A Conversation for Interview Techniques

Take your time

Post 1

Beatrice Joanna

I have just spent the last year looking for a better job and I have finally found one.

When I first started looking I just wanted to work somewhere else - pretty much anywhere else as long as it paid slightly more than my current job and I could do it. As a result of my rather broad criteria I have had a hell of a lot of interviews in the course of the last twelve months and in that time I have learnt a lot more about what I am capable of and what I want.

I seriously recommend to anyone job-hunting that they relax into it and allow themselves a good length of time to find this job. Consciously take the pressure off yourself by setting yourself a long-term goal if you can. That way you are going into interviews without thinking "I have to get this job or I will have to start hunting all over again" because 'this job' at 'this interview' will be one of many so you can consider the merits of this company and their package against that of the last one and against the one you are going to see next week, etc.

Performing well in interviews is just like writing a good cv and covering letter - the more practice you get the better and the more feedback you ask for the more you can work on your technique in a constructive manner. If you apply for a post which turns out to be handled by a recruitment consultancy, you will find that you have to be 'interviewed' by them before they will put you up for the job to their client. This actually means that they will make you register with them - do typing tests or other tests relevant to your field, go through your cv in detail and discuss what you are looking for. This is very useful as it focusses your mind on what you actually want. It is useful to tell them the truth as ruthlessly as you can because, if they are good at what they do, they will try and find a job that will best suit what you are after. They will also go for the job that can get you the most money, because this is where they get their money from - a percentage of the salary that they negotiate for you (from the company - you don't pay them a penny).

Always dress smartly unless you are specifically told not to (or unless it would be inappropriate for the job you are going for - brickies don't wear suits!) but don't overdo it. You don't have to buy a new suit for every interview you go for.

Always get at least some background information about the company and what the role involves. This is for two reasons: firstly, to find out if you want the job in the first place; secondly, because you can guarantee that the other interviewees will have done. The information that you can gather will help fill in any awkward gaps in the conversation and/or will show that you are interested in the job. Whatever information you can't find doesn't matter - the fact that you have looked will mean that you have asked yourself pertinent questions and will have something to ask at the at horrible moment at the end of the interview where you are asked for any questions. If you can't find a website for them, mention it - they will know that you looked - and find out if they have any plans to develop one - show an interest in the future of the company.

Take your time

Post 2

Sho - unemployed again - Thanks Covid-19

I can only agree. I had loads of interviews before one company was brave enough to offer me a job (on account of having 2 kids).

My tips for not what to do: do not under any circumstances stand up, look the interviewer in the eye and say that you are going out to get the last man who they interviewed and ask him if the interviewer asked him about his childcare arrangements. They will ask security to escort you from the building. Don't wear anything new - wear something that you are familiar with. Also you shouldn't wear a skirt which is too short or has a split up to your bum. Don't leave your mobile phone switched on.

As to what you can do: I can only add that I usually ask what it was about my application that made the company want to get to know me better. (ie. if you have had to name your salary, that you were the cheapest!) I always follow up the interview with a letter, and often with a question which only occurred to me after I had gone. In the past I have also written my application letter on coloured paper, this gets it noticed. This is usually only good for jobs where you know there will be 50,000 replies. Attaching a photo to your CV can help (in fact in Germany it is "obligatory")

For goodness sake: make sure you know where the interview will be held. Make sure you know how to get there (by whatever means). If you go by car you really need to research where you can park. Don't run out of petrol on the way.

Finally. If you're anything like me, don't accept a cup of tea/coffee. You are likely to get "Interview Head Shake" and be unable to do anything. At all.

Take your time

Post 3

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

I would agree that using colorful or artful cover letters can get you noticed. And, of course, you should never wear clothing that makes you uncomfortable to an interview. It will make you appear nervous. Follow-up letters are a good idea for some fields, but not others. In general, follow-up letters are appropriate for any job that involves writing. This would include jobs where business letters, reports, or even typing work are required.

I would disagree with including a photo on your resume in the US. This is likely to be taken as a sign that the applicant is vain. Worse, it may be misunderstood that a woman who includes a photo is trying to trade her attractiveness for a higher salary. Since this might encourage a sexual harrassment situation, I would forego the photo in the US.

If I feel that the interviewer is asking me an invasive question he would not ask a male in a similar life situation, I point this out to the interviewer. Usually, I do so under the rubrik of explaining why I refuse to answer the question. If the interviewer continues to expect an answer, then I know immediately that the company is not for me.

In the US, it is now against fair hiring regulations to ask a woman whether she plans on having children soon. This is a good example of a question which would not be asked of a man. In general, such questions are a warning sign that the company may have endemic gender prejudices that could harm your career if you choose to work there.

Take your time

Post 4

Sho - unemployed again - Thanks Covid-19

Actually the law is the same in Germany - but the questions (and given the protection pregnant women are "supposed" to get - I have a long, boring story about my experience - I have a certain amount of sympathy for small companies) still get asked. I once told an interviewer that I wanted to go because after half an hour I realised that the company wasn't for me. He was highly insulted, and surprised when I pointed out to him that the company was presenting itself to me, as well as vice versa. Probable he, too, was in the wrong job.

As to the photo: in Germany (and I think it is wrong) it is absolutely a must to have a photo. And when you send a CV to a German company, you have to include copies of every certificate you ever got, references and a normal CV. Usually, if you are rejected, you get them back (it costs a fortune with the copying, photos, and the plastic folders to put it all in). Also, which is strange in my British experience, you date and sign the bottom of the CV. Which means that if it does get back to you in a good state you can't use it again.

And now I have a question: what happens if the interviewer indicates a seat for you which puts light behind him (or his panel) so you can't see properly (this has happened to me)? Should you request another chair in a different location? Or just grin and bear it?

Also, what is a polite way of telling someone who is interviewing you in a language which is your mother-tongue but not theirs, that you don't understand them (either because of poor linguistic skill or pronunciation?)

Take your time

Post 5


I can answer the one about the light (but I'll be interested to see any answers to your point about not understanding the interviewers).
You can't really go wrong by saying 'excuse me, would it be possible to turn out that light/draw the blinds/move my chair as I can't see you properly'

Not understanding the interviewer etc.

Post 6


If you can't make out what your interviewer is saying, then you might want to reconsider taking the job. If the person is your supervisor at the job, you will have to listen to and try to understand him/her all day every day.

As far as the question about childcare goes, I think it is best to ask the human-resources person a neutral question like, "Tell me about your benefits." If you are not talking to someone from the human-resources office, and your interviewer doesn't know, you can ask for the name and number of someone to follow up with. You don't want to make it sound like any benefit is a deal-breaker, but it tells you something if the employer doesn't offer health insurance for a couple of months, or if they only give you a week of vacation the first year, or if they don't have childcare arrangements. Write these things down if they are presented orally and consider them at leisure later on.

Not understanding the interviewer etc.

Post 7

Fragilis - h2g2 Cured My Tabular Obsession

Just FYI, benefits are much harder to come by in the US. Many companies don't offer health insurance until you have been employed for three months. Most only give one week of vacation for the first year, and this often doesn't change until the fifth year. About half of even the largest companies do little or nothing to help with childcare.

It is considered okay in the US to turn down a job based on shoddy benefits if you have a technical degree or management experience. And with the job market getting tigher all the time, there is more leeway to ask directly for what you want.

In some high-technology fields, for example, potential employees have turned down jobs because they didn't get to golf on company time or because all soft drinks on the premesis weren't free. Meanwhile, retail employers are often forced to work two part-time jobs so both companies can legally deny the employees basic benefits like health insurance indefinitely. In the US, context is everything.

Not understanding the interviewer etc.

Post 8

Sho - unemployed again - Thanks Covid-19

Reading that it makes me glad I live in the high tax / not bad benefits world of Germany!! (Although, childcare is still practically non-existant - but that will change by the time my kids need to use it, I hope)
When I was interviewed for my present job, I had some difficulty understanding the guy who would become my boss (the MD) and the General Manager. But, they wanted someone like me precicely because of that problem! They couldn't make anyone here understand their English! I took the job hoping that 2 things would happen (which have): 1) I would get used to their way of speaking, 2) through talking to me their language skills would improve.
Another tip for the interviewee: when they ask what your hobbies are, don't go on and on about how you like moutnainbiking, snowboarding, surfing, bungee jumping...... unless it's relevant to the job. Otherwise they won't employ you because of the danger of you having injuries every Monday and after holidays!

Not understanding the interviewer etc.

Post 9

Barney's Bucksaws

In my career, everything's open to negotiation - in fact, they're hiring my negotiating skills - I'm a Buyer. So I ask for roughly 10% more than I'll settle for, I'm miserable about benefits, and I want education and professional membership paid, plus complete relocation! I'm looking outside the province where I live, because Manitoba's almost the lowest paid professionals in Canada! I've got headhunters searching for me in 2 provinces, and I'm papering a third with my resume. Confidence is everything - I know what I want, and I assume they'll negotiate with me. I've pre-decided what I'll give way on, and what I won't.

Something that's helped me build my confidence, is watching what higher-ups in my profession do, and how they do it. The may have more knowledge than me, they may have different experience than me, but they're just trying to get the job done, the same as I am. I'm getting the knowledge, I have lots of experience, and I can do the job.

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