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3/20/16 - How to impress in a tough job interview

It can be easy to lose your nerve when faced with difficult interviewers. But there are steps you can take to win them over and land the job 

Even if you’ve prepared thoroughly, a tough interviewer can really knock your confidence and have you doubting your abilities.

So when you’re faced with a barrage of difficult questions from a seemingly stone-faced interviewer, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your skills and experiences shine through.

Remember, they called you in
An employer wouldn’t waste time interviewing you if they didn’t think you were a good fit for the role. If they’ve invited you into their office, they are interested in hiring you and that should be a huge confidence boost. They have clearly been impressed by the strength of your CV, so you are just there to confirm what they’ve read and remove any doubts they may have.

No matter how bored the interviewer is acting, you should always bear in mind that they have invited you in with the intention of hiring you. Often a tricky interviewer is just putting on a false persona to judge how you react under pressure, so don’t let that make you forget how valuable you are.

Counter your weaknesses
Most employers will have their reservations about you, as sometimes the strongest candidate won’t have every single attribute that is required. Even the kindest of interviewers will ask about your weaknesses, but a tough interviewer will really grill you on them. This is where preparation really pays off.

Before attending the interview, you should review the job specification and identify any requirements where your skills don’t quite match up. Once you understand your shortcomings for the role, you can begin to plan how to answer any difficult questions around them.

Ideally, you should be able to demonstrate what actions you will take to minimise the impact of your weaknesses and also what you are doing to build your skills in that area. For example, if you don’t have a particular qualification that’s being asked for, you should explain how your work experience provides you with a similar or greater level of knowledge. Also show that you are taking steps towards gaining that qualification. By taking this approach you are meeting the issue head on and quickly minimising any worries the interviewer might have about you.

Control the pace
When faced with an aggressive interview style it can be easy to become flustered and rush your answers. However, this is exactly the sort of thing the interviewer doesn’t want to see. As a potential employer, they want to ensure that you can keep your cool when the going gets tough. If you feel rushed and pressured by the interviewer, then take the control back by setting your own pace for the interview.

One of the easiest ways to maintain your composure is to repeat the question back to the interviewer slowly and confidently. It calms the tone of the interview and gives you a few extra seconds to think about your answer.

Stroke their egos
Even the scariest of interviewers are human – they have feelings just like the rest of us. If you want them to drop their guard, try showing a genuine interest in their work. At an appropriate opportunity, ask them questions about the work their team does or how many staff they manage. People enjoy talking about themselves and their achievements, so if you can get the interviewer to open up, you will start to build a rapport with them and create a more relaxed atmosphere. Try to keep the questions relevant to the role you are applying for to avoid going off topic.

Prove you’ve not been shaken
A lot of candidates will be discouraged by a gruelling interview – they assume that it didn’t go well or even decide they no longer want to pursue the job. For this reason, most hard-nosed interviewers do not receive follow up emails from their interviewees. So break the mould and send a friendly, professional note thanking them for their time and saying that you enjoyed meeting them.

This will reassure them that the pressure of the interview didn’t scare you off and that you’re still keen. An email will also give you a chance to cover any topics that were missed in the interview and dispel any doubts the interviewer had about you.

Tough interviews can be stressful and challenging, but if you can make it through unscathed, you will prove your resilience and professionalism. Remember that a job interview is also a chance for you to assess the company and your future potential colleagues. So if you truly believe an interviewer was being rude and arrogant, rather than just acting tough to test you, then maybe he or she wouldn’t make such a great future boss after all.

Andrew Fennell is a recruiter and founder of CV writing company StandOut CV