“We are hiring.” As a candidate, how does that make you feel? Excited? Trepidatious?
With recent research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development finding that job satisfaction has reached a two-year low (in the UK), and over one third of those questioned saying they were unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation, perhaps it’s time for a move.
Over recent months as we have built our team, I have performed a lot of interviews. How many times I’ve sat there enthused by the candidate in their first interview only for them to come up (well) short in the second one. It got me thinking. How much effort do candidates make today to land the role they really want.
And so I put together this post with candidates in mind. But before I get to that part, perhaps you run a business or a team and are hiring? Tell me, do you see the same things when you are interviewing? How are you approaching the candidates and what are you looking for above all else – please do leave a comment below.
Hey there candidates
Listen, I certainly remember what it feels like when you go for weeks or perhaps months without proper work and when you are between jobs. I also know all too well what it feels like when you feel ‘stuck’ in a job or a company and you can’t seem to tear yourself away but you know you need to.
It is certainly true to say it is never easier to land yourself a new role than when you are already in one. That said, I wanted to share a few pointers that I hope and believe can help you to ‘stand out’ from the crowd and increase your chances of landing your next job when you get to interview.
Let’s start by taking a look at who the people in front of you are and what we are after. We might differ in terms of what we value most in a candidate. Some of us are fixated on your qualifications, your schooling, your connections or your skills. Others will focus on your experience and what you can bring to the table.
As a slight aside, don’t be too surprised if after a couple of months in your new role you find yourself thinking… “but I thought you hired me for X and I don’t appear to be really using that anymore!” The thing is, roles change. Companies change. Your ability to morph and adapt is key, we are all evolving and growing.
That is why there is the group of us who look first and foremost for the right person for our company in terms of ‘cultural fit’. It certainly is the magic ingredient for me. You may have seen another post of mine on the importance of recruiting for attitude.
Before I get to the 10 top tips, let me just say this. Irrespective of how we approach the hiring process, we all have one thing in common. There’s a gap in our business. We need to fill it. We might be under serious time pressure to do that because someone left suddenly, or we haven’t found the right person yet and the powers that be are threatening to revoke the budget. This is your chance!
You are a great person. You have your skills, your experience, (whether you’re just starting out or moving up) and you need to ‘bring it’ when you come into the room. That ‘room’ includes the telephone by the way. So if you have phone interviews, remember the person you are talking to only has what you say and how you say it to go on. They can not see you and read your body language.
You owe it to yourself to come properly prepared for an interview. It isn’t all about whether you read up on our company – that’s a given. Please read the job description and demonstrate you have given some real thought to how you meet the requirements.
Remember though, your personality needs to shine too! That’s the ‘secret sauce’. It’s ‘how’ you interview that I’m talking about. We have your CV/resume but we don’t know YOU. Did you actually write a covering email or letter to go with your application? It amazes me how few of those I see these days.
So to the 10 top tips
Here then is a handful of things that will help you do well at interview when we meet face to face:
- The handshake – it STILL matters. Oh how it matters! And this applies to women as just as much as men. Please do NOT offer me a limp hand. Be proud of who you are. Be respectful of those in front of you and put some effort into it.
- Dress smart – you do not necessarily have to wear a suit, (and ties… I reckon they’ll come back into fashion one day,) but you do need to put in a bit of effort and dress the part. Some of us still look at your shoes by the way. It tells us a lot about how you look after yourself – and can be an indicator of your state of mind too.
- Be present – as I heard Nigel Risner say recently, “if you are in the room, BE in the room.” In other words, be present. Be mindful. Be with me/us and not off in your ‘mind palace’ (reference Sherlock Holmes of the Cumberbatch variety). I also think active listening is a real skill and I love it when you demonstrate you have that skill. It’s a good idea to make eye contact and sit up properly.
- Please answer the question – the one I asked. I realise language can sometimes be a barrier. However, there is nothing to stop you checking you understood what I was asking about before you start your response. It’s surprising how much time is lost during interviews if you answer a question you thought you heard rather than the one I/we asked.
- Know yourself – We want to know who you are. We are going to spend a lot of our waking lives sitting alongside one another and it starts with these first couple of hours in interview. A little vulnerability, humility and honesty will go a long way. Knowing your motivations and what drives you matters to us. If you don’t yet know yourself all that well, today’s the day to start your journey of self-discovery.
- Bring (real life) examples – besides telling us about your career to date, bring your backstory to life. If you are proud of a project you ran or worked on, if you produced something physical that you feel good about, why not bring it along. We will not ask you to leave it behind but we would like to see evidence of how good you are. An artist will present a portfolio. Why don’t you? Also, we like stories. Relevant stories. We will ask you to “tell us about a time when you…” for a reason.
- Ask questions – this is your stage too. An interview really is a two-way street. I much prefer it if you sit forward, engage and asks questions. I want you to find out more. This is your opportunity to ‘vet’ us too. How many times have you thought afterwards, “I wish I had asked that at interview,” or “I wish I had found that out before I accepted the job!”
- Take notes – why don’t you bring a notepad and pen? Is it because you have a photographic memory? Let’s be real, making notes ahead of the interview and writing down a few questions to bring along tells me/us a lot about your interest in the job. If you sit there and don’t write anything down, how are you going to calmly evaluate whether we are right for you afterwards? I know it’s a people business, but I encourage you to take notes for your own records and sanity.
- Be hungry – convince me I should hire YOU. Just like all the information out there that you can hoover up to help you prepare for our meeting, there are lots of candidates for us to choose from. We want YOU. We may not know it yet, but that’s your job. To convince us. You need to sell yourself. No-one can do that as well as you can. But don’t go overboard OK – that can be scary.
- Smile – I know it can be a stressful experience. If you do not feel nervous or a bit tense, might I suggest you are not trying hard enough. Remember, this is YOUR day too. This is your opportunity to suss us out and so, try to relax and have a little fun. Let us see your personality and show us you can smile and mean it. We like that!
Am I being too harsh? Perhaps! I would love to know what your thoughts are. Business owners – can you relate to the points I’ve raised here? Are you seeing something similar in your hiring these days? Candidates – is any of this useful? What are you going to do differently as a result? Please let me know.