The Art of the Interview

Last week, I was made redundant/laid off at my company. My reaction to that was to immediately start looking for work. Luckily, I landed an interview last week, and yesterday, I had a second interview for the position. I hope to hear today, or tomorrow (it will be a relief if I get a job before Easter)

For me, I enjoy interviewing. The way my job is structured, I tend to seek a new job every 2-3 years, and usually I have a very easy time of getting interview, and then landing the job. Of course, there have been times I have struck out, but overall, I feel that my interviewing skills are one of the best skills I have.

That and I have fun.

The process for me when I am job searching is this: every morning, I look through several sites looking for new jobs that have come up in the last day or so. If there are any that appeal to me, I will read the description, and take a cursory look at their website. If I generally like what I see, I submit. I don’t hesitate, I don’t linger, I simply apply.

Now, about 80% of these I never hear from again. Maybe I am not the right fit, maybe my name looks weird, maybe I don’t have the skills that they need. For the other 20% or so, I get a call, and we have a chat. Generally, if they like me, I get to the interview stage.

At this point, I figure out if they need me to provide anything (portfolio of my work, etc), and I get the names of the people I am being interviewed by.

Then I get to work.

I go back to the website, read their mission, find out their C-Level staff, and I look for them in the news to see their public perception. I then go to LinkedIn and find the person who called, as well as the people interviewing me, see their faces. See their background, and make any notes that may look like an advantage for me to bring up. (Oh, she worked for X company a few years ago, and I have worked with the company on a project, I should bring it up)

With the pre-work finish, I walk into the interview ready.

My philosophy towards interviews is that once you are in the room, your CV/resume doesn’t matter. Sure, you will talk about it and your experience, but they are looking at *you* at this point. The CV/resume got you into the room, it is how you handle the interview whether you will land the job or not.

The best interviews is when they become more of a conversation and less than a question and answer session. Don’t just answer the question, engage and bring them over to your side.

– WanderingExPat

When I walk into a room, I don’t see myself as someone trying to impress a company or a room full of people, what I see is me testing out the company and see if they can handle me, and if I feel I am a good fit for the company. They are being evaluated as well, and when you go in with that mindset, it is a lot easier to handle. You are still in control here, and they can fuck up and lose out on you.

Now the questions. Everyone loathes the questions in interviews. Tell me how often you have heard a question start with

Tell me a time when…

The interviewer wants to ask about your soft people skills here, or how you managed a situation critically, that doesn’t come up on a CV. How did you handle a crisis? Tell me a time when you were surprised, and had to react? What if you had an issue with a co-worker, what would you do? With these questions (and I include “what if” questions here as well) is a great time to pull out a good story from your career. These anecdotes, no matter how work-like they are, allows you to create a connection with your interviewers. “Oh, I remember when I was about to give a giant presentation in front of 30 stakeholders and my computer died, let me tell you what I did.”

And here is the important part. You talk to them as if you already know them, that you are friends who you haven’t seen in a while, and you are DYING to tell them about this disaster of a presentation you had to get through. While keeping it professional, keep it short, and highlight your thought process throughout the events to show how you worked (or will work) through the issue. This is a great way to calm yourself and bring the interviewers onto your side. Make them laugh, smile, or nod in appreciation, because honestly, we have ALL had that moment when everything fails and we had to think quickly. And finally, this is a great way to make your memorable. A good story goes a lot further than a pat answer.

Tell me about our company

This is almost always the first question I get asked. This is why research is so important. From the website, I know what they sell, what their mission is, and the key points of how the company works. So do your homework. Try and create a concise statement that sums up the company in 15 seconds or less. If you can do that, they will be impressed.

Smile, laugh, and have a cheeky moment

My goal in an interview is to make the interviewers laugh. Always. I do this in a variety of ways. In my story I may throw in a singular sassy line. Or when I answer a question, I throw a joke, or a slightly deprecating note to myself. I will also throw in a humorous things about my life, just a little personal flair. I have even joked about questions, in a way that allows me to segue into a work story. When I can’t get someone to smile or laugh, that is an indication to me that I may not want to work there. A Manager without a sense of humor is not someone I want to work with. Remember, I am interviewing them as well. If they thing I am silly, or boring, or uninteresting, then that is a red flag for me.

Have your questions for them ready

In every interview I have been in, I get asked “So, do you have any questions for us?” Again, this is your moment to shine. They are wanting to see what your perspective is in choosing their company. Here, you can ask anything you want, but I generally feel that business question relating to the health of the business is great here. Here are some questions I have thrown out in the past.

  • What is the company’s 5 year plan?
  • You’re currently in a growth phase, how far are you wanting to grow and how will you manage the new resources?
  • Does external factors affect your business, and if so how much? (World events may impact a company greatly, this was important during the GFC, but I still ask it if I am wondering)
  • Do you like your job here?
  • What is your 3 year plan for this department/unit/program
  • Where do you see me fitting in your organisation in 3 years.

Things like benefits and perks are best saved for later when you speak to HR. I find that these questions, and those like it, force the interviewer to genuinely think. Almost to a person, I have gotten surprised shock when I ask about the 5 year plan (and I always ask it now). For me, I want to know if the people in the company know where it is headed and what its goals are. I also and looking to see if the goals are somewhat obtainable. I will sometimes ask followup questions based on their answers. It shows your interest in the business as a whole, and thinking about more than just yourself, and this is a good thing.

The second (and Third) interviews

Followup interviews are interesting because so many things could happen. Sometimes you are being interviewed by someone else, which means you repeat the original rules above. Many times, you are told to Demo, or bring something in. In my field, it is often the case that you have to put together a presentation for X minutes (usually 10-15 minutes). For me, I use LinkedIn, and my own personal life to make fun, interesting, and relevant presentations that highlight my life personally while presenting it professionally. Others, may have a test, or will work with potential colleagues to see how you fit in, or how you critically solve an issue. The tips above will serve you well here. Be pleasant, and make those connections when you can. Leave the impression on others so that it builds on your first impression.

I have closed deals with my presentation in an interview, and I do it in a way makes me even more memorable. I have done presentations on Photography (featuring my photography), on Auditioning (I auditioned for singing competitions in the past), and I have made videos about Space, Travel, and pets. Doing something personal means I am the expert on it, and it allows my skills to shine.

Finishing up

When all is said and done, there are two things I always do at the end of the interview. I first thank them for the opportunity to speak with them today, and I wish them the best of luck with choosing a candidate. Recognizing that often times people are going through multiple interviews at a time, I know that choosing one means that you have to let the others down, and that is not a fun thing to do. By acknowledging their challenge, you get that last chance at connection. You are basically saying “I get it, its not easy, good luck.” and you get that connection once again.

Then, when I get home, I send a thank you email to the HR person who set up the interview. In the thank you, I reiterate my thanks for the opportunity and reiterate the good luck in choosing a candidate. I will sometimes only do this after the second interview, but for jobs I am keen on, I always send a letter. It is an old-fashion thing using  21st century technology. Again, it sets you apart from the crowd and it allows you to, one last time, impress and connect with them.

Now this style works for me, my field requires me to be client facing and engaged. As you develop your interview style, it may be more conservative, less personal, and so on… and that is fine. For me, being myself, and honest is how I have found the best jobs for me, and where I have had the most success in interviewing.

So do you have any tips? What are your go tos? What do you hate? Let me know below!





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