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  • Writer's pictureEwa Zajac

Interviewing is a skill and your source of information

Don't take interviews personally.

A friend recently shared a familiar story: her husband got approached by recruiters about a few jobs, did some interviews that looked like they were going in the right direction, but all of a sudden the process stopped and he ultimately was not offered any of the positions. He ended up frustrated and felt he wasted his time and energy interviewing for jobs that he initially did not even have the intention of taking.

It's understandable: interviews are an awkward situation for most people, creating an artificial environment where our professional skills and ways of working are being assessed through opaque processes.

We feel like we're doing an exam in school but the rules of grading are hidden from us.

Sometimes we pass, other times we fail, and feedback is withheld (this is an unfortunate practice in the industry which I do not condone - recruiters should always give candidates at least some minimal feedback).

It's especially annoying when we entered the interview process out of curiosity and not because we're actively looking for a job. Recruiters are too quick to put us through the evaluation, request updated CVs during the first message exchange, dive straight into situational questions before getting to know our motivations better.

But here is where you, the candidate, can take the reins and get more out of interviewing. Why? Because interviews are your opportunity to practice interviewing and to gain knowledge about the options available to you in your area of business.

Do interviews to practice interviewing

Sounds obvious, but many people forget that interviewing is a skill like any other. You won't nail it the first time round, or the second time, or the third, but you will continue to get better if you take lessons and focus on what you can improve next time. It's like learning to ice-skate: a bit unnerving, you might fall a few times, but eventually you get the gist of it.

And when your time comes to interview for a dream job, you will be in with a much higher chance of impressing the employer if you have practiced the skill of presenting yourself well.

Think about it as the equivalent of the hours behind the wheel when learning to drive. The more you drive, the better you are able to control your car and all aspects of the situation on the road.

Practical tip:

  1. After your interview, write down the answers you nailed and what made them great. How can you apply this to your other answers, the ones you felt you could have answered better?

  2. Did you get stuck and were not able to quickly find a good example to share? If so, can you type up a reply now that you can use next time?

I keep a doc in my drive that I regularly update with the examples I can provide when answering the most common interview questions: how do you prioritise when overloaded, how have you dealt with a problem within your team, how did you make decisions without all available data, etc.

This form of preparation will increase your level of confidence and help you focus on the second reason for doing interviews: gaining knowledge.

Interviews are your source of information

You absolutely should use all your interactions with a potential employer to learn as much as you can about how they do business, how they work, what their culture is.

  • Specific to your profession, ask about the tools and processes the team has adopted and how they are making sure to continuously improve.

  • Find out about how they build relationships, how they set priorities, how they deal with problems and delays.

  • Ask about the expectations they have towards you in the role and how will you be spending the majority of your day. What are the main challenges, how have other people on the team handled them?

  • Ask the manager about their management style and how you can be an A player on the team.

  • Always ask to speak to a peer in a less formal setting, to gauge how happy they are in their role and what they like and dislike. If the company is not offering you this option, request it.

All of this information is really valuable to you when assessing how your current role compares to this new opportunity.

You may discover you have been missing out, eg. your company is using outdated technology that is slowing you down and causing unnecessary frustration. You may also discover that your current role ticks many of the boxes that are important to you and that you are actually quite happy in it compared to the job you're being interviewed for.

I know people who discovered that their current employer was paying them much more than the competition was willing to pay, and stayed in their jobs as a result.

The pay subject is a big one and deserves a separate post. Let me just say here that while I don't recommend focusing on the compensation details at the start of the process, it's fine to ask about a ballpark figure the company has budgeted. They may not be willing to share this info at the beginning, in which case don't press them. And remember one of the pivotal rules of negotiation: avoid giving your number away first.

That's all for today, happy interviewing and if you need some help or want to share some experiences with me, let's chat!

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