5 Interview Skills that Win

You’ve written a compelling curriculum vitae and you’ve won the right to interview.   Awesome – but that’s only the beginning.

How many times have you won the right to interview, only to crash and burn at the interview itself?  Feel nervous?  Unprepared? You know the feeling….”oh heck I didn’t think they’d ask me that!”

The reality is that more job applicants fail an interview than succeed.  That’s just simple common sense.  However – there are some who more often than not win the interview stage too, and go on to negotiate for a new opportunity.  How do they do it?  Are they more prepared?  Do they position themselves more effectively?

What makes a successful interviewee?

It’s similar to a successful Bid Manager.  You’ll find that the successful Bid Manager always only ever bids on the opportunities their business is prepared for are sure they have a good chance of winning and know they present applicable value.   Simple.  They don’t bid for every job.  They target prospects, capture opportunities and present winning value propositions.  So they are prepared, and they are positioned more effectively to win more than they lose.  More than 80% in fact.  As a candidate you are in exactly the same position – so start treating the process as a Bid Manager would.

As a candidate you’ve already invested significant time and energy (not to mention nerves!) in getting to the interview stage. It’d be a shame to sabotage this effort by not investing significantly in preparing for the interview itself.

Check out my previous blog “Winning The Right To Interview”

Sure your career coach will discuss body language, dress code, preparation, research etc.  Absolutely – these are important.  However – just getting these aspects right is not enough.  What are the skills you need to learn and apply?  There are many – and I cover these all off within the coaching modules and tools I provide to my career-coaching clients.

However – the 5 key interview skills you need to develop are:

1.  Listening for opportunities: Coded messages may signal positive or negative reactions to your answers from the interviewer.  Qualify where appropriate the question you’re answering and/or secondary questions.

2.  Staying on message: Keep your answers focused.  Address the question with relative experience, key learnings including benefits delivered.  All in the context of the requirements of the role you are applying for.

3.  Being forward focused:  The interviewer has read your CV and knows what you have done and has a view of the value you will deliver.  The successful interviewee will translate their achievements and key learnings into forward benefits and value propositions addressing the challenges of the prospective employer.  Rather than it being an opportunity for you to brag about you – it’s an opportunity to demonstrate the reason why the interviewer needs to hire you.  Yes, it’s about them!

4.  Researching: Be informed about the organisation you’re hoping to join. What is their strategic roadmap, media releases / success stories, values etc?  What are the projects they have coming up?  What is the profile of their organisation in their sector?  Who is their competition?  There are plenty of areas that will add credibility to your answer / opening statement about why you want to join company ABC.

5.  Selling compelling value:  This is often the most challenging and most alien concept to many candidates.  Understandably so – as most people can’t sell.  Even sales people.  It’s also the area of most interest to the prospective employer.  So this is where I’ll provide the most advice to help you along the way.

Selling yourself is an interesting area to explore. A recent study by a US Bid Management company noted that approximately 80% of sales people shouldn’t be in ‘sales’. i.e. they can’t sell effectively.  So how do those of us who are not sales specialists sell ourselves effectively?  Well, it’s not about being arrogant and over promising.  It is about knowing your prospective employer, knowing your stuff (subject matter expertise), and being able to translate experience into future value for your prospective employer.  So maybe you’re just starting out, maybe you’ve just left school or have just graduated with a tertiary qualification.  You don’t think you’re a subject matter expert (SME)?  Showing initiative and demonstrating a keen desire to learn will indicate to the interviewer that you are at least capable of becoming an expert – you have the will.  You have your degree.  You are a ‘finisher’.

If you believe you are a SME – or have the will and capability to develop expertise, invest time up front getting to know your prospective employers challenges, their strategy, their success stories and their ‘real needs’ (hot buttons).  Develop your compelling value propositions which will support the prospective employers ‘hot buttons’, those that discriminate you from your competitor candidates – backed up by evidence and examples.  Align the compelling benefits of your previous achievements with the hot buttons of the prospective employer.  Discuss ‘how’ you will be (or will become) their SME. Keep in mind that examples which have little or no relevance will not resonate. So to reiterate point 2, stay on message.

That horrible question!:“Tell me about a time when you have failed to ….”  Ouch!  Didn’t see that coming!  This is one of the killer questions and the one that can have the most impact on the outcome of the interview.  Actually, the interviewer wants to know about your scars, your experience, your initiative and ability to learn from your mistakes.  If you don’t have ‘that’ scar think about one that may be applicable and you could transfer your key learnings from.  When discussing a failure or challenge, ensure you articulate key learnings, not just what failed or challenged you. Those mistakes and key learnings demonstrate the value gained through the experience your prospective employer is looking for. Without the learnings – there is unlikely to be any perceived benefit from your experience as a supposed SME.


“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
John Powell.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”
Albert Einstein.

All important:

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice.
  2. Speak from the heart.
  3. Enjoy the experience!

Need more career advice? 


Visit MyCareerBrand.net for more helpful tips on winning interviews

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Contact: www.MyCareerBrand.net Phone: +64 21 666 807, +64 9 5222802 e-mail: info@mycareerbrand.net Craig McAlpine's Linked In profile: http://goo.gl/OxFOKZ MISSION Working with Job Search Candidates to build their go-to-market strategy, develop powerful marketing collateral such as their CV, LinkedIn profile and social media presence, and ultimately to secure a new role that is not only rewarding but also assists them on their career journey. EXPERTISE Career Coaching - LinkedIn Training - LinkedIn Optimisation - Personal Branding - Job Hunt: Go to Market Strategy and Collateral - CV design and preparation - Interview skills INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE - Professional Services - Information Technology - Banking and Finance - Recruitment

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Posted in Communications, Curriculum Vitae, CV, Interview Skills, jobs, Recruitment

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