The interview

Few of us enjoy being interviewed. It’s almost more nerve wracking than a first date. Understanding that an interview is a meeting between equals as well as a great chance to display your skills, qualifications and hard-won experience, is the first step to winning the role you want.

Hugh Davies, career consultant, MacFarlan Lane believes a confident demeanour will take you a long way and offers the following tips to help you prepare.

·tDo some homework on what the job you are being interviewed for is about: what are the four or five key deliverables required (e.g. revenue growth, cost reduction, customer retention, quality, leadership of change, strategy formation).

·tThen prepare a page under each deliverable and write up relevant achievements from your past: those things which you have delivered in former roles which relate directly to the deliverable of the new job.

·tNext work up some good questions to ask in that area of the new job

·tWork out well in advance what questions you will ask. Good questions reveal as much about your capabilities as do your own assertions and achievement stories.

·tTake the notes you have prepared – an interview is not a test of your memory.

·tYou will acquit yourself well if you display energy and enthusiasm in an interview: this is a large part of what a prospective employer is going to be looking for. Technical skills and knowledge can be taught: enthusiasm and energy tends to come with (or not be found in) each individual.

·tDo not try to ‘manage’ your body language – this is too hard in an interview unless you are a trained actor. Use the “bum-wedge” technique instead – place your backside firmly in base of chair – this will force your body forward so you will lean into the discussion, achieving a confident and engaged demeanor. It is hard to cross your arms across your chest in a defensive manner, or cross your legs in too much of a relaxed manner, with your bottom pushed back into the chair. Do this, and you can then forget about body language.

·tDress well (and suitably if you can find out beforehand the age, level of seniority of interviewer), take notes, look professional

·tMake sure your pre-interview notes are professionally laid out. You can then say, if appropriate, “I haven’t had time to offer all my thoughts/questions, so may I leave these with you?” This immediately raises the bar for most of the other candidates being considered by that organisation.

Remember, only 10-20 per cent of people get hired through the visible market which includes recruiters and online search engines. The other 80 per cent of hires come from networking and referrals (these can include research driven conversations or informational interviews). Such networking helps those seeking work to understand what’s “out there”. It’s important that you know how to ask really good questions.

A meeting of equals

‘Turn your interview into a meeting between two people who share a goal and who are motivated to explore how they can work together to get a job done in the best possible way.’

Nick Corcodillos, career expert and author of Ask the Headhunter

Once a job interview was a power play between a (more) powerful employer who would control the dialogue with the (less) powerful job applicant. Just as the predictable collar and tie nine-to-five nature of many jobs has changed, so has the interview. It is now much more a ‘conversation between equals’ which aims to ascertain how well suited an organisation and an individual might be.

There are three phases involved in a successful interview; the preparation, the meeting and the follow-up. The preparation should take a while. This involves analysing the position description or the salient points in the advertisement/brief and creating four or five key contributors for the success of the appointment. These might include an understanding of the cost basis of a business, experience in people management and ability to deal at board level, or hands-on experience on the factory floor. You are identifying the critical performance areas required and then listing your relevant achievements against each one, as well as further questions to ask.

Hugh Davies believes you are there to win the job offer, but not necessarily to accept it. This you can decide away from the ‘heat’ of the table.

Edited extract from What Next? Your career change companion

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