Job Interview Essentials

Like all skills, interviewing well takes practice. It also helps to recognise that interviewing is a two way process. Often people assume that it’s all about being interviewed by a potential employer to assess suitability as an employee. However, it’s also your opportunity for you to assess whether a particular employer is a match for your skills, strengths, values and personality. So be prepared to ask questions to check out the employer and the organization. This requires self-reflection and a bit of research on your target employer. It starts by reading the job specification, the person specification and finding our more about the organization.

Possibly in an effort to make the process a little less boring for themselves, interviewers may dream up creative questions that sound more difficult than they really are. Some interviewers may not be experienced or comfortable interviewing which may be reflected in questions that add very little to the process. So, it’s worth being clear about what the interview process aims to achieve. Top Executive Recruiters agree that interviews need to assess three key topics: Strengths, Motivation and Fit. These translate into three main questions:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Can we work with you?
Interview questions are most often these three themes ‘dressed up’ to varying degrees. Getting to the yes/no answers requires sifting the evidence. As an interviewee you need to provide evidence of skills, qualifications and experience to demonstrate that you can do the job. This is not about repeating what’s on your CV, it’s about giving examples that demonstrate how you have applied your skills and strengths. It’s also helpful to identify transferable skills. I use a number of tools and techniques to help clients to identify their strengths. It’s the basis from which all else proceeds. It’s also worth considering when things didn’t go smoothly. How did you handle ‘failure’? How did you move forward?
‘Loving the job’ is all about motivation. What will continue to make the job worthwhile when the going gets tough, apart from the money? The job may fit in with your values, that is ‘what you stand for’ or may tie in with your long term goals. It’s all about knowing what makes you tick, what gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you going when the going gets tough. I’ve coached students in applications to MBAs to the highest ranking Universities in the world. Most of the questions are about goals and values. Knowing yours is absolutely essential for job interviews. Again, I use values elicitation exercises with clients and also to see if existing goals are supporting these values.
As well as providing insights into our motivation, knowledge of our values can also help us determine how well we may fit in with organizations and teams. You may have all the skills for the job but if you have a strong social conscience and the organization is a ‘do what ever it takes’ enterprise, then there may be a values clash.
As well as self-evaluation you also have to do your home-work on the organization. Don’t be like the woefully unprepared candidates on the TV show Dragon’s Den who pitch an idea for stationary not knowing that one of the dragon’s sells paper-clips or pitching a new dessert not knowing that one of the dragon’s once owned an ice-cream van. It shows a lack of professionalism and respect. There is no excuse for not doing an internet search and finding out about your potential employer. It’s the only way you are going to properly assess that there will be a match.
Self-knowledge and a little background research can transform the interviewing process so that it’s no longer a mystical ordeal but instead a personal and professional development opportunity.
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