It isn’t the best qualified that gets the job, but the best prepared
There is a misconception that prevails in the minds of most graduates that it is the best qualified person that gets the job, but this is simply untrue.
Others believe that is the person that is good at speaking that has the upper hand, but again this is not necessarily so. The secret to improving your interview skills is not to be the best qualified person or to be good at speaking. It is not to be good at answering or asking questions either, although you need these skills, too. It is to be prepared.
Qualifications are important and speaking is an asset but the graduate that shows he or she has prepared well for the interview, and the position being advertised, has a far better chance of impressing an interviewer than anyone else. I cannot stress this enough.
Breaking it down: graduate interview skills
Put it this way. What is an interview but a collection of bits of information about specific topics. People often forget this. Whether you are a school leaver or graduate with dreams of becoming an investment banker or Tory MP, if you can ‘decode’ the whole interview experience and break down its constituent parts, all of which are learnable, it will help you hugely.
An employer needs to know a number of specifics about an interviewee, particularly:
- What their skills are (both hard and soft)
- Why they want to join that particular organisation in that particular industry
Now, while you need to be able to string together a sentence and to be skilled in both answering and asking questions at the interview, the real deal clincher is going to be how much information you have gathered in preparation to do this. This is going to determine your ability to answer the questions, the questions you ask in return and the enthusiasm and confidence that you show while doing both. This latter point is of utmost importance because it is through this that the employer becomes convinced that you are really interested in the position, the company and the industry or field and not just reeling off facts.
Preparation improves your interview skills
The ability to interview well is the result of acquiring a number of specific skills and the ability to articulate them in a clear and concise manner but juggling it all can feel a bit like looking for the needle in the haystack. With so many skills to think about it is no wonder that people find it hard at first. Preparation, if you like, helps you drill down to what really matters. It gets rid of the cluttered thinking that accompanies so many when it comes to being interviewed.
Whether it’s 4,000 people applying for a job with Costa Coffee or 160 people chasing a single graduate vacancy at Merrill Lynch, it’s a very tough and competitive world out there.
However, the great news is that there is much that you can do to improve your prospects and to out shine other candidates at the interview, simply by preparing.