Master That Interview - Part 2
I have already written a note on the interviewing process, from an interviewer perspective. Now, I would like to talk a little, about what is in store, for any candidate waiting to attend an interview. All real-life advice based on my own experiences.
I have to admit, it has been few years since I attended a “proper” interview. What I mean by proper? An official setting in front of a panel maybe, with scripted meeting, behavioural interview questions, maybe some tests. I guess any candidate biggest nightmare. Anyone but me. I actually really enjoy going to interviews nowadays. Maybe because I see it more as a general meeting, rather than make or break situation? Pressure is finally off and it does make a difference.
Long gone are days, when I had to send out tens of applications, and submit hundreds of CV’s, before any potential employer, decided to give me an opportunity to attend an interview. When you are fresh of a press, young and unexperienced person, there is not much you can do to make your CV stand out. I talked about this in my previous note (and I think CV writing would be a good post of its own, so bear with me on this one). At the end, it will all depend on the level of the job and the team, that you are going to be working with. As long as the recruiting manager is open to growing the team, and is prepared to invest time in training the right applicant, you stand a great chance to get that job. Otherwise, just like myself, you should certainly decide on a path on growing your experience, from bottom of the career ladder up.
Nothing comes as a given. Careers do not happen overnight. I did not get up one day and had a hefty sum of money in my bank account and a Mercedes on a driveway. These were years of hard work, learning, continuously developing my skills and knowledge, and of course networking. I do believe those are the crucial components to a successful career.
For last few years, I didn’t even have to apply for any jobs. Regularly I was approached by head-hunters and recruiters. I am not saying this because I am full of myself. Nor trying to show off. I am saying this, to show you, that by hard work and persistence, you can become an expert in your field. Hopefully you to can get the confidence of having a great job and secure position, where you won’t lose anything, by attending an interview, with a company that is interested in your person and your skills. To be in that position though, I would say you have to work a good few years.
Going back to interviewing. I have to say, the hardest bit, is to get your foot through the door. That, I would count as 50% if not more, of a success rate. Be pragmatic in your approach. If you currently work as an office administrator, it’s more than likely, no one will consider you for the Finance Director role. If you work as an accountant, you probably don’t stand a chance for a role as aerospace engineer. I think you get the point I am trying to make here.
Aim for the great things but remain realistic. That will give you better chance, in bagging that dream job interview. I tend to say, it is not about just that one job. Look beyond the interview stage. If you are thinking about future growth, please ensure you consider opportunities within the business and industry, that you are applying for. If you were offered the role, what sort of training opportunity would there be for you? Maybe mentoring programme? Does the industry you are going to work in, interest you enough, to do some further learning outside of work? Are there progression/promotion opportunities within the company? All those should be considered before you even apply for the job. Why? Because you don’t want to hit the brick wall within few months or years and start the job search process again.
And you know what other great benefit of doing a research is? You can show your potential employer during the interview, that you are a serious candidate. You know your stuff, you come prepared and you can even ask the right questions considering the company you want to work for.
If there is option to submit a cover letter together with your application, you could consider writing a personal message, and explain why you are interested in the job, and what makes you right for the role. Be honest, don’t be afraid to stand out and don’t be afraid to aim high. Good employer will not be scared of driven and passionate candidates. They will be looking for talent. People that will be able to take their business further. Candidates with fresh ideas, not afraid to think outside of the box, but not too autonomous, someone who is able to follow direction. After all, we do end up working in team environment. You don’t want to come across as someone, who knows it all best or is arrogant or not a team player.
Let assume now, that you have managed to secure yourself an interview with the dream employer. What should you do next? I can speak from my own experience of what I would do. I would definitely review my CV, take a physical copy with me to the interview. I will take a notepad with notes, including at least the basic information about the company I am hoping to work for.
What is the business structure, what is the product or service they offer, how many employees work for the company, what is the mission statement and values, who are the main competitors and so on. Depending on the level of the role applied for, I would look at financial information. In UK for example, you can find latest accounts submissions, for all registered businesses on Companies House website. Interestingly, I have decided against applying for the position in the past, purely based on the information from Companies House. When you review financial status of the business, and year on year they are making a significant loss, the industry is not stable, it just might be too risky to “jump the ship”.
That of course, I understand would not be an option for all of you, not to those who don’t understand accounts submission. But there is always a level of research available to do, no matter what your background is. Look on companies own website, LinkedIn, ask around, go into the business (if it’s a store etc).
That preparation is what is going make you stand out from the crowd. Your employer will be pleasantly surprised, if you tell them about your own experience, of going into the store and what you like about that experience. Maybe you received a great customer experience? Tell them about it at the interview. Businesses want passionate and talented people working for them. It is even better, if those people show true and honest interest in the product, service or at least the industry.
Make sure you are aware what is in your CV. Be prepared to talk about your work experiences. No one is that bothered about the pure facts and dates. Your interviewer will want to know what your day looks like at your current role, what are the main skills you have, how do you act in different situation, be prepared to give real life examples. Never lie on your CV or at the interview. IT WILL COME OUT SOONER OR LATER! And that would be the end of your career. If you never had a job before, you could talk about handling a situation at school, maybe you chaired a group of students for a big project, maybe you volunteered during the summer?
What is going to win your listener, is your attitude and character. Be confident but not arrogant. Make sure to greet your interviewer with a firm handshake – no dead fish handshakes (!). Maintain eye contact. Be polite and smile. Be natural. When given opportunity to ask question, make sure you have at least one or two prepared. Remember the notepad I mentioned earlier? This is the time to get it out, you are already prepared. And I don’t mean asking about the bonus structure or holiday allowance. These of course are very important questions. Usually, your interviewer will tell you basic information about the role structure and rewards in the beginning. But please believe me, as soon as the employer will be ready to offer you that role, knowing you are what they were looking for all that time, you will have a bigger chance to negotiate those rewards to your advantage if needed. And if you are not going to get the job, it won’t matter anyway. So, focus on getting the job, then the benefits.
Priority is to sell yourself, your knowledge, your skill and your character.
Interviews can be daunting. Talking to a stranger, trying to remember everything you learned about the company. Analysing your answers before speaking up. Although, I am a great believer, that things happen for a reason. On few occasions, I felt like I lost my dream job, only to few weeks or months later, land a lot better opportunity.
Don’t get discouraged, believe in yourself, grow yourself and good luck. I hope some of my experiences, will make this process a little easier for you, no matter the role.
And remember to share your experience with me either through comments below or direct email.
"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." -Arthur Ashe