The Interview: notes from the other side
As an HR practitioner with around 15 years in the field, I have sat on a huge number of interview panels. These have been across a range of industries as well as in a number of different countries. Certain things have stood out during my time on the ‘other side’ of the table, with this perspective I’d offer the following thoughts to interviewees:
#1. Do you really, really want the job you are applying for? If you don’t genuinely want the role, this will probably be apparent to the interviewers. Save your time and energy for the roles you’d love to do and for the organisations you’d feel proud to work for.
#2. I’ve often been asked what is the best time of day to be interviewed; the interviewers are going to be fresher first thing in the morning, although if you are the final candidate of the day you have the opportunity to leave the most recent impression on the interviewers. The reality is if you are the best person for the job, the interview slot shouldn’t make a difference. If offered a choice of times, think about when you think you perform best and if you’d rather get the interview over and done with or have more time to prepare!
#3. Preparation. Do your homework and the interview will be much, much less stressful – don’t leave preparation until the night before, take it from an interviewer, lack of preparation shows! Think about the key skills required for the role, and then go through the jobs that you’ve had and choose some good examples you can use to demonstrate these skills.
If you are a recent graduate or have little work experience you may be able to draw on examples from volunteering, recreational or study groups to address these criteria. In addition, thinking about how you could answer the ‘what are your weaknesses?’ and ‘why are you the best candidate for the role?’ type questions, in a constructive and authentic way that will also help you be ready on the day.
#4. Notes are ok. There is no reason you can’t take a copy of your CV or some brief notes into the interview with you (although it often feels like it, it’s not an exam!). To an interviewer it can demonstrate that the candidate has taken the time to plan and is serious about wanting the role. If the interviewer asks, you can briefly explain you have made some notes regarding a particular item/competency/skill. It’s likely just knowing you can look at your notes as they are on hand, means you won’t need to. It also provides a good opportunity at the end of the interview – if you are asked about ‘anything else’ you can have a quick glance and see if there are any other questions you might have or any of your fabulous qualities you have omitted to mention up to this point!
#5. Nerves. Take it from an interviewer who has been involved in numerous interviews – everyone without exception is nervous when they attend an interview. In some candidates this results in them ‘going blank’ and struggling to answer questions, others by having verbal diarrhea! Professional interviewers will try to make the candidate as relaxed as possible, as this is the best way to elicit genuine accurate information from you. Doing your preparation above, definitely helps. And don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question, or if you can return to a question later on if you suddenly get brain-freeze!
#6. Extras. Don’t be worried if you are asked to undergo further selection tests such as psychometric testing for instance. Additional selection methods can produce a more rounded picture in ensuring the best person gets the job. Also, some people are particularly good/bad at interviews, which doesn’t necessarily impact on how well they can undertake the role being advertised.
#7. Ask (the right) questions. It should go without saying, but this probably isn’t the time to ask about pay/holidays or other ‘perks’ etc. Focus on asking about the role itself, the team or the company. Personally, I’d ask for the salary range before applying for a job, this could save you wasting time if the role sits too far outside of your monetary expectations.
#8. No brainers.
- Turn your cellphone off! I have been in interviews where mobile phones have rung (including one of the interviewers!). It’s never, ever a good look.
- Dress to impress. It will obviously depend upon the type of organisation you are looking to work with, and some places are by reputation more conservative than others. This is all information your advance preparation and research should reveal.
- Don’t bad mouth your previous employer or co-workers. It sounds obvious, but I’ve experienced it on more than one occasion. This is unlikely to endear you to those at the table who are considering you for a role. If you had issues with a previous boss and are asked about it, be honest but keep it brief and focus on the positive outcomes as much as you can.
#9. After the interview
A good interviewer should contact all candidates who attended for interview and let them know whether or not they were successful. Although it can be upsetting if you don’t get the role, this is a great opportunity to seek some feedback. If you are too distraught at this point, ask if you can call back or email them for some feedback at a later stage.
One thing I have occasionally noticed as an interviewer is that an individual’s attitude can change (sometimes significantly) once they realize they weren’t successful in getting the job. Whilst it can be disappointing, especially if you’ve already been through a number of interviews, it’s possible this job could become vacant again in the near future (and you may have only narrowly missed out). Alternatively, another job within the organization that you may be an even better fit for could come up. Don’t blow a possible chance of your dream job by being dismissive or offhand.
I worked with one individual who had been interviewed for a role and didn’t get it. Afterwards he wrote a note to the panel thanking them for the opportunity. Turned out he was a good fit as he ended up being offered another job when it came up. He now has a very successful career as a University Lecturer!
In a nutshell…
- Don’t skimp on your preparation
- Ask (the right) questions during the interview
- Focus on the positives
- Keep notes to quell your nerves
- Ask for feedback afterwards.
Best of luck!