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Making an impact at interviews

In our coaching practice and on our personal effectiveness programmes we often help people who are getting ready for interviews. These could be interviews for new jobs, or meetings with new supporters, or pitches. Here, Yvette Gyles, =mc Director and coach explains how to prepare for such meetings with confidence.

Why we need to make an impact in interviews

Interviews are tough. They are also very strange. Interviewing people for new roles, or for new partnerships, or for consultancy, is a very common approach. This is despite the fact that interviews are often not very effective – its hard to get to know someone in a formal, nerve-inducing setting. These days, interviews tend to focus on structured, competency-based questions – designed to remove bias from the process by ensuring all applicants answer the same set of questions and are judged against the same set of criteria. Competency-based means assessing skills, knowledge and abilities rather than personality or personal characteristics. In other words, interviewers are looking to answer two fundamental questions: can you do this job, and do it well? Who is likely to do it the best? Therefore, your job as the interviewee is to make it easy for them to answer those questions – yes I can do the job and you should pick me. This is why you need to make an impact – to be memorable, and to stand out. We can do this by preparing well, answering questions well, and following up well.

Getting ready

To get ready for an interview, it is useful to do an assessment of yourself in relation to the specific job you are being interviewed for. Try the following steps:

Step 1: Qualities

List the qualities the interviewers are looking for, define them and then identify examples of how you demonstrate that quality. For example:

  • For excellent communication skills, write down what ‘excellent’ means to you – such as being able to communicate complex ideas to different audiences to promote awareness and interest in your organisation’s cause.
  • Then write down a time when you delivered that with impact – such as a presentation you gave to volunteers resulting in an additional 10% sign up rate.

Step 2: Concerns

Now look at things from a different angle – what concerns might the interviewers have about you, or weaknesses you know about yourself and how will you address those. For example:

  • You have only been in your job for a short time – articulate the experiences and learning you have had in the role, and how they relate to the role you are being interviewed for. Include a story that shows the impact of your learning.
  • You know that you struggle to delegate – and in knowing this you use a structured approach to evaluate your work by asking ‘can someone else do this’ and ‘why am I holding on to this’. Include a story which shows the impact of this on someone else’s development.

Repeat these steps for every quality and every concern.

Answering questions

The number one rule about answering questions is to answer the specific question that has been asked, not the one you were hoping would be asked. Identify whether the interviewer is asking about a task area and therefore your knowledge of that task. Or a process area, and therefore your skill and ability in delivering in that area. If it helps, write it down on a notepad. Use this structure to answer the question:

  1. Give a fact and a story: this means providing context and information, before explaining your own experiences. For example:
    • Question: this role requires excellent time management. How do you manage your time?
    • Answer: My current role is really varied, and I need to juggle multiple demands and stakeholders. For example, a recent event I was leading had very tight time frames and I had to adapt it to an online format due to the pandemic.
  2. Explain what you did: this means demonstrating personal responsibility and not talking about what other people did. For example:
    • I approached this by firstly revising my project plan and identifying key milestones leading up to the event, and afterwards. I created a task list and dependencies for each. Each day, I revisited this plan to identified both important tasks and urgent tasks that I needed to move forward on – taking into account changes and stakeholders
  3. Explain the impact of your example: this goes beyond a recounting of what happened and helps the interviewers understand why your experience matters. For example:
    • In doing this, I was able to ensure the event ran on time and I was able to adapt to an evolving situation. The stakeholders all felt reassured and knew what they needed to do as well.
  4. Demonstrate learning: this helps the interviewers see how you can transfer this experience into a new role. For example:
    • This was a really important learning moment for me – to be able to flex and change to an emerging situation whilst moving forward on the event plan. A plan is really useful to manage time, and so is reviewing it every day.

Following up

No matter what the outcome from your interview, you can use it as a learning experience. This helps you prepare for future interviews and even meetings. Always ask for feedback to help you develop your technique and build your confidence, ideally verbally so you can have a conversation with the interviewer. Try these questions:

  • What did I do well?
  • What could I do differently?
  • What did others do that I could learn from?
  • If you got the role: what are the next steps?
  • If you did not get the role: what are my options for applying again in the future?

Always end by thanking the interviewer for their time. You never know when you will meet again, so leave a lasting positive impression.

What’s next?

If you found this useful, and would like to know more about developing your confidence in interviewing, visit our page on Outplacement.

If you would like to discuss how we can support you on a one-to-one basis through coaching, call 020 7978 1516 to speak to one of our experienced coaches or email

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...