If you’ve decided to move your career up a notch then you should be getting some interviews quite soon. It can be daunting, especially if you haven’t been interviewed for a while. You may feel you’re preparing for a battle with two adversaries facing each other but the latest thinking is that both sides should use the interview as a chance to have a proper conversation, to find out as much about each other as possible and even share ideas.
But you will want to make sure that you get your points across and if you are unlucky you may get someone who likes to exert control, so it helps to have some tips up your sleeve. I’ve been talking to communications expert Adam Batstone @adambat who frequently briefs clients facing the media in his role at PR company MHP.
Adam what’s the first thing you need to know about taking control of an interview situation?
It’s important that you are very clear about what the core messages are that you want to get across. If you compare it with preparing for an exam, you have spent time revising interesting and relevant things to say about a subject and this is your chance to say them. The interview is your opportunity to show the interviewer that you have done your homework and you have sensible and insightful opinions or experience to bring to bear. As soon as you get the interview on to home territory you will talk more fluently and relax
It can be stressful in there, is there an easy way to remember what to do?
Following on from the previous point, the stress comes out of the fact that in an interview you feel as though you are on the receiving end – more interrogation than conversation and that’s uncomfortable. But focus on the fact that the interviewer is not trying to embarrass or humiliate you – they want to get a true impression of your abilities to enable them to make a sound decision. The comparison I give for clients who may be facing a difficult media interview is to think about a place of safety or island which gives you time and confidence to collect your thoughts, calm down and get the situation back on track. If the question has put you into deep water – make for the island. What have you prepared which is most relevant? Don’t start guessing at answers that will make you panic more, if you cannot answer a particular question, acknowledge that, explain that it’s not a situation you have had experience of and talk about the related issue which is most relevant.
How do I make sure I don’t leave without getting my points across?
The French have a phrase l’esprit de l’escalier which broadly means the “Doh!” moment when you are leaving a room and suddenly remember what you had meant to say. There’s no easy solution to this problem, suffice it to say that good preparation reduces the chances of you forgetting key points. However you do not want to rely on memorising a script. That will be a big effort, stop you from listening to the questions and will sound very odd. When you are preparing, think about your “islands” the subjects you know about and can talk confidently about. For each island prepare three or four sub-points; examples, evidence, relevant experience – small batches of information are easier to master than long lists.
Any other bright ideas?
The best interviews are conversations – your answers are only a fraction of what is going on. You are being considered on many levels and the more human you come across, the better. The interviewer is thinking: “Can this person do the job? And do I want to share an office with them?” Be a human – smile, eye contact, empathise. And when in doubt – head for your island.
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