And, how you can take advantage…

Have you got an important job interview booked?  Do you sometimes wonder what goes on behind the scenes?  If you are a little nervous about attending a job interview have you ever stop to wonder how the interviewers are feeling? Probably not, you’ve got enough to think about. Well, here are 5 little known facts about the job interview.  

Looking for a job and attending interviews is a means to an end. You’re passionate about your career but not so much about going through the interview process. All you want to do is land a job that provides challenges, rewards, and recognition. You want to spend your time with your friends and family, not trawling the job boards!

Next time you attend an interview be mindful there may be a hidden agenda…

1. Arriving too early

Everyone knows (we hope!) that turning up late is never a good thing. By the way, you should always aim to contact the interviewers before you are late.  Surely turning up bright and early is seen as a positive, and shows you are keen.

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We sincerely hope you are keen on the job, but not desperate. And, that’s where you need to get the balance here.  Recruiters will most definitely be assessing your motivation throughout the process. In fact, we’ve probably already assessed your motivation before you’ve turned up to the interview. We’ll go into more detail about this point later.

So, what’s the problem with turning up early? It’s putting a little pressure on the recruiters to hurry up and collect you from reception.

When I was an in-house recruiter, I was in the middle of a job interview when I heard my name over the public announcement system.  The receptionist called out for me several times, it was embarrassing and it ended up distracting me and the candidate. 

It’s not good for you either. Having to wait too long in reception may increase your anxiety, particularly if you were feeling a little nervous anyway.

Here are some options:

  • Find a quiet place to park your car somewhere close to the venue. Don’t be tempted to wait in the employer’s car park, you’ll feel people are watching. Sit in your car and get into the right mindset
  • Take a walk around the block, as long as it’s not raining. Take some deep breathes and again, spend the time getting into the right mindset
  • Get there early if that’s your thing and explore the surroundings. It’s well worth assessing where you are going to spend a lot of your time
  • Take yourself to a coffee shop to do some last-minute preparation although, this should only be a refresher. Remember you are not rehearsing for an audition or memorizing a script or cramming for an exam.  Your answers need to flow naturally.  

All of your preparations for the job interview should have been done by this point. Additional note, take some fresh breath mints to take away the strong smell of coffee.

2. Hiring managers get nervous

Hiring managers are rarely more nervous than candidates. However, it does happen and it’s usually the newly appointed hiring managers or managers with no interviewing experience.

With this in mind, it may affect your interview. Getting the questioning technique right during an interview is really important. It sounds easy, doesn’t it?  All the interviewer needs to do is ask questions.

How difficult is it to sit there and ask questions!  That’s a rhetorical question by the way and let’s hope you don’t get many of these throughout the job interview! 

You will find out that not all interviewers are trained or experienced. Everyone has to start somewhere. The manager might be newly appointed. They may not have had the opportunity or the need to recruit.

Some hiring managers enjoy the process and love the opportunity to bring someone new into their team. Others, not so much!

Getting the questions right is fundamental to the success of an interview.

Be aware of the following issues:

Multiple questions being asked at the same time: Nervous managers often try to be clever with their questioning technique. It’s not always executed well! 

  • Just be polite and ask them to repeat the question.  You may want to repeat the question back to the recruiters to check your understanding.  That’s a great communication skill. 

Too many closed questions: I’d suggest you take full advantage of these questions! No trained recruiter would be relying on closed questions to make decisions. 

  • Be different from other candidates that will simply offer a yes or a no. Why not add a little detail when you are asked a closed question.

Framed questions: This is a tricky one for candidates. Again, this is a manager trying to be clever with the interview questions. “Have you ever been in this situation, at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning with a supplier who is wearing a blue shirt!” 

  • Another tricky one, to be honest. Maybe, you just say something like “I’ve been in a similar situation…” or “There was a time when…”. Don’t ever say “No never”.  You could again politely bat this question back to the hiring manager and ask what they are trying to assess with this question. See how that goes!

3. Not (yet) got clarity about the job 

This is another rare occasion in my experience however, there have been times we’ve gone to market without having a clear job description.

It’s definitely challenging for the recruiters however, for you, it’s even more challenging because it’s difficult to prepare without a job description. 

Recruiters tend to like an accurate and specific job. An accurate job description makes the rest of the recruitment process flow. The job advert is easier to write and it’s easier to assess CVs against a pre-determined set of criteria.

Reasons for not having a specific job description:

  • A company or hiring managers may take the opportunity to assess the candidate market, checking who’s out there looking for a job. They use the interview to gather some market intelligence or gather some competitor information during the interview.
  • Hiring managers may have an idea of the skills required but will use the job interview to shape the job to fit the future requirements of the team.

This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t take rejection personally. You’ve probably done nothing wrong throughout the process. It’s a tough one because you probably won’t get any feedback that will help you in the next job interview because you were being measured against a vague requirement.

The potential issues:

  • Without a job description it’s challenging to assess candidates objectively (CV and interview stage)
  • Increases the risk of discrimination during the process, because you don’t have clear criteria to measure
  • It will put off some good candidates are not happy with role ambiguity

I know you are probably looking for some words of wisdom from me right now!  So, I’ll do my best and that’s my main advice – do your best. 

  • Research the company and decide if it fits with your values.  Ask yourself is it a company I’d like to work in.
  • Review Glassdoor to check out what employees and previous candidates say about the company
  • Be yourself, be genuine and authentic, and true to your values and career aspirations.
  • Don’t attempt to answer questions in a way you think the recruiters want.  This is a big mistake. 

I met one of the recruiters at Amazon Logistics at an Employment Fair a couple of years ago and got talking to her about the interview process they adopted.  She said one of the mistakes candidates made was trying to please her.  What did she mean?  She had a certain amount of flexibility with how the job was structured.  If a candidate preferred working out and about and not stuck at a desk all day, she could make sure this happened.

So, when you get asked, “What does your ideal job look like?” Be honest about what your ideal day looks like.  When recruiters advise being genuine and authentic, this is what they mean. 

4. Assuming the most qualified candidate gets the job

Making the assumption that the most qualified or most experienced candidates always get offered the job is false. There are so many other factors that hiring managers take into consideration.

They’ll be looking for team fit, company fit, and whether you have any additional skills of interest to bring to the team.

Good hiring managers (as I’ve said so many times before!), won’t get out the tired and dated job spec and start recruiting. Nope! Good hiring managers will first look at their existing team.

What skills and experiences do the existing team members have and what might be missing. And, what skills and knowledge might be needed in the future?

Why do hiring managers look at what’s missing? In order to protect the productivity of the team and business in the future. Hiring managers see the bigger picture and how they need the right people now and for the future.

Three things to consider when preparing for a job interview:

Competencies and key strengths:

Focus on your key strengths and the competencies you bring to the team and company

Chemistry or company fit:

Despite not having a job description, you can research the company and look at their mission and vision. I know it sounds a bit cheesy! However, there is value in doing your homework and researching how you can help or contribute.

Commitment and motivation:

If the job role is vague you need to be honest about what you are looking for to help the recruiters decide whether they can meet your career expectations. Don’t try to fake this one, most of the time it just doesn’t work. 

Faking it won’t benefit you, the hiring manager, the company, or the team. Faking your career aspirations doesn’t work for anyone.

5. Have formed an impression before the job interview

How do recruiters assess your motivation before you’ve turned up for the job interview?

We have ways! 

There are some people that think they will get away with sending the same CV for multiple vacancies. We call is ‘spray and pray” or “scattergun approach” – I’ve never liked these terms, to be honest.

How to write a powerful career profile?

So, let’s address how recruiters measure your motivation even before you’ve turned up to the job interview. There are lots of signs that will give the recruiter confidence about your motivation and in this competitive market, you need to take full advantage.

Here are some clues you are motivated about the job and company:

Cover Letter:  When you take the time to include a cover letter or cover email you are indirectly demonstrating you are interested in the job. Including a cover letter shows you’ve made some extra effort, particularly if a cover letter wasn’t requested.

If you’ve also included your reasons for being interested in the job AND the company, it shows you’ve done your research. Again, if you’ve taken the time to research the job and company, this definitely shows motivation.

Tailored your CV:  It’s unlikely your CV will get through the initial sift or get through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) if you don’t take the time to tailor your CV.  Therefore, if you do take the time to tailor, it shows you are genuinely interested. 

Communication:  Recruiters are busy people, and they need to move quickly most of the time.  There wasn’t one hiring manager that said “Take your time on this one. Dawn”.  It makes a difference if it’s been easy to communicate with you and make arrangements to get you in for an interview. 

Recruiters will know fairly early on during the interview, whether you have taken the time to prepare – yes, even without a job description you need to prepare.  A little more tricky but not impossible.  Review the company values, mission, and vision and prepare how your skills, knowledge, and experiences can help them move forward. 

If there is no job description, you should have more questions about the job and possible reasons for not having a job description.  Either way, you need to have prepared some questions about the job and the company. 


We’d love to hear your job interview experiences. Comment below with your stories.