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How to Excel in Interviews

Written by: Matt Craven
Published on: Dec 23, 2021

female applicant having job interview
Photo credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Having worked in the recruitment and career development industry for many years, one thing that has struck me as being particularly interesting is that many people are happy to admit that their resume is not quite hitting the mark, but seldom will someone admit to having weak interview skills. Conversely, many job seekers feel that they are extremely adept when attending interviews.  

Now don’t get me wrong, to succeed in one’s career requires confidence and exceptional communication skills, but these traits should not be confused with strong interview technique. Simply being able to talk confidently and authoritatively will not win the day when interviewing for a top job – there’s much more to it than that. 

Think of it this way, does anyone ever become outstanding at something without a great deal of time and effort? Think about all the top sports stars, whether it be Williams, James, Donald, Abrea, Hamilton, Rousey or Ronaldo – they were born with talent, but it was coaching and practice that turned them into world class performers.

If you want to become a world class performer in the interview room (and that’s what you will need to be if you are applying for top jobs) then without coaching and practice, you will never reach the level that some of your peers will.

Here’s three crucial tactics that will help you to become world-class in interviews.

There’s an “I” in team! 

One might assume that successful professionals are all forthright, ultra-confident individuals who are very much at home selling themselves to a potential employer, but the truth is, many job seekers are more understated, and those of this disposition often have difficulty talking about themselves.

What I mean by this, is they find it difficult talking about “I” and will default to talking about “we”.

I know we are all conditioned to believe that there is no “I” in team, but in the interview room, talking about “we” is a real issue.

It may be tempting to discuss your team’s actions and achievements, but the interviewer wants to know what you took ownership of, what your actions were and what you achieved. The only way to communicate this is to talk about “I” (that’s “you” for the avoidance of doubt). 

You have two ears! 

When we reach a certain stage in our career and indeed life, we often become managers, parents, coaches or mentors. Of course, this is not a bad thing, but the issue is that it leads to being conditioned to assume the role of leader i.e., the one giving instructions rather than taking them. In short, many people become good at talking and bad at listening.

This often manifests itself in interviews where the person being interviewed doesn’t fully listen to the question – they are itching to talk so much that they simply hear words and phrases and then all of a sudden, their thoughts are fizzing in their heads and words are falling out of their mouth. They talk confidently and authoritatively for five minutes on some subject, but guess what? They didn’t answer the question and demonstrate that they have the skills or experience that the question was designed to explore! 

To succeed in interviews, it is important to resist the natural urge to speak! Listen intently to the question, appraise its purpose and meaning, and give an answer that proves you have the skill and ability that the interviewer wants to hear about.

It’s all about YOU! 

To many people, interview preparation revolves around company research, even financial due diligence, researching the people who are interviewing you, learning about the company and reading the job description several times. Don’t get me wrong, these are all valuable, and I whole heartedly recommend them, but if your preparation only revolves around these areas then there’s a big hole in your preparation, and that area is you!

Think of it this way, if you were hired to sell a company’s product, you could be the best sales person in the world, but without having in-depth product knowledge, you will probably sell very little.

It’s the same with interviews – without having knowledge of the product you are selling, you are likely to fail, and in this scenario the product is you!

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming you know yourself well. You may know yourself on a personal level, but very few people know themselves professionally at the level required to excel in a challenging interview.

The most important preparation you can do is to learn yourself. Map out all your skills, experiences, projects and accomplishments, and make sure that you can recall key events that have happened in your career that prove that you have each and every skill and competency that are likely to be explored in an interview.

For information on how you can receive some 1-2-1 interview coaching and practice, please reach out to us over here at CVIA Careers on, quoting JCWCFP to receive a 15% discount.

Matt Craven is Managing Director of The CV Interview Advisors