We speak to people from many industries. Jobseekers who are desperate to find their next role. People who have genuinely achieved and made a real difference during their career.
But speak to them in an interview, and every improvement, every positive change, every target hit, every budget made seems to be down to somebody else.
Which might well be true, and the truly modest amongst us will never take credit for anybody else’s hard work. The truly sensible amongst us will also recognise that we have made a contribution.
Here is the problem. At interview most recruiters don’t value modesty, reticence and underachievement. They are looking for precisely the opposite. People who make things happen, people who are successful, people who make a difference.
So unless you get into the habit of blowing your own trumpet, explaining clearly how you were able to contribute, how your team outperformed, how you were always valued when compared to your peers, then you will not stand out.
Because it is highly probable that most of the others on the shortlist are doing just that. Even if in reality they have achieved very little, they will still take credit for small successes.
So when people say “I don’t want to blow my own trumpet” our reply is “You must, because nobody else will do it for you”.
Unless you take your mother to the interview, that is.
Here is your problem. In the absence of any other strategy, people approach interviews trying to be likeable, trustworthy and passionate.
Not bad as an aim in itself, except that employers see lots of people who tick those boxes. But when they are recruiting what are they looking for?
Normally a solution to a problem. And in times of stress like this, it is normally a short-term problem.
They may not find somebody with exactly the right experience who has solved this problem before. But they will recognise the person when they see them.
Now nobody is suggesting that if you’ve been working in hotels all your life you have the right experience to suddenly become a brain surgeon. But in many other walks of life, skills are transferable. Salespeople in one industry can generally do well in another, especially if the profile of the customer is similar.
Likewise technical experts may benefit from 20 years with such and such technology, but in reality technology is changing so fast most people have no more than a year’s experience in any of it.
So recruiters are looking for people who solve problems. Whether on the front desk, whether managing a team of people, foreign customer support. But they want to understand that you can recognise problems and how you solve them. If you demonstrate this to people at an interview, they will listen. If you communicate it in the right way they will remember you.
But they see plenty of nice, 120% committed, likeable people. And that is not enough.
We speak to lots of jobseekers who we are supporting through outplacement.
Quite often when we speak to them after an interview, they feel slightly frustrated by their performance. That they have not quite got the message across. Which is why they nearly always benefit from interview coaching.
You see the problem is, many of us are not great storytellers. At interview, many are also really quite nervous. And under pressure, especially if you really want the job because you need it or it is the job of your dreams.
So instead of communicating clearly what you can bring to the organisation, you tend to go on a bit of a ramble, get a bit disconnected and add in a few too many details. And you can sense that the recruiter is getting bored and wished that you would get to the point.
And that is precisely what I recommend to anyone in an interview. Get to the point as quickly as possible and ask the interviewer if they would like further qualification.
Do not be tempted to paint an elaborate picture. Because you’ll probably end up in a Ronnie Corbett style monologue, going down all sorts of blind alleys and leaving your audience unimpressed.
Much better to get the key message across and add more information afterwards, than trying to tell your life story in one go.
Look, I know that jobs are not to a penny at the moment. I know that the market is not flooded with opportunity.
But nevertheless, some of you are so keen to get a job that you’re scared of disagreeing with the recruiter, even when what they say is plainly wrong.
Sometimes this can be a test, to throw something controversial into the questioning and see how you react. Whether you stand up for yourself and what you believe or whether you simply roll over.
At other times you may fundamentally disagree with everything that is being said to you. However desperate you are for a job, would you feel comfortable in an organisation like that? Would they respect you more if you stood up to them and said you felt it was wrong.
We don’t suggest you pick an argument in every interview, but if you know something is plainly wrong then tactfully suggest that you don’t quite agree with everything. It might be a test or they might be a nightmare to work for.
Or at least get your lighting right.
Online interviews are becoming more common and more important. First impressions really count. So often I start online coaching with call from a dark murky figure against a brightly lit window. If I’m lucky the camera is pointing at their head if I’m not it misses them altogether.
Online interviews really are important. Practice them carefully beforehand, preferably video calling with a friend and asking them to take a screenshot. That way you can see whether you look like a professional TV presenter or someone stuck in the back of a cupboard in low light.
I know that many complain that their laptop does not have a great camera, or they can only use their phone. But if you are serious about your career, and recognise that this is an important part of the process, then invest £20 in a decent WebCam. Then set yourself up somewhere in the house with decent lighting and a plain background. It will pay real dividends.
Get the lighting right and you can shine.
The question I’m often asked – ”Why did they get the job when they’re nowhere near as good at it as me?”
Because many people who are brilliant at their jobs are rubbish at communicating it. They don’t understand that what comes to them naturally, is difficult for others to comprehend.
And they don’t understand that if you can learn to communicate your skills, can explain exactly what makes you different and why you have better results, you will get noticed.
It has always been one of our biggest frustrations that the best operators sometimes don’t get the career breaks they deserve. And we have often looked on in amazement at those who cannot perform at that level rise rapidly through the ranks, impressing everybody at each stage of the interview process. They can’t manage but they can interview well.
Learn the secret to this process and your career will take off. Pretend that it makes no difference and it will hold you back.
Talk to us, we can tell you how.
On the one hand they aren’t really. If you know what you’re doing.
But most of us are not broadcasters. And the only video calls we ever really make are with our mates, and never really trying to impress a new employer.
And how many interviews have you ever had to do with the family running around in the background? Or with the stereo blaring from upstairs?
Because many of our jobseekers have to overcome these hurdles and more. How do you get the lighting right? How do you dress? How do you lead and guide the conversation rather than a series of grunts and Yes’s and No’s?
We know that the online coaching that we do makes a massive difference. So do our jobseekers.
In any interview first impressions count. An online interview is not an informal chat – get it right, understand the principles involved and you will be way ahead of the competition. And whatever background or experience you have, you will stand a much better chance.
In today’s market, as we all try to keep apart from each other, recruitment still has to go on. And if you can master the online interview then you will find yourself back in work much quicker than most.
Apparently this is the most feared question in interviews, and features in more Internet searches than any other interview question.
And it’s surprising really, because if you think about it it is the one question that you should know all the answers to. But then most candidates are worried about how they express themselves and how they present themselves in the best possible light.
Well here’s my first tip, don’t talk about yourself, talk about the things you’ve done and achieved, the things that you are most proud of. And give due prominence to the most recent events. It is absolutely fantastic that you got the best A-level results in the country, but if that was 40 years ago I don’t think it is going to impress many employers.
On the other hand, if you have taken your current dealership from bottom of the manufacturers league to into the top 10 in the last two years they may well sit up and listen. If you just tell them you are an inspirational leader they probably won’t take your word for it and ask for some more proof. Achievements, figures, objectively measured results are what matters.
The key thing is to expect this question, it will get asked at least 50% of the time in interviews. Prepare and practice your answer and you will be rarely under pressure when you answer it.
It is always tempting, you are desperate to justify yourself in an interview.
And the best way to do that is to demonstrate what an idiot your previous boss was. Or how incompetent the board was. Or what a ridiculous strategy they were following.
It is probably one of the most common mistakes that jobseekers make. It is entirely understandable and completely wrong. All employers want loyal committed and preferably compliant recruits. It is best not to fall at the first hurdle by giving them definitive proof that you are anything but.
However idiotic or stupid your employer may be, and we all concede that it is quite possible, do not fall into this basic trap. You will almost certainly head to Room 101 before you get a further chance to explain yourself.
All employers have their own agendas, few of them are perfect and everyone accepts that. But few accept that the person you were reporting into is more idiotic than you. So if you’ve been stupid enough to work for them that any length of time it reflects badly on you as much as it does on them. And your disloyalty and disrespect will put almost everybody off.
By all means explain you have had disagreements, by all means explain that you were not the right person for the job. But never be rude about a previous employer, because you won’t get the next job.
Whether you are submitting a CV or attending an interview, the initial impact you make will broadly determine the outcome of the process.
In fact it can be as little as five seconds during which a lot of decisions are made.
Take the humble CV, for instance. Tests have shown that a recruiter will make up a decision about a candidate’s CV in between 6 and 8 seconds.
Admittedly that decision may be a definite No, a definite Yes and lots of Maybes. They then spend a bit more time on the Maybes, but in eight seconds you might not get that far.
In interview situations, however objective the process, a similar instant reaction, apparently less than five seconds, is made by most of us. It dates back to much earlier times, when your very survival depended upon whether an individual was for you or against you. And we just can’t help using those instincts, whatever process we are asked to go through.
It is not the whole secret to preparing a CV or to attending an interview, but if you are entirely capable, and competent, and you can make a great first impression and you can interview well then you are on the road to success.
If you can’t, you have to work that little bit harder. Learn to make an instant impact and you will do better.
However unfair that is.