Interviews: How to Shine like a STAR21st June 2021
Interviews, what to expect and how to succeed at them could be a book length article. In fact people have written books about this. I want to try and break it down into easy chunks of advice that you can implement and see a difference straight away. You usually only get one chance to interview for a company. Although that in itself may be a source of pressure, it is also a source of great opportunity and you can research, learn and practice for this coming day. Treat getting a job like a job itself and you will succeed through diligence and insight.
Before your Interview
First you found out what you want to do. Check. Then you worked on your CV and applied for the job. Check. Now you have an interview. Check and Congratulations! Here’s some advice we want you to know:
Do your Research
Research the company, what they do, their culture (or at least what you can see of it in the public domain), why you want to work for them, they will ask you this question, be ready!
As in what’s on your CV (have a copy with you). For every skill you have on there have an example ready demonstrating when and how you have used it. This applies to the job advert too.
With a friend, a family member, yourself in the mirror. Any opportunity you get. Answer questions you think will come up. Notice how you answer as well as how much eye contact you make, your posture, tone of voice and how polite you are and then work to improve if needed.
Plan your Route
Plan your route, if your interview is face to face being 10 minutes early will allow you to go in composed, calm and confident. If you are running late, don’t panic: just communicate.
Prepare your Space
Chances are interviews will still be virtual in the first instance so prepare for this. Your positioning, lighting, what is seen in the background, You want to be eye level so a connection can be made. Dress smart like your interview is face-to-face.
During your Interview
Calm and Considered
Although an interview can be an adrenaline rush of momentum you want to access your pre-frontal cortex and let that clever part of your brain work in your favour, rather than the instantaneous ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response triggered when the cortisol pathway is ruling the roost. To do this: slow your breathing down, you do not need to run away from this ‘threat’. Concentrating on your toes or rubbing your fingers tips together, having a glass of water to sip from, these are examples of techniques to give you pause to achieve this calmer state. Thus allowing for a considered, more accurate response, rather than an anxious brain blurt.
Remember to Listen
Actively. This means not interrupting the interviewer, paying close attention, you can make notes and should be able to summarise back and ask any clarifying questions you need to. It is not just politeness (although it is polite and respectful) the reason why this is important is, one, they will be giving you information about the role, the company, information that will help you when you start working there (An interview is a two-way process), two, you are working in companies based in the scientific industries: they will all have procedures to adhere to and being able to listen and absorb information and learn in real time is a great skill; demonstrate it in your interview.
Most questions in science-based interviews will be competency based and will have longer behavioral aspects where using the STAR method is an ideal way of including what the interviewers want to find out in your answer in a story-telling format. Humans live for stories, we love them, we remember them. It is how we connect. They have to be non-fiction in an interview, obviously. and short, with a point. STAR stands for:
- Situation: set the scene, what was the situation and when did it take place?
- Task: what was the task and the goal?
- Action: what did you do?
- Result: what was the result? What did you learn and what was the outcome.
An Interview is a Two-way Process
I have mentioned this already but it is worth saying again because you should have questions you want to ask your interviewers. Always come with questions you’ve prepared, you may think of different ones in the interview itself but it is always included in a standard interview format. Finish your interview having made a memorable impact with connection and re-iterate if you are still interested in the role.
After your Interview
Follow up and feedback with yourself, your recruitment consultant if required and the company as you’ve agreed. You want to cement and reflect on what you learnt in your interview. What works, what doesn’t. If you find out you were successful then congratulations! If not, never fear, as you’ve had the gift of practice and you will always learn things from the interview process, mostly about yourself. Take a little time then dust yourself off and try again.