Handling job interviews

It’s hard to sell yourself one on one. But there are some rock solid tips to help you feel more confident – and careful preparation is often the key to performing well. Read on for some great strategies to help you stand out from the pack.

You’ve done it.
Your resume was emailed, mailed, followed up by phone and to your delight and amazement they actually want to see you.
Another opportunity to be found wanting, or worse still, found out, has just loomed on the horizon…
Here are some strategies and tips from the experts:

Hugh Davies:
A confident demeanour
The interview

•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.
Hugh Davies is principal of career transition company, Mcfarlan Lane.

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 guidance author.

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.

Interview tips from the top coaches:
1.tPrepare, prepare, prepare
2.tDress smartly – this includes attention to shoes (shiny) hair (neat) grooming (tidy) personal hygiene (immaculate)
3.tArrive slightly early
4.tRemind yourself you are ‘shopping’ just as much as the interviewer. This is not the only work assignment in the world, you are here to learn the salient facts and it may or may not suit someone of your many talents
5.tEnergy, enthusiasm and engagement cannot be faked. If you have selected the ‘right’ interview to attend, this will be your secret advantage.
6.tLikewise with background knowledge. If you have been researching a specific type of work and know a lot about the industry, company and future trends, here comes your second standout advantage
7.tIf you feel you need to try hard to impress, to be the kind of person the company might want to hire, then you won’t be yourself. Do you really want to win work in an environment where, along with the pressures of day-to-day work, you will need to act as well?
8.tIt’s entirely reasonable to ask about the selection process – how long, who involved, if there are follow-on interviews, how successful and unsuccessful candidates will be informed. It’s not just reasonable – it’s your right.
Based on the BTSO (Blow their socks off) approach used in coaching by consultants of McFarlan Lane

Lastly, the follow-up. It‘s a good idea to write a note acknowledging the opportunity to discuss the role and thanking the interviewer for their time. You may also wish to reinforce your enthusiasm for the role if you want to be considered a serious candidate. Email it for speed – and mail it for courtesy.
Handling knock backs
So you got a knock back. You thought the interview went really well and they loved you – and your extensive experience. But now you’ve received the briefest of emails (not even a phone call!) to say another candidate was successful and they hope you will be too – in your future endeavours, elsewhere!
The nerve, the pain, the humiliation.
You hope their factory burns down or their selected candidate fails spectacularly in the role which should have been yours.

It’s worse than being dumped at the Year 12 high school formal – at least you had your whole life ahead of you then!
Okay, okay, it is disappointing. You win some, you lose some and nowhere is it written you necessarily need to like the losing part.
But not all is lost.

You’ve just had a great opportunity to not only practise your interview skills but also to learn how one company operates, how they recruit and how your particular bundle of attributes suited the advertised role.

What to do? Write it down! Take the time, while the memory (and yes, the hurt) is still fresh and commit to paper the areas where you believe you performed well in the appointment, those on which you felt shaky and a few dot points of skills you might need to acquire to do better next time.
And yes, unlike the formal, there will be repeat performances…

This is an edited excerpt of What Next? Your career change companion by Kaye Fallick.

Buy this book now at the special price of $24.95 including postage.