We are constantly interviewing people. Our panel is known for their tough approach and high standards, but for good reason – we make great appointments.

There are some ‘interview rules’ we adhere to and if you breach any rule in your interview, won’t appoint you … even if we really, really want to. “Our goal is to never have to pay the wrong person, because the amount will always be too much, no matter how little it is,” said our CEO,Nikki Maritz.

Over the years we’ve developed a knack for picking the right people and we do it by using a few key ‘interview rules’.  I wanted to find out more, to see how this can help you in your next interview.

Rule 1 – Stick to the application instruction (really)
We like to ask for a 3-page CV and a cover letter. Why? “If you can’t even follow the first instruction you receive, how will you do your job successfully,” says Nikki. We only shortlist candidates who adhere to our application instructions. Any applicant that does not adhere to this, goes straight to the bin.

Rule 2 – When asked to do homework, pay attention!
We are fans of asking shortlisted candidates to do some homework. This separates the serious candidates from the disinterested ones. Most candidates fall short at this point. “You’d be surprised how careless people are when doing their assignment,” says Nikki.

The truth is that everything hinges on how well you do this assignment. It’s also an ideal opportunity to showcase the skills you’ve been selling in the interview. “Often, I get a very quick response, but the work is rife with errors. This is a sure indicator of how you will perform on the job,” Nikki explains.

Rule 3:  Plan for the last 5 minutes – everything that happens before that might not count
We place a lot of emphasis on a candidate’s ‘end game’. We declare when there’s five minutes left of the interview and then watch the candidate like a hawk. In this unguarded moment, a candidate often reveals more than they intended.

In the last 5 minutes, candidates do one of two things, they either fumble or shine.

Rule 4: Make sure your references are prepped and contactable
Failing to do reference checks is one of the most expensive errors an employer can make. We always do reference checks on shortlisted candidates. But sometimes we can’t reach any of the references listed, or the reference seems weak, ill-informed or not senior enough.

“Providing a peer as a reference, isn’t ideal,” says Nikki,” rather provide a manager.”  It’s also good practice to ask someone if you can put them up as a reference on your CV. When it is likely they will be contacted after your interview, then inform so they know to expect a call or email. It’s the right thing to do.

Rule 5: Embrace the pregnant pause
In the interview, it’s fine to take a moment to think about your answer. It shows you can listen, evaluate and craft a response. We call that moment the ‘pregnant pause’. It’s filled with potential and the promise of a great answer. Answer too quickly and you might deliver an ill-conceived response and fumble your way through it. Taking a moment before you answer an interview question is often a sign of intelligence and great bosses often hire intelligence over skill.

Rule 6: Golden Rule – Do you have any questions for me? Watch out! It’s a trick question.
As absurd as it might sound, we never appoint someone who does not ask us a question at the end of the interview. This is the deal breaker, no matter how impressed we are with you. The level of your questions gives away the level of the candidate.  The golden rule is to never show up to an interview without prepared questions. If the interviewer has covered all your areas of interest, ask something regardless.

Rule 7: In the company of giants
We believe that 9’s appoint 10’s and 5’s appoint 4’s. This speaks to David Ogilvy’s belief that if each person hires people who are smaller than them, we risk becoming a company of dwarfs instead of a company of giants.

These insights may well help you shine in your next interview by giving insight into the mind of your interviewer. Good luck.

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