In this computer age, in these days of psychometric testing and personality profiling, it is tempting to think that recruitment is so precise that it can all be done on paper. Business continues to be all about people, however, and their relationships with each other. The interview remains common to all recruitment processes. It is still the best way to decide, to put it bluntly, whether two people like each other.
A first date
With this as an aim, it follows that such meetings should be two-way conversations. It is not just an opportunity for a candidate to show off his wares to a potential buyer. Often it can be likened to a “first date”, rather than a business encounter, with each partner trying to decide whether they want a lasting relationship to develop!
I am often asked by candidates how to improve their interview techniques. They tend to be the very candidates who have spent our meeting selling themselves, not once stopping to ask what is required for them. For those who wish to find the right job with the right employers, then there is not such thing as an interview technique. If you wish to pretend to people that you are far better then you are, you will meet with some success, but your subsequent job performance will soon find you out.
A number of rules
There are, however, a number of rules that everybody should observe to ensure that they do not disqualify themselves from a job that they should have secured.
Like any other meeting, preparation is essential and there is much that can be done. Confidentiality must be respected if required, but even so I would expect any candidate to have a good idea of the size of the business, who it is owned by and the scope of the job required, especially if it is a promotion or a new job function.
For dealerships it is not difficult to research the fortunes of their franchise, the model range and the type of image they wish to project. Ask them to send you as many details as possible beforehand, even if it is just in the way of a company brochure.
Pay particular attention to your personal appearance. Do not be naive enough to believe that it does not matter but do not overdo it. Like so many things in recruitment it is its negative effect that is important. Too overpowering with lots of aftershave, gold jewellery, hair lacquer and an immaculate appearance will put many people off.
Scruffy shoes, bad breath and that “dragged through the hedge backwards” look will simply say that you could not be bothered to make the effort. No male or female candidate will ever be penalised for a sensible, middle of the road suit, clean shoes and a genuinely professional and business like appearance.
Never, Never, Never
One golden rule, NEVER, NEVER be late, or more than 15 minutes early. Plan to be in the area at least half an hour before and hang around if you have to, but give yourself time to get your thoughts together. If the unthinkable happens and you know your are going to miss your appointment then stop and telephone in advance, giving them time to re-arrange their schedule if necessary. This is essential even if it delays you slightly longer.
The ground rules
Once you have arrived on time and are in the interview establish the ground rules. How long will the meeting last? How do you address the interviewer? What will the next stage be if you are successful?
Knowing how long you have got will give you an idea of how much depth is required. Many people cannot help talking. They try to justify their answer or to justify previous actions. They never stop. Do not be tempted to do so. Any sensible interviewer not getting enough detail, will ask you for more. It is much more disruptive to stop you in mid stream and to steer you onto another subject. If he is good he will do so, if not he may allow you to dig a very deep hole for yourself. Listen carefully and answer the questions clearly and concisely.
State clearly your achievement, but steer clear of generalities and talk about specifics. For instance, if you have increased market penetration then say by how much. Going from 10% to 20% is impressive, but they will never know if you keep silent. Quantify your answers.
Treat the conversation as a two-way affair, try to find out as much about the company and the way they think as they are trying to find out from you. Remember, if you find out whether they will suit you, then the conversation is likely to be more lively, more interesting and, if you are asking sensible, pertinent questions, more flattering to them. Everybody likes candidates who are interested in their business.
When your allotted time has finished, do not be tempted to grab a few extra minutes by over-running, unless invited to do so. There is nothing more irritating than trying to stop somebody in mid-flow who is determined to carry on. They are likely not to invite you back a second time just in case you do it again.
In any two-way conversation there are do’s and don’ts, but nearly always communication is about good listening as well as good talking. In today’s competitive job market, everyone is trying to make the perfect sales pitch. The candidates who are seriously trying to explore proper career opportunities will stand out. They are likely to be the ones who are attractive to prospective employers.
Disagree if you have to
One final point, do not be afraid to disagree if an interviewer says something which you believe is clearly wrong. This may be done to test you out. If you disagree fundamentally, then it is better to find out now than at a later date, after you have started work. Reasoned argument and persuasion is what business is all about. Do not be afraid to pursue it in an interview situation.
An interview is an artificial situation. Approach it in the right way, do not make any elementary mistakes before the meeting starts and you will have as good a chance as any, especially if you are the right person for the job. Good luck.