What to look for in an interview

For years working in large organisations, I dreamt of changing career paths at some point and do something I truly enjoyed and believed in. That time has come and as of the beginning of this year I’m no longer living the “corporate life”. I’ve finally decided to take my business plans off the ground and do something for myself. It’s taking me long hours working, stretching to a multitude of different roles I never did as an employee, yet it’s the happiest I’ve felt in a long time. There’s a weird feeling that there will no longer be a paycheck at a specific day of the month, but the adrenaline and satisfaction of doing something that matters to me is greater than the fear.

Nevertheless, before all this I applied for jobs. A lot of jobs. That meant a lot of interviews. That also meant, I learned how to read interviewers and job adverts between the lines. As already mentioned in the Know Your Worth post, a job is a two-way relationship, so it’s important you and the organisation you’re working for “click”. Although securing a job is the main priority, if you end up not relating to the organisation’s culture and values then you’ll soon be job hunting. It’s time consuming and until you find something else you’ll gradually become less and less motivated in the current place.

So, in order to save time and ensure you make a sound choice, here’s a list of 5 things to consider during the recruitment process to help influence your final decision:

  1. Read the advert carefully.

How many tasks are you expected to fulfil? Are they all tasks you’d expect to have in role, or does it feel like the role is a merge of a number of roles? Is the detail too vague? Cost savings are a priority for any organisation, but there should be a limit. Although everyone can be flexible, a multitude of tasks and scopes is setting that role up for failure. Capture everything you’re comfortable with and unsure of for discussion in the interview. There could be a good reason why the advert was written that way, but you want to make sure the scope of the role is clear and fair.

  1. Research the organisation you’re applying for.

Social media is a great way to “read” organisations. The way an organisation interacts with their followers or promotes their campaigns can help you understand their culture. You may recall the Cyber First/Government UK campaign that went badly wrong last October. One of the adverts was the image of a ballerina with the caption “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet)”:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-54553828. Despite what Cyber First claimed, the message was interpreted in a very negative way. The reality is, such perceptions aren’t unheard of and even within organisations certain roles are accepted as being more relevant than others. Check the organisation and look for specific posts or information on the specific area you’re applying for. You may end up with a very good view of how valuable the organisation believes a role such as the one you’re applying for is. It can also give you an idea of potential career progression from there onwards.

  1. Assess how your interviewers interact with staff.

The day of the interview is key. It’s your opportunity to learn about the people you’ll be working with and for. If you’re waiting in reception, have they thanked the receptionist for announcing/looking after you? The way the reception staff are treated or ignored is a good insight into the organisation, their values and culture. If you come across staff on your way to the interview room, check how your interviewers interact or acknowledge colleagues. Those interactions reflect what your day-to-day in the organisation will be.

  1. Assess how your interviewers interact with you.

Have you been made to feel welcome and relaxed for the interview? Have you been left waiting for too long? Every interviewer is different and some may ask you whether you’re ready for the interview, or if you’d like a drink or use the toilets before starting the interview. It’s not unusual to be left waiting beyond the interview hour, however good manners would mean you’d get an explanation or an apology. Small details can give away how the interviewers perceive the role you’re applying for and ultimately how you’ll be perceived in the organisation once you join. If your experience during the interview is good, that’s a good start!

    1. Have a look around.

What do you see? What do you hear? Do the staff around you look happy, stressed, energetic? Is there “life” around you? People engaging? Or is everyone keeping to themselves? Assessing the environment can give you an indication of what working in that place will be like. Some people like a buzzing environment, some don’t, so whatever your personality just ask yourself if you would be happy working there.

These are obviously a few checks you can perform, but not the only ones. Depending on your personality and circumstances you may want to expand on these which is perfectly fine. The key message I want you to retain is that a job is a long term commitment, so use your judgement to avoid being in a complicated “relationship”. Most times, if it feels right, it’s probably right, so don’t over think it, but remember to assess an organisation just as much as they assess you.

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