Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Going for a job interview. Prepare, prepare, prepare

By Cleland Thom

I’ve been helping a client recruit two new members of staff this week.

It’s a local council and is hiring a new press officer and someone to do its digital communications (looking after the website and social media).

I’ve 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 work with.

It does mean the candidate needs to shine in that limited time.

CVs 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:

Listen 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 answer.

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 good.

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 thanks.

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).

See our PR course

No comments:

Post a comment