Having been asked to contribute some tips to a careers magazine I thought I’d replicate them on this blog too.
I have always remembered the first time that someone I was interviewing asked if they could make notes. Of course my reply was ‘yes’. Indeed I was impressed that they were evidently prepared, had asked my permission and noted down only key facts. Their notebook also contained prompts for questions they asked of me later in the interview. This took place 20 years ago. I still remember it because it was the first time. But looking back I don’t recall many other candidates for jobs doing the same thing and when I was in practice I must have interviewed dozens and dozens of people.
So that’s my top tip. Remember that an interview is quite distinct from sitting an exam. I explained this to a young family friend recently before she attended her first ever job interview. I explained that she wasn’t “cheating” if she needed to check her notes before asking a question. I also stressed that it can look very professional to make notes during an interview as long as you don’t lose too much eye contact. So only try to note down key points. You can always supplement the notes later.
Tip number two is something that I would do if I were ever again an interviewee. I would look up the interviewer on the web. I’d check the firm’s website, I’d look them up on Google and on LinkedIn. I’m assuming that you will have already checked out the firm or company online before applying for the job or when the interview is arranged. But these days you can go a step further and look up the interviewer too.
I always try to check people out online before I attend pre-planned meetings. I note down a couple of salient facts and may use these or refer directly to the online profile during the meeting. This can help you prepare for the meeting as you may find a photo of the person, you’ll remove a little of the uncertainty and you’ll often pick up a couple of things that will help you in building rapport with your interviewer. But you do have to be careful when you do this. Not everyone I meet is net savvy (and the same will be true of some interviewers). It’s all too easy to freak someone out by revealing how much information you have found out about them online. And that’s something to avoid doing during an interview (and indeed at any time). So be careful!