Expert interview tips and techniques to get you that job
Via GQ Magazine : Expert interview tips and techniques to get you that job
Step up your interview game with expert interview tips and techniques from Rehearse It!
It’s 11am on a Friday and in a regal room in London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, I’m having a fake job interview with a fake job interviewer. Again and again. A film director is observing me, telling me after each dry run what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been asked to pretend this room is a lobby where I’ve just met my fake interviewer and we’re walking towards a nonexistent interview room. I’ve been told to make small talk and as I ask my fake potential employer about the statues in front of us she improvises back, reeling off some false history, gesticulating.
“OK, stop,” says the director. “That was good, but you weren’t mirroring enough. Let’s try it again and be more overt with your arm movements.” We go again and I swing my arms around in line with my interviewer’s as she talks. I feel ridiculous, but the director is happy. This, apparently, will help me get a job.
This is the mission at Rehearse It! (their exclamation mark): getting people hired. Since the company launched in March 2016, it says it has had 96 per cent success. It won’t get Joe Schmo into Nasa, but if you’re qualified and keep crashing down at interview hurdles, the people here can help. At one-day group workshops, you’ll be given a primer in the behavioural science that underlies what they teach, then undertake practical rehearsals that deconstruct the interview process and help you to become a shining star.
“Our performance is way more important than the content of what we’re saying,” says Rehearse It!’s erudite founder, Robin Roberts. “A powerful actor can say some lame things and come across as being a man of great gravitas and insight. Another guy can say cleverthings, but say them in a rubbish way and be judged as not knowing much.”
He speaks proudly of a 25-year-old client who was failing in his quest to become an asset manager because he found the interviews too stressful. After being put through his paces at Rehearse It!, he landed a corker.
Before setting up the company last year, Roberts spent two decades at an executive search firm, where he was a senior partner. There, he saw many board candidates “totally screw up their interviews”. Feedback would be that these candidates were hopeless; he knew that they were not. Intrigued, he began to research why it was happening, and began thinking about what he could do to help.
Back in my fake job interview, I’ve made it to the fake office. My interviewer, sitting opposite me, asks about my journey in. I was genuinely late thanks to a slew of delayed trains. She tells me she rather likes train delays as it gives her more time to sit and think before getting to work. I disagree (the delay had made me rather grumpy), but after cutting us off, the director tells me I shouldn’t have. Negative grumbling isn’t going to do me any favours, he says – I need to find some positive agreement to start forming that bond. We go again.
“I’m a zoologist by training,” explains Roberts of Rehearse It!’s behavioural science. At the workshop I attend, there’s much talk of research gathered from university psychology departments. “I’m really interested in the science in animal behaviour,” continues Roberts. “So I did a deep-dive literature review of the research about it, about how people come to judgements about other people. Influencing behaviour. And then I realised, of course, we are homo sapiens, we are animals. We are a highly social species and we respond in a very predictable way to certain behaviours in front of us.”
This information is presented to us at the workshop, where we’re told how crucial first impressions are. Research from Princeton in 2006 found that people judge us on our looks in one tenth of a second. In half a second, they’ve judged us on our looks and voice together. After 15 minutes in our company, major decisions are made. These are deep-rooted instincts, says Roberts. Frankly, it is a bit depressing. You’d hope powerful people in the position of hiring potentially powerful people would know better than to succumb to such primal reflexes. Surely Roberts finds these statistics dispiriting?
“Well, yes and no,” he laughs. “I’m not suggesting for a minute that anyone makes a hiring decision in a tenth of a second. But I am saying we can deploy things and nudge an interviewer in our favour. Say there’s a hiring manager – let’s call her Sarah – and recognise that because Sarah is human, she cannot avoid extrapolating a huge amount of information from hands. She is human because of that. For her species, hands are the most important tool. She’s also a member of the ultimate social species. And so for her it is life and death to choose a member of her team who is useful and competent. Hands have nothing to do with the complex job you’re going for, but it’s well proven that, albeit in a subconscious way, she will extrapolate a lot of good things about you if you show her your hands. So if you want the job, don’t sit on your hands. Show them to her!”
This body language, says Roberts, is vital. In my fake job interview, I’m told to relax more into my chair – don’t slouch, but don’t lean forward nervously, which I wasn’t aware I was doing. The man giving me these suggestions is Adam Batchelor, a young film director hired by Rehearse It! to train enrollees. After collating his research for Rehearse It!, Roberts had “a great epiphany” to headhunt and form a team of performing arts specialists to work with his science and help to polish performances.
“I told them, ‘All we’re going to do is teach what the science says works. It’s not a drama class,'” he says. “And that was genius, because the combination of the science and the performing arts has given us such a high success rate.” Batchelor is one of a handful of teachers, which also includes casting directors Michele Leach and Janey Fothergill, and actor Felicity Montagu, aka Alan Partridge’s long-suffering assistant, Lynn, who can’t join us today, presumably stuck in a traffic jam on the Chiswick Roundabout.
The first thing the Rehearse It! team do with recruits is give us our own starring role. Their version of “shock of capture” has them videoing us going through all the motions of a job interview, from sitting in reception, to walking to the room, doing the interview, then leaving. We’re shown one they made earlier: before and after videos of a Rehearse It! attendee, the first as he started the day, the second at the end, after his training. The former video shows the suited man behaving perfectly naturally and normally – no great disaster. The second, though, puts it in perspective – now, his confidence shines, his small talk is charming, his presentation as he reels off his achievements clear and digestible.
“The military have done huge studies into this,” Roberts explains to me later. “They use shock of capture to train airmen how to deal with being captured. It’s this massive physiological thing: we go small, blood pressure rises, digestion stops and we begin to lose the ability to think, because we are in genuine physical jeopardy. And the same physiological effects happen when we’re in a job interview, but in a milder way. We’re obviously not in physical jeopardy – the jeopardy is that we will get a no and that causes us stress because it will have a negative impact on our professional future.”
It can certainly seem like life or death, sometimes. “Exactly. I don’t claim that a client pitch meeting is the equivalent of being kidnapped. But the same physiological effects are happening and it’s the way we respond that causes our counterpart to choose someone else.”
I began my day at Rehearse It! feeling relatively confident, perfectly capable of handling myself in the right job interview. And while I did feel like a bit of a donkey with the physical mirroring and the sycophantic small talk, I left a few hours later with extra skills and reminders of how important it is to carry yourself; how subtle, seemingly unimportant demeanours and gestures can make a world of difference.
Top ten interview tips
Standing in reception
Don’t: Project swagger. Your masculinity really is not that impressive.
Do: Project positivity and confidence.
Sitting in reception
Don’t: Slouch with your legs spread. It suggests arrogance.
Do: Sit upright, with a level gaze. It shows you’re interested.
Your personal information
Don’t: Assume that they’ve read all of your CV.
Do: Offer to give a concise rundown of your CV, presented in digestible chunks.
What to do with your thumbs
Don’t: Hide or clasp your thumbs in your palms – it makes you look nervous.
Do: Keep your thumbs visible – this denotes confidence.
What to do with your hands
Don’t: Rub your face during an interview. It shows you’re stressed.
Do: Keep your hands on the desk – it helps the interviewer to engage.
Walking to the interview room
Don’t: Walk in silence – their judgement has already begun.
Do: Make small talk – make it comfortable for your interviewer.
Sitting in the interview
Don’t: Lean forward. This means you’re nervous.
Do: Sit up straight – relaxed but attentive.
“You don’t have to do too much for too long to have a positive impact,” says Rehearse It!’s Robin Roberts. “First impressions really do count”.
Nervous body language can reflect badly on you during an interview.
Don’t check your phone when the interview’s over, keep the process going. It’s not over until you’re out of sight.
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