As your important job interview draws ever closer, it is worthwhile taking a few minutes to suspend your own perspective on the interview ahead, and consider the challenges and pressures facing the interviewer.
Seeing the interview through the eyes of the interviewer(s) will give you a stronger, more focused sense of what you might do and say that will most influence the person you are facing, and how you can help her/him meet their objectives for the recruitment process.
Remember in that brief period of the interview, the person(s) that you are engaging with will have a critical bearing on your future career. Putting yourself in their shoes can only help you.
Let’s just remind ourselves first then of the tough challenges facing any interviewer:
- If this is your first interview then they will not know much about you, other than what they have read from your application/CV, and anything other colleagues may have told them.
- They have a limited time to get to know you and what you have to offer.
- They cannot read your mind – so what you say and do in that short interview time in response to their questions is the only tangible information they will have to form their critical appraisal of your suitability for the job.
- They may well have interviewed several other individuals in quick succession so may be struggling to distinguish/differentiate between a range of very capable candidates.
- As an interviewer they will be working hard to follow a pre-agreed process and set of questions so they can capture comparable information about all the candidates.
- They will be under pressure to select and/or recommend only individuals that have the right skills, attitudes, experiences and knowledge to succeed in the vacant job.
- They will know that making a recruitment mistake will cost their organisation a lot in money and reputation, as well as reflecting badly on them as an interviewer.
- They need to extract from you a good quantity of tangible evidence so that they can objectively record why you are or are not the best person for the job, in case this has to be justified to others.
- They may or may not have been fully trained as an interviewer – however always remember for most interviewers this is not their “day-job”.
- As an overriding consideration they will be looking to assess if you are a good “fit” for the job, the immediate work team, the department and the wider organisation.
- They must create the right positive impression with you about themselves and the organisation – they are representing the business and should role model all the good things about the culture and values of the organisation that they are hoping to persuade you to join.
That’s a lot to remember and a lot to do! So be in no doubt, if it is tough being an interviewee, then being an interviewer also carries its own unique pressures and challenges.
Good interviewers (and you should expect to meet only good interviewers) will be rigorous in their preparation and interview process:
There will have been a range of important documentation created and reviewed by the interviewer i.e:
- Job application forms, job and person specifications
- Job advertisements in journals, on social media, newspapers or through recruitment agents
- Job aptitude testing tools – personality profiling, verbal reasoning, numerical skills
- Job presentation skills assessment criteria
- Measurement/success criteria for selection
Where possible, if you can familiarise yourself with any or all of these documents, this will give you an inside-track on the specific focus areas likely to be covered in the interview. In particular, the job and person specifications will typically list key job competencies, and allow you to ensure your evidence and examples during the interview relate directly to these.
b) Planned Questions
Professional-minded interviewers will have prepared a series of well-phrased questions designed to elicit from you the maximum amount of relevant information, and they will use these to direct your thoughts and gather evidence of your specific competencies. Anticipating the types of questions likely to be asked by an interviewer is a vital part of your preparation. Typically many of the questions at interview will be open i.e. requiring more than a yes or no answer, so giving you a wide choice about how you respond and the information you share.
c) Conducting/Delivering the Interview
An interviewer will typically begin with an introduction about themselves and their organisation. If it is a panel interview make sure you listen to and acknowledge all members of the panel equally during the introductory phase. Look for opportunities signaled in the opening that you can return to later in the interview to demonstrate your interest, capabilities and as a basis for important questions. Some interviewers opt for a “soft” opening by asking you to lead them through your application form/CV. Use this as an early opportunity to impress them with your clarity and brevity in conveying the important headlines about your career to date.
From here on you will have a mix of challenging questions that hopefully you are well-prepared for! Relax and be clear in your responses. Keep your replies brief and informative – as a guide, for general open-ended questions your response should be no more than 2 minutes, for a competency-type question around 3 minutes. As you are answering the questions watch for the verbal and body language responses of the interviewer(s); look for signs of acknowledgement and interest (nodding of head, smile, eye contact), and of disinterest or impatience (looking away, fidgety movements, frowning). Without being artificial try and modify your responses to the next question to elicit more positive acknowledgement.
The closing period of an interview is typically your opportunity to ask questions about the role and the organisation; use this opportunity wisely by asking some short, focused questions that you will have pre-prepared, but also additional questions that arise from issues that have arisen during the interview itself. Your ability to ask good quality questions and modify your approach in response will say a lot about you, your interest in the job and your adaptability to respond in the moment.
d) Evaluating the Interview
It is important to remember that when the interview is over for you, the process is not quite finished for the interviewer(s). There will be documentation to complete recording critical evidence gathered in the interview on your key competencies relative to the competencies of the vacant job; where more than one interviewer is involved then this will need to be discussed between interviewers to reach consensus on the most important information. With multiple candidates to compare and contrast, interviewers will need to:
- Rate how well the candidate meets each of the important selection criteria
- Provide an overall suitability rating for each candidate
- Make a recommendation on a short-list and/or a decision to recruit
- Decide who, how and when to communicate to the successful and unsuccessful candidates
And throughout, the interviewer(s) will need to demonstrate objectivity, fairness, accurate recording and lack of bias in reaching their important decisions.
So in preparing for your interview, ask yourself - what can I do to help the interviewer with their challenges and in so doing create a really favourable impression? e.g.
- Practice providing a brief, interesting summary of your experience and career to date (don't just regurgitate your CV)
- Answer the questions asked (not what you would have liked to have been asked)
- Be brief, concise and informative in your responses
- Give lots of examples
- Make sure your examples relate to the key job competencies
- Look for the signals of acknowledgement and/or disinterest and respond to these
- Make sure you have a few well-prepared questions
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their interest in you
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Brosna Career Consulting