By Cleland Thom
I’ve been helping a client recruit two new members of staff this week.
a local council and is hiring a new press officer and someone to do its
digital communications (looking after the website and social media).
never been convinced that 50-minute interviews are the best way of
deciding someone is right for a job, but hey, it’s the system we have to
It does mean the candidate needs to shine in that limited time.
and application forms are perfect for judging whether the candidate has
the technical skills required for the post. The interview is when they
need to prove they are the right person for the job.
We found two
good people, offered them the jobs and they accepted, which is the
result we wanted.
They were impressive and performed well.
Here are my takeaways from the interviews if you’re prepping for one yourself:
carefully. When we ask you to sum up your career so far in two minutes,
make sure you have got everything in by 1 minute and 59 seconds.
Talking for six doesn’t do you any favours.
When you’re asked 'why
have you applied for this post?' for goodness sake give a convincing
To be honest, you have no excuse. You know it will come up. It’s
the first response you should rehearse. Three or four reasons are
plenty. Saying (as one candidate did) 'I like designing websites' isn’t
Do your research. If you are busy applying for lots of
roles (especially if you’ve just graduated and are starting your career)
you’ll have a lot going on and you’ll be up to your eyeballs in CVs and
personal statements. I get that. But, not doing any research about the
organisation you’ve applied to, is a complete failure. You need to know
who the senior managers are, something about the team you’ll be part of
and what it’s working on.
‘Know the business’. It doesn’t matter
that you might be applying to a council with 15,000 members of staff.
Make it your business to understand the business. You need to know
what’s going on elsewhere and beyond your own team boundaries. The same
applies when it comes to the understanding the wider world, the external
environment and what’s affecting the organisation. You should know the
answer immediately when asked 'what’s the biggest challenge facing local
councils right now?'*
Be personable. You might have all the
qualifications under the sun, but you’ll probably be joining an existing
team with strong bonds. You’ll need to fit in. You only have 50
minutes, but we need to like you by the end and you personality needs to
come across. Standing up and bursting into song isn’t necessary though
Ask some decent questions. Everyone should have a question
to ask at the end of an interview. Please think of just one. 'What is
it like to work here?' will do.
*the answer is 'ongoing cutbacks, a lack of cash and pressure on services'. (I’ll give you that one for free).
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