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Notes from the outplacement seminar: Interview skills

Yesterday we devoted long hours to attending two seminars run by outplacement company Fairplace in a subterranean room off Cornhill. Here is a digested version of the wisdom they imparted on…interviews.

Interviews are not just about selling yourself: They are a two way exchange of information. The company wants to know about you. You want to know about the company.

There is more to it than the interview itself: The interview is a competition in which there is only one winner. You need to prepare. You need to find out about the role (get a person specification as well as a job description), the company, the interviewer, the interview process, the marketplace. You also need to read your CV.

Never underestimate the importance of a good story: You’ll be asked competency questions designed to elicit evidence that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You can spot a competency question because it starts with something like, ‘Can you recall a time when you…’ Prepare by looking at the job description line by line and thinking how you can prove you have the skills required. Spend a lot of time preparing stories that provide this evidence. Don’t use the same story twice in one interview.

Don’t be too keen on the sound of your own voice: When you are telling your competency related stories do not go on and on. The stories should only last 1-2 minutes. They should be tales of overcoming adversity and structured along the lines of this acronym:

S=Situation, the facts behind the story

T= Task, what you had to overcome

A= Action, what you did to overcome it

R= Resolution, the outcome (the outcome can be bad and you can say that you learnt enormous amounts from it).

Forget everyone else: Don’t talk about what you achieved as part of a team. Talk about what you did yourself.

Have a few questions of our own: These can be loaded questions along the lines of, “I really like coaching and mentoring, do you have coaching and mentoring programmes here?’

Anticipate questions like… ‘What makes you think you’d be suitable for this role?’ and ‘What are you weaknesses?’ Answer the latter by focusing on skills that can be acquired rather than personality traits that are innate. Eg. Avoid saying, ‘I am a perfectionist megalomaniac.’ Instead say, ‘I haven’t had much experience of presenting but am really looking forward to doing this.’

Strange behaviour: Be aware of personal tics which might be endearing to loved ones but could put off anyone contemplating employing you.

Comments (13)

Comments
  1. Sarah, I totally agree with your article, but it does not change the fact that I do all this and get the consolation prize for the last 6 interviews I have been too.

    Not that I am bad at interviews, just that there were candidates who were available immediately, what advice do you have for that?

  2. Allhamilton – If you’re not available immediately I guess you must be working? Surely that’s a good thing in itself?

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
     
  3. Lol I am working but will not be very soon!

  4. Ah. Can’t u negotiate with current employer?

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
     
  5. Sarah and allhamilton seem to be flirting…

  6. Loll, Rofl!!!! Flirting me hah!

  7. @notafan – you think “Can’t u negotiate with current employer?” is flirting?!? LOL

  8. I have till the end of May or earlier depends on how I feel and whether I get a role before of after that.

    Flirting with Sarah is a must, she is beautiful innit!

  9. Whilst most of this is pretty standard advice, a large majority of candidates never close the interview. As you are expected to sell yourself you need to ask probing questions and close the interview itself.

    Ok so you might not get the answer you want but at least you’ll know the outcome straight away.

  10. I wouldn’t take up Dave’s recommendation. I was asked at the end of an interview by the candidate (I was the hiring manager) “So, what else can I say to convince you to employ me?” which put me off entirely. Sometimes less is more.

  11. ManagerBabe – I’d agree that a question like that is off putting but closing doesnt mean being pushy or corny. Phrase a decent question and you may get the answer you want to hear.

    I’d say that your experience is an example of how not to close but its sounds to me like you werent overally impressed with the candidate anyway – if the person was someone you wanted to hire you probably wouldnt have noticed.

  12. Dave I think you are quite right “how not to close”. Oh well its desperate times. Gone are the golden days as they in insurance its a buyers Market

  13. One more recommendation: if you are interested in the role, say so immediately. Playing hard-to-get, particularly in these markets, is likely to be counter productive.
    Don’t leave the interview without knowing what the next step is. Something along the lines of “I enjoyed the meeting and, now that I know more about the role, I would be very interested in taking the discussion further. What would the next step be?”

    Rodolphe Mortreuil, MKMC Reply
     

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