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Job Hunting in a Recession #3: The Interview

Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

The recruiting manager is on the phone. This is it job hunters - Return of the King time in a Lord of the Recruitment trilogy. This is the all powerful one who chooses who wins. The eye of Sauron is upon you – don't blow it now. Your greatest test is still before you.  

They want to check out your personality and how you express yourself. Words on paper tell only so much. They will ask basic questions like "why are you applying for this role? What are you doing in your current role"? It might sound casual, but everything you say and how you say it is being assessed to see if you make the cut for an interview. They also might want to sound you out about money expectations. Be yourself (as long as that involves being friendly and positive) and hope they like you.

Having made the phone cut then the face to face interview is looming. It's too late now to regret photo shopping your CV photo. Here are some tips to get through what's in store.

Tip #1 - Prepare for the interview. Learn something about the organisation you want to join and the role you are applying for. Employers will always be impressed if you have made an effort. It demonstrates you have initiative and desire.

Tip #2 – Dress tidily. It doesn't matter what job you are going for, dress up for the interview. Don't leave formal dress just for Weddings and funerals. No prospective employer is going to mark you down for being a smart dresser. However they will be quick to judge if you are too casual. The subliminal message is sloppy dresser = sloppy worker. 

Tip #3 - Don't assume that they have read your CV. The recruitment panel will usually be made up of 3 people; the recruiting manager, someone from HR and someone else who made eye contact with the recruiting manager at the wrong time. It is not uncommon for at least one of the panel to read your CV properly for the first time when sitting in the room with you.

Tip #4 - Be positive. No body wants to hear about what a loser your last boss was, and how hideous the organisation and its work environment were. The interviewers will likely sit there thinking that you are a whinging trouble maker. All the time they are saying to themselves – "can I see this person working for us"? A positive candidate means that you are showing them that you are likely to be a good influence in the workplace and compliant to management instructions. Most managers have a running list in their head of employees they would take out and shoot if it were an option. Most of this list is filled with staff who are whingers and trouble makers. It does not help your cause if in an interview you make the mangers 'most hated' list before you are even hired.

Tip #5 – Prepare for behavioural questions. This means that they are going to ask you about a previous work situation you were in or a task you had to perform. They will want to know what action you took and what the outcomes were. Typically these questions will want to see how much of a team player you are, how you handle stress, and what your prioritisation and negotiation skills are like - while all the time assessing your overall competence for the role and team fit.

Please listen carefully; I will say this only once – LISTEN TO THE QUESTION. I have sat through hundreds of interviews and very few candidates answer the behavioural questions well. Prepare for these questions in advance. You know they are coming. Also take a moment to think before you open your mouth, because once you open your trap you are obliged to keep talking. Make the answer short enough to keep them interested, but long enough to cover exactly what they are asking for.

Tip #6 - Ask questions yourself. Usually towards the end of the interview the panel will ask you if you have any questions. Think of something. Preferably something useful not just – coffee – do you have instant or filter? Clarify something they mentioned during the interview or stuff like what opportunities there are for further training. Find something to ask about. It shows them you can see yourself working there.

Tip #7 – Give it your best shot. If you have applied for a lot of jobs then you will know that interviews don't come by every day. Seize the opportunity. Even if you are modest about blowing your own trumpet and would prefer to leave it to your referees to wax lyrical about you – don't. Forget them and play a jazzy tune on that trumpet like it could be your last.  

So if they ask you to do the psychometric testing it means that you have reached the 'Heir and spare' stage of the final two. They may even tell you that you are the preferred candidate. If you are not, it will be obvious anyway. You will do the tests and won't hear anything for a few days. This usually means they are negotiating with someone else and you are plan B.

Either way you are an 'A' grade candidate, if you end up with the silver medal this time, the gold won't be far away. Especially when the turkey that beat you this time is safely employed and out of the next race.   

Happy Hunting. Recessions just make getting employed more satisfying and character building – yeah right!





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