For a couple of years now I’ve been getting frequent questions from my friends and colleagues about job interviews. They need some advice about their approach, questions they might get, questions they should or should not ask… I was never an HR professional by position or job description. But for some reason, even before I started writing this blog, people trusted me with those topics. And I must say I liked that. It gave me the impression that I was a competent people manager throughout the years.
If I try to understand why they keep asking me and why I’m capable of giving decent advice, I come to a conclusion that this is connected to my basic education and knowledge of drama arts and movies. Because, a job interview is actually one big theater show. Staring at least two and sometimes more actors. If both actors play well, it will have positive outcome. If you play well you might get the job but the future there is not very bright. If the (HR business) partner sitting opposite to you does a bad job – you don’t have a chance.
I don’t want to be rude but I have to say that this article is applicable only to more complex employment processes in companies where this is taken seriously. And, for the most part, when it comes to more demanding and complex positions. Although principles are or should be the same for some less appreciated (paid) jobs, we all know that in real life, time spent on hiring cashiers or storage workers is very limited.
Advice No. 1
Do a background check about the person you are going to play this show with
It’s easy to get to know the company where you are applying for a job. You will find their company profile, portfolio, manifesto, code of conduct and a lot of other corporate bullshit. It goes without saying that you know the basics of the theater where you are going to play the show, but this is not really important.
The key is to do a research on the specific person that you are going to talk to. In almost any business society this should not be very hard to do. It takes no more than 3 steps for you to find someone who knows someone who knows the person.
But what is it that you should find about your “partner”? Usually people ask if that person is friendly or arrogant, soft or tough, demanding or relaxed… But this is less relevant in my opinion. It’s very important to understand a person’s motivation for that particular job interview. You can have a wide range of motivation factors but let’s name some of the most frequent ones and most important ones:
- Is your partner ambitious and hungry to prove herself/himself by recruiting good candidates?
- Is your partner respected and trusted professional by other colleagues?
- Is your partner interested in something else besides work and job she/he is doing?
- Is your partner interested in getting the job done or in finding perfect fit for the team/company?
- Is your partner under time pressure? Or any other pressure?
This is applicable for HR professional that might interview you, but also for potential line managers that will interview you after HR department. For additional tips on how to approach and judge line managers see my post I’m Sorry, I’m Talented.
Why are all those questions important? Instead of explaining as always I will just give you some examples. What if your interviewer needs to hire 20 people in 5 days? The opposite of hiring one person in 2 years? What if she/he has high ambitions and wants to present to the management only candidates that look absolutely amazing and as 100% fit? On the other hand what if she/he is a seasoned professional with huge respect from management and he/she is able to put forward unusual and not very typical candidates for the position?
Advice No. 2
Never look too eager to get the job
Of course, it’s always more comfortable to look for another job while you still have one. You are more relaxed in general and you can play this game better. But even if you are really in need to land a new job offer, try to play cool.
If I compare it again with theater – you will never believe the actor who is pushing too much and too hard. The best actors look very natural, like they are doing something perfectly normal in a very relaxed manner. If they over-act it you are not going to trust them on stage.
I must say that there are cases when a company/interviewer want from you to show high level of interest and motivation for the job, but you should be able to understand that if you perform the action mentioned in Advice No. 1 well. Also, it might be a sign that the job is quite a lousy one. Plus, bear in mind that motivation is not presented in the best way by how you say things but what you are saying. So, tone your enthusiasm a bit down.
Advice No. 3
Look like a million dollars
Although all big companies will tell that they don’t care how candidates look – this is not true. I’m not going to step into diversity topic because I’m not talking here about being male or female, black or white, beautiful or not. This is not about your beauty, biceps, long blond hair, beautiful face or great legs. This is about putting some effort to look your best on that day.
Most serious recruiters will not judge and hire based on how you look. But that’s the case only if there is no more than one candidate with similar qualifications and competences. If you face competition of a couple more good candidates believe me – the better looking one is going to get the job. I know that this claim can provoke some controversy, but it’s relatively easy to explain:
- If someone notices that you were dedicated to bring up maximum out of your personal appearance she/he will also think that you will have a similar level of dedication to your working tasks. This recognition doesn’t have to be conscious. Many things happen on a subconscious level.
- We all like to be around good looking people. Is this human nature or image created by media? Doesn’t matter much for this story.
So, flip through some good fashion blogs, go to your hairdresser, consult some friends experienced in style and fashion… Test some new fragrances… if nothing, you will feel good about yourself while entering that interview room.
Cheers to new opportunities and new jobs! And don’t forget to enjoy the show. I know it’s stressful but it can also be fun!