Interviewing can be a stressful time for anybody, especially in a global economic downturn, and therefore it is important to consider why and how the interview process can benefit the employer and the potential employee.
The BBC is currently in the throes of a mass recruitment drive for their new site Media City situated in Salford Quays. The BBC decided to use an application process, which allowed huge amounts of applications to be processed and then qualified through a computer system. Successful applicants are then invited for an interview. We have yet to see how successful this process has been, but early indications are mixed. For example, a friend of mine was interested in media production roles and uploaded his CV accordingly. However, he was rather bemused to later receive an invitation to interview for a professional trombonist role! Clearly, the computer has taken the fact that he is learning to play the trombone in his spare time rather too literally when searching the CV for key competencies to map to potential roles.
An interview, in my opinion, can empower a candidate; in the sense that, they can sit in front of an employer and sell their skills just as a sales person would sell a product. I guess this is fine if you are already a successful sales person, but I hear you ask ‘how are the rest of us expected to become entrepreneurial sales superstars in an interview, when really we are skilled analysts or engineers or office support staff, not sales people?’ This is a good question and I would suggest that the answer lies in the fact that sales should not be about showing how bright and shiny your product is and how expensive it looks; instead, it is about delivering the right product, to the right customer, in the right way. When we present ourselves to a potential employer we need to consider this. Furthermore, we need to understand what the employer does, what they want, what they need and how we can demonstrate that we fulfil that need.
As an interviewee we have three hats to wear:
Hat One: The Researcher
This is the hat of a researcher. Here, you need to utilize all your skills at searching and identifying information about the company, the people and the ethos. This can be done by internet searches looking for relevant news articles; reading other job specifications the company has available; and by gleaning general information from the company website. If you are not skilled at doing this type of research your local library has good resources and can offer great support. Although be warned you may now have to travel further to find these libraries as, along with jobs being cut, many libraries are closing thereby ripping out the literary hearts of the community.
Hat Two: The Writer
This is the hat of the writer and here preparation is key. When you have all the information to hand from your researching, you need to think about all the potential questions that may be asked at interview. Again the research hat should help in this case. You may also find a book, which has recently been highly recommended to me, as a good source for research and preparation. The book is entitled: “Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions” by Martin John Yate.
Write your chosen questions down on a piece of paper. You should then go through those questions and write your answers down one by one. You should be able to demonstrate at least two scenario based answers for each question i.e. two answers that demonstrate your understanding of the question and how you have approached this in your working and/or personal life. Doing the exercise I mentioned will help you achieve this and also help with identifying your potential shortfalls. Once you have written these answers you need to read them through with a critical eye. Absorb these questions and answers until you live and breathe them. Remember that the answers to these questions represent what you have to offer and why you are suitable for the job.
Hat Three: The Presenter
This is the hat of the presenter and not to be confused with an actor. It is important here that we represent our true selves in the best possible way. The fluidity with which you answer the questions is an important part of the interview and you need to demonstrate that you are confident in your ability to do the job through the way you communicate. This means you should not present yourself as somebody you’re not, merely as your best self. The work you have done wearing your other two hats should make this a fairly straightforward presentation of your skills and your ability to do the job. Have confidence in yourself and remember that you have earned the right to sit in front of your interviewers.
If these three hats are worn during every interview process, you give yourself the best possible chance, even in these difficult economic times. But let us remember that there is still going to be a shortage of jobs and, with more unnecessary cuts on the way, we will need to offer additional support and help to our family, friends and colleagues.
I understand there is not always a magic solution to interviewing successfully and I have first-hand experience of this. My mum, although a very passionate and hardworking social worker, never really achieved the job she would have liked, due to the internal interview process. I wish I could have offered her the support and help that I am now able to offer my candidates. Even though she was very successful in her role and respected by many, her confidence in an interview hit rock bottom and within a point scoring interview process she always failed to tick enough boxes. This is perhaps were preparation is not the only thing we have to consider as confidence plays a big part. We face a time where confidence may hit an all-time low, but by coming together and supporting each other we will ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’!