Learning the ropes for job interviews

Job interviews are not unlike boxing matches: you can have all the plans and strategies you want, all the shapes and all the moves, the slides to the side and the dummies, but you have to remember that there is somebody else in the ring too.

“I was doing grand,” moaned the vanquished pugilist, “until the other fellow hit me.”

Thus, boxers prepare for the unexpected. And so must you when going for interview.

Even if your best friend was interviewed by the same interview panel the day before, you cannot be sure your interview will follow the same format.

Interview panels can change from day to day. They may not have a consistent line of questioning for all candidates: they might even be making it up as they go along.

Thus, you should be ready to go in there and tell them what they need to know – even if they don’t ask the right questions. Treat their questions as an opportunity to tell them about your suitability for the role – if necessary, you will have to take the lead by diverting your answer to where it needs to go to, lest you don’t get that crucial information in.

Interviews, like boxers, come in many shapes and sizes, and you must be ready to adapt. You must have a clear idea what you want to tell them (i.e. how your skills, experience, training and attitude make you the right candidate) and you must ensure you tell them, regardless of how they structure the interview.

I know a man who turned up for a second interview only to be told the following, in not so few words: “Today’s second interview was set up to bring three candidates back to meet the newspaper editor, who wasn’t part of the first interview stage, as you know. Unfortunately the editor has been called away today at very late notice {we’re talking pre mobile phone proliferation days here} so we have to send you on your merry way again without any interview.”

He had travelled across the country to Dublin for the interview.

The other two candidates (he had his homework done on the competitors for the job) had only travelled across the city.

So what did he do? His options possibly included throwing the head and accusing them of wasting his time, time is money, and “good luck, I’m outta here.”

Fortunately, he kept the cool. He simply did the best he could in the limited time available. He told them he understood that these things happen, and that he would just like to reiterate that following the experience of the first interview, he was keener than ever to get the job.

He thanked them. They thanked him. And that was it, done and dusted in less than two minutes.

He got the job. Was the little speech a factor? He will never know. But I tell the story today to illustrate that in an interview you must always do the best you can. You must score what points you can.

Interviews are not about knock-out punches. They are about consistently working the scorecard. Take your scores where you can get them, and reacting positively and in a focused fashion to whatever unexpected events take place in that room.

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. You can also obtain their free eBook providing Job Searching Tips by emailing getthatjob@slinuacarers.com with Job Searching eBook in the subject line. More: www.slinuacareers.com