What is a job interview for?

job interviewThere are two very different ways of approaching a job interview that are not often mentioned. While interviews are at the top end of our speech challenges, being really clear about what you are doing in the interview can help give you an edge this year.

It’s not about you

 Really? Most questions are all about you – aren’t they? Experience, skills, situations: ‘tell me about yourself’.  But look at it from the other side of the table. They need someone who can fit in well, be competent, and have the sense to do what needs to be done – well. Not to mention being open and honest. Chances are, they are under pressure too. Back to back interviews. Lots of good candidates. Have to make the right choice. Interviews are often not what we think – in fact the whole search process and interview is more about the hopes and needs of the employer, even if there is a standard list of questions.

So how do you spend 80% of the interview talking about yourself without boring the interviewer? By moving from what you know and what you can do, to showing how you do it – and how you learn new things. Assuming that you want to learn something new – or at least deal with different challenges and problems – there will be some skills and experience you won’t have. But three out of four things is the minimum.

I once sat next to a CEO on a panel and thought: ‘why can’t this candidate focus on the job they’re applying for and say how they actually get things done?  It makes all the difference to pitch your accomplishments towards the job you’re applying for. The CEO’s comment afterwards was: ‘he’s just one of those people who likes to know things’.

Visualize, but don’t mind-read

To get closer to showing how you could be the right person, consider these questions when preparing for interviews.

  1. What skills will be used most frequently? (technical, analytical or communication?)
  2. What strengths do you bring to a job? (Strength Psychology is good here).
  3. How do you find your fit in a new place/team? (office banter or quiet, quality work?)
  4. What attitude do they appear to be looking for? (Is ‘have fun, go get’em’ really you?)
  5. What is the culture/work ethos (‘inclusive and diverse’ or ‘work till the work’s done’?)

The best interviewees show how they try to find out and meet the hopes and needs of the employer. That way, you will show something of the real you as a colleague, and not merely a candidate.

Your role is to do a job, not get a job

Let’s take that last point about showing what you would be like as a colleague/manager/leader, rather than as a candidate. You’ll need to persuade people to trust you and have confidence in you – at an interview and throughout life. Your job as a potential colleague is to read up as much as you can on the role, the organisation and the people there. Then at the interview, deliver a compelling version of yourself, to your own high standards rather than trying first and foremost to please others.

In other words, think of the interview as an audition.

The actor Bryan Cranston recently described how this shift in thinking made all the difference, and it has some value when preparing to meet a potential employer. ‘I realised that my job in auditions was not to try to please others,’ he said. ‘That is a huge mistake; rather, have a high standard for yourself and try to hit that level. Aim to please yourself and be tough on yourself, on where that bar is for yourself. My mistake is that I thought that when going on audition I was trying to get a job – that I was there for a job interview. It made sense because they’re hiring and I want to be hired. But you can’t think that, as an actor. I realised what I need to focus on is not to get a job to do a job. Once I made that switch and truly owned that switch, I really started working.’

To show your best self

With stuttering there is one more part of you to own, like it or not. Learning how to be, and to show your best self, requires diligent work. Start with these steps when preparing an application.

  1. Practice saying that you stutter and how the challenges you face can make you a better colleague.
  2. Be curious and open about your strengths and say where you seek the input of others.
  3. Be curious about the roles you are applying for – what problems can you best tackle, and how?
  4. Be ready to take unexpected follow-up calls or emails about a job. How you respond shows much about how you will act in the job. Employers look for consistency between the application and all points of contact with you.
  5. People often talk about job performance, so take this to heart and perform to the best of your ability when meeting interviewers.

You can validate the employer’s choice to interview you by being curious, aware of what their needs are, and giving concise but detailed examples that show how your skills, knowledge and experience led to your achievements. No-one is perfect but being genuine and consistent can say more than words.



article: EmployersLookForInHires

Bryan Cranston, interview with CBC radio: ‘Q’ November 22, 2017

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