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The recipe for a successful interview

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Further to your application, we are pleased to confirm that we would like to invite you for an interview…

You made it!! After your 5 minutes of excitement jumping up and down around the house, you start realising that IT IS HAPPENING! After sending tons of applications everywhere you have finally landed your first interview…

First interview ever, first interview for this level of job or first interview since you got your last job, it doesn’t really matter. The thing is that you have no clue what to expect and that’s when you start to freak out.
Well, don’t! You only need 2 things: Preparation & Confidence

What do you mean ‘Preparation’? How can I prepare when I don’t know what they’re gonna ask me?

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3… Seriously.

1. The company

What do you know about our business? Our department? Our values? What attracted you to apply for a job with us?
Have you heard about something called ‘The Internet’? Go and research the company, check their website, news about them, what their employees have to say (on websites like Glassdoor).
If you’re applying for a job internally, you should still look at those, check your Intranet, ask people in the team you want to join. You’re already there so you have no excuse.
Remember, you don’t have to settle for a company that doesn’t match your values so, if what you read/hear doesn’t feel right, you have every right to say ’No’.

2. The job

What is your understanding of the role? What are the key responsibilities? Challenges? Why did you apply?
You have applied for the job so I’d expect you to understand what you’re applying for. Read and re-read the advert or job description, look for similar jobs somewhere else, ask around… Gather all this information and try to summarise it into a few sentences. Imagine you have to explain what you do to someone you’ve just met at a BBQ. You wouldn’t dish them the whole job description, would you? (Although, I know a few people who would…) Think about yourself in the job and visualise what your day to day activities and responsibilities will be.
Once you really understand what the job is about, you will be able to answer the ‘Why’ question.
Also ask yourself, ‘If I start tomorrow, what will I do in my first 30, 60, 90 days in the job?’ You’ve got to show that you have a plan of action and that you won’t just turn up and wait to be given some work, you’re too good for that!

3. The competencies needed for the job

That’s the tough part of the preparation…
You will find a list of 100 ‘competencies’, ‘skills’ or ‘experience required’ on the advert. They might help but don’t rely on them too heavily.
From your earlier preparation you should already have a good understanding of the role. Ask yourself what it takes to be good at this job. Think about people that you look up to, what do they do to be so good?
Let’s take the generic example of a managerial job.

  • Knowledge/Credibility: To be a good manager, you need to be able to do what your team does but better. If you’re amazing, they’ll look up to you, see you as a role model and listen to you when you have something to say.
  • Dealing with performance: When you have a team, some team members will be good and some won’t. You need to be able to deal with poor performance and keep your shining stars interested.
  • Dealing with behaviours: People being people, there will be some drama in the team, people who can’t stand each other, others who call in sick every 2 weeks, shy people, outgoing people… You’ve got to build a harmonious team.
  • Dealing with management: As a manager you’re the layer between your team and your boss(es) so you need to be comfortable dealing with both levels, reporting to the management team, influencing their decisions, making their vision/strategy happen…

Once you have identified the REAL competencies, you will be able to draft some questions you might be asked and start preparing your examples.
Let’s go back to our example. I’m going to assume you are not a manager at the moment.

  • Knowledge/Credibility: For this part you will usually have a practical exercise or question to test your knowledge. There’s not that much to prepare, either you know or you don’t. And if you don’t, this is probably not a good move.
  • Dealing with performance: Think about a time when you mentored someone, gave advice to a colleague who was struggling, kept someone motivated by advising them try something new…
  • Dealing with behaviours: Was there a time when you had to sort out an argument between 2 colleagues, got someone to speak to you in confidence about problems they had at home that were causing them stress and making them call in sick as they couldn’t face work, helped someone new get out of their shelf and be part of the team…
  • Dealing with management: When did you have to present something you did to your boss and convinced them to start doing it too, when your boss asked you to try a new approach and share it with the rest of the team…

Even if you don’t have examples where you are THE MANAGER, you still have examples where you have shown MANAGERIAL SKILLS & BEHAVIOURS.

The next part is to structure your answers so the recruiter/hiring manager can see straight away that you have what it takes to do the job. If you waffle for 10 minutes every time they ask you a question they will just be confused and you probably won’t get the job. Use the STAR technique for each example:

  • S – Situation: What’s the context? When? Where? Who was involved?
  • T – Task: What did you have to do/were asked to do to resolve the situation?
  • A – Actions: What did you do? Write your actions as bullet points and order them in a logical order
  • R – Result: What was the outcome? If it was positive, say it! If it wasn’t, say it too but talk about what you’ve learnt or what you would do differently.

I know this is a laborious task but this preparation will help take some of the stress away as you will know what to expect. They might not ask you all the questions you prepared or phrase them differently but if your examples are relevant enough you will be able to use them.
Rehearse in front of the mirror or with a friend, write them down and take them with you to the interview… whatever works for you.

It’s all about the Confidence. If you believe you can do it, people will believe it too.

You haven’t just applied for the job randomly; you applied because somewhere within yourself you believed that you could do it and you’ve been invited to the interview because the recruiter/manager believed it too.
If you can’t convince yourself, you won’t convince anyone. Repeat yourself that you are good enough, listen to a song that makes you feel powerful, put on your best dress on. Your mindset on the day can make it or break it, make sure it makes it!
And more importantly, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re not good enough, be it yourself, the interviewer or the other candidates (like in sport, if your opponent makes you feel vulnerable before the game, they’ve already won – make sure they’re the ones feeling weak, not you)

You might not get this job, you might not even get the next one, but use your experience to improve. If you struggled on some questions, prepare them for next time. If you got all stressed out when you got in the room, find a trick to get your confidence up and reduce your stress.
Remember, to get the job you just need preparation and confidence.

Hope this helps and for more tips, check out my other posts, especially ‘Why you shouldn’t be afraid of stepping up?’

Good Luck!

The Job Matchmaker



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