mind, the key thing is to remember whoever you're walking into the room to see is just another human being. Yes, they want to test some things, but really, they want to get to know you and understand why you've come to apply for the role in their firm. So the more you can make it personal, and the more you can almost disarm them with your personality, the better.
Clearly, being eloquent and having the content prepared beforehand will always hold you in good stead. But the more personal you can be, the more it's going to stick in someone's mind. For a lot of us, when we're interviewing, it could be part of a day where we're seeing maybe eight to 10 candidates. And the ones that will really stick in your mind are the ones where you've had a proper dialogue. It hasn't just been a Q&A, I've asked the questions that I have to on the piece of paper.
To that point, when you do have time at the end of the interview, without just being so relieved to rush out the door, try and have an interesting question to ask. And the easiest thing is to ask someone about what they do, because people love to talk about what they do, especially if they've been doing it a while and they are clearly fulfilled by it. It's an easy one to show that you have interest, but also that you'll get a proper answer and get some real insight into the career that you're interviewing for.
So what can you do to make that first impression really good?
Let me just stop you there. We're here today at RADA business for some one to one coaching in personal impact.
Hi. Lovely to meet you. John.
Nice to meet you. I'm Janina from the FT.
If we can become more aware of what we give off and how people receive us, then we can become better at flexing our style, being sure that in an interview setting, we show up in the way that we want to. The key is going to be self-awareness.
Grounding is really important because it means that we have a strong, solid base to work from. We talk about people being down to earth, so make sure you're well rooted and solid on the ground.
This is about taking responsibility for ourselves, for our own presence. As soon as we give into the chair... if you lean back in the chair... if I took the chair away from you, what would happen now?
I'll just fall on the floor.
But if you start to lean forward, you'll find that your weight starts to transfer onto your feet. If you took the chair...
Just get up.
You could just get up. So the range of movement that we need is so little because we're already taking responsibility for our physical presence.
The breath is fundamentally important to calm us down - to keep the system easy, loose, and relaxed - and most importantly, to feed us with that really important oxygen rich blood to power our brains. The reason this is important is that when we get stressed, we tend to hold our breath. It means we hold our tummy. Contract our bits. Nothing moves, and we can't get a lot of oxygen into our body. When I ask you the question that you aren't expecting or the question that's really difficult or the one that you didn't prepare for, the body will go huup!
Then actually, the thing that we need to do then most is breathe, because we need all of that lovely oxygen rich blood in our head. When we hold onto the breath, the first thing we need to do is breathe out. Breath behind the voice is important to give your voice energy. And energy in your articulation is important to give your thoughts clarity. Make sure you energise both.
Lovely. Good. OK. Very nice. So we get that sense of movement, that sense of freedom, which releases the sound. Emotion is carried on the vowel. We express emotion through open vowel sounds. And the clearest way to explain this is, when a baby is unhappy, what do they do?
And what's the sound of the cry?
Wah! Open sound! Feed me! Change my nappy! And parents come running, and go, what's wrong? So it's really important when we're speaking with someone that we remember to use this balance of vowels and consonants that we match. I'm really, really excited by that. So there's a sense of this space, so someone can see that we care. Very different from, I'm really, really excited about that.
Make sure that you take time to open your window. As you're sitting in the waiting room outside, open up that window, extend your peripheral vision, become aware of the environment that you're in.
Going to work with a closed window and an open window. Walk around the room, and just notice what changes for you about how it feels to negotiate the furniture and the other person in the room. I think that we spent too long at work in closed window. Sometimes, for very good reason. I'm stressed out, I got a lot of work to do, don't bother me, I'm at my desk.
But I also think that when we go to that meeting or that interview, we are nervous obviously. So we go saying, oh, I hope I think I'm good enough and have I done all the thinking I need to and did they like the presentation I sent through and have I included all of that and have I done all of the things and, and, and, and, and. And what happens is, we come to the door, and we put our hand on the door handle, and we walk through when we are in our closed window mode. And it's really, really important that we open ourselves up into open window, so the first thing that people experience of us is someone who is curious.
Good to meet you.
Use eye contact to find your thoughts. Avoid wandering around as you try and think about what you want to say. As much as you can, stay connected to the people that you're speaking to.
There's bags of research that tells us that trust comes through the eyes. So if the first thing I see of you are low lids, then I don't get to see who you are. So remembering that when we come into the room, that we are entering in and taking our space... not in an aggressive way, but in a way which says that we are confident.
One thought, one breath. Deliver each thought with its own breath. The literal meaning of inspiration is to breathe in, so inspire each thought as a new idea.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God...
Very good. Yeah. We get the idea. How much sense did that make?
None. So there is a direct link between breath and sense. One breath per thought. Works the other way. One thought per breath. It is our verbal punctuation. If, in an interview setting, you can shift the focus away from, what are they going to think of me, to get the nerves away from ourselves, off ourselves... off am I good enough, am I smart enough, am I clever enough, all of that stuff... to thinking, well, how can I help them understand more? How can I help them understand more about me? Because then what you're doing is an act of generosity. We're giving someone something, and we don't have to perform so amazingly.
STAR is an excellent technique to use. So this is where you're going to describe the situation. I was brought in. The play wasn't going on time. It was going to run over, we were over budget, and it was going to be late. The task I took on was to pick this up, to divide the team into four, and get people to focus on their own particular area. The actions I took... I took, not we took... were to set out a project plan, to meet weekly, et cetera, et cetera. And as a result, we actually came in just over budget, but dead on time.
If I were to think about it again on reflection, actually what I would have done differently would have been maybe to start quicker and divide it into three teams, not five, because then we have fewer and to meet slightly more often. And you can even use those words, and people will be happy with that. If you say, well, the situation was ta, da, da. The tasks I took on were this. These were the actions we took X, Y, and Z. And as a result, we did this. Bang.
So interviews, all in the preparation. Think about the stories you're going to tell, the key skills and the experiences you want to get over. Think about using the STAR answers and having those ready. And do your homework and prepare on the organisation and the industry that you're going to interview with.
So the key message is don't wing it. Prepare and practice all the questions so that on the day, you're well-prepared.