There is little more daunting than your first job interview.
All you have to back you up is a crisp new diploma or certificate, a few wise words from friends and family, and the little you remember from those classroom sessions that showed you how to prepare the perfect CV or resume.
Unfortunately, that covers the basics only, and does not begin to prepare you for string of questions aimed at finding flaws in your armour, and the perfect picture of yourself you are trying to sell.
In 1996, I had my first, and last job interview as a prospective employee. I was nervous, palms sweating, foot tapping. My heart was pounding, but on the surface I THINK I was calm and composed.
Since then, I have interviewed hundreds (possibly thousands if you include the more informal interviews) of candidates and with all honesty, the CV and classroom “tips” played a negligible part in my decision to employ someone. When it was evident that the candidate made an effort to create a document unique to them, and that it was a true reflection of who they were (not who they wanted me to think they were) I would take time read it.
Don’t get me wrong, a good, solid education, with top grades is essential. In itself they say little, but it does show a level of dedication and commitment and that you can expect great effort on the job.
So what do I look for?
Do you Walk the Walk?
An interview with me starts the moment you step onto the premises, not when you unbutton the suit jacket and sit down for the interview. By the time we shake hands, I have already gauged your energy levels, your assertiveness, confidence and your approach to life and work.
Attitude is everything, and your body language – starting with your walk – speaks volumes.
Walk with confidence, with purpose. WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO.
A Huffington Post article from 2012 expands on how your walk can give away you frame of mind, confidence levels.
“The slower the walk, the more internal dialogue, as a rule of thumb. And the more brisk the walk, the more confident the person is, the more upright and erect you become.”
The whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth
Honesty, integrity, trust. All are a result of the truth. With truth there is no deceit. With truth you are honest.
If I am to employ you in my organisation, I need to have faith in your ability to honest, and truthful in all you do and say. You are about to handle sensitive, and highly confidential company and client information.
The questions I ask in an interview are meant to probe, not simply your technical knowledge, but how truthful you are about what you do outside the walls of an organisation. Sadly, God left out our Good/Bad on/switch, and it is safe to assume that anyone that is not trustworthy in their everyday life, cannot be trusted in the company.
So much rides on integrity in the work place, especially in developing countries, where bribery and corruption is the order of the day.
Answer ALL questions, truthfully – even if the answer is not what the interviewer wants to hear? – and you will show that you do not hide from responsibility. You own up to mistakes and when you say you will do something, there is no second guessing you.
You simply have to sing it when you say it.
We spend the greater part of our working lives in the confines of our workplace, effectively rendering every colleague into a honorary family member. Now as a new employee, you can unfortunately – again – not choose your family (if you want a job), but since I have assumed the seat of the God Father, I surely can, and as Don Corleone will attest, family is everything.
How you treat and respect your future colleagues as you enter their “home” gives a good indication of how you will treat them if you get adopted into the family. You MUST fit into the team. You MUST see that each person has a role to play, and every one of them is needed to make the family a success.
A few years ago, I closely observed a candidate for a position in my accounts team. He stepped out of his car, sharply dressed, shoulders back and walked with the stride of a man who just landed his dream date. In an environment were poorly fitted suits, and slow aimless walks dominate, this was intriguing…
It all fell apart in seconds, as his lofty response to the receptionist and another employee eager to show him to the waiting area, revealed more about him. He was superior to us all (yes, me included) and the deeper we went into the interview, the more he revealed this. Granted, in the cut throat job market on Wall Street, this will likely land you the job. But South Africa is not Wall Street, and here a little respect goes a long way.
I have a simple policy. If you are on my team, I will respect you, and treat you the same whether you have a fancy title, or wear overalls and sweep the floors. You were created by God, and every one of God’s creations is wonderfully made, and deserving of respect.
Disrespect anyone on your way in, and you are on your way out.
How badly do you want to be here?
It is so easy to see if an interviewee is simply looking to pay the bills or if they truly want to be part of a great team, with the chance of making a difference.
The first indication is how much effort you put into finding out more about the company. We all have access to the internet, and a quick Google search will take you to the website, and any news articles about your keep-my-fingers-crossed new employer.
Do not simply go to the Services, or About pages. Take time to read as much as you can, and ask around. Find out if you know anyone that already works there. Perhaps a friend knows someone who does.
I always ask ” Why join us? There are many other companies in our field, why us?” I was taken aback when I first started asking this and the response from a very honest candidate was “You are the only one with a job opening…”…. Why thanks…. Way to make me feel special…
Show me that you are truly interested, and you show me that you are likely going to show the same eagerness and dedication with whatever task you are given.
I could likely go on a for a few more pages of what I like to see in a potential employee, but these have over time stood out as the ones that will most likely have the biggest impact on the team, or rather the family.
Now don’t go shredding your CV, and deleting all your accomplishments from it. They are important, and you should be proud of each and every one of them. But you as person, your personality and interaction with others, decide your fit in the family…
And that is after all what it is all about.