About four months ago my work place put out an advert for a new staff member to run the Performing Arts sessions at the centre.
The Director and the Arts Manager at the time decided to hold an audition-style interview whereby the four shortlisted candidates would get to meet and interact with the team during a regular youth club session, before being ushered away for the more conventional one-to-one interviews.
The idea was to casually observe how well the candidates interacted with both staff and young people and how they fitted in to the culture of the organisation.
All four candidates were young females, well-dressed and varied in personality. They were allowed to roam the whole building, speak to whoever they wanted and take part in any activities they fancied.
Three of the girls played it safe and hovered mainly downstairs around the performing arts area where most of the staff were. Girl number four had a different idea – I found her upstairs in the music room laughing and joking with our music tutor and two young people, looking very much at home and not like an interviewee at all.
Needless to say, girl number four got the job.
I later found out that she had excelled in her one-to-one interview, but where she really stood out was in the meet the team segment where she made a great first impression on most of the team.
Are you the right fit?
Meet the team interviews often take place where the job position on offer requires working closely with the rest of the team to effectively carry out the role. In cases like these, it’s important for the management to see that you’re the right fit for the job – i.e. not only exceptional on your own, but also able to get along with other members of the team.
One of my very first jobs was as a Sales Assistant in a sports shop many years ago. I turned up fifteen minutes early to the interview and instead of being sent to a quiet room in the back to wait for my turn with the manager, I was led to a cushioned seat in the middle of the shop floor with staff and customers bustling past me every minute.
Unknown to me at the time, the manager wasn’t busy with another candidate as I had thought, he was in fact watching on CCTV to see what I would do in that situation.
When I received the phone call the next day to tell me I got the job, the manager explained that what really made me stand out from the other candidates was that I made the effort to communicate with the other team members while I waited and made a good first impression in the process.
Five ways to a good first impression
It’s important to make a good first impression at an interview, but even more so when you’re meeting the people you’re likely to be working with later on. The next time you find yourself shortlisted for a meet the team interview, here are a few things you can do to stand out:
1) Be enthusiastic – if you don’t really want the job, don’t waste your time turning up to the interview because it’s hard to fake enthusiasm. Employers want to employ people who want to work for them so it makes sense that you demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role.
2) Be nice to everyone you meet – your interviewer may request feedback from that one team member you may have overlooked because of their seemingly ‘low’ position, so be careful to leave a positive first impression on your trail.
3) Remember names – not everyone is good at doing this, but where possible make a genuine effort to remember the names of team members you meet – not just because it makes people feel important and valued when you remember their name (according to Dale Carnegie), but because it’s a nice and simple gesture that demonstrates how attentive and interested you are in the other person.
4) Ask questions – interviews are supposed to be a two-way process so use this opportunity to ask questions to find out more about the role from other team members, and also to find out if it is definitely the right job for you (if it’s not, find the door and use it).
5) Be yourself – employers are looking to see if you can fit in to their organisation so it’s important to be yourself. Regardless of how badly you want a job, don’t be tempted to settle for a role where you will have to spend the majority of your time pretending to be someone else – it gets tiring after a while and can lead to unnecessary work stress.
And of course don’t forget to dress appropriately and smile – the simplest of things can make the biggest difference when it comes to standing out.
Your turn: What’s the best or worst interview experience you’ve had to date? Let me know in the comments…