Q: I saw you recently advising a sales manager to ‘have ideas’ when he goes for interviews. I once gave a lot of good ideas in an interview – and then I didn’t get the job, and they stole my ideas. I was livid, but there was nothing I could have done. Nowadays I play my cards much closer to my chest. Why should I share ideas that other might get the credit for later? (DN, email)
A: There has long been a healthy trade in stolen ideas. Some people build their careers on their capacity to, ahem, re-purpose the creativity, imagination and hard work of others.
You’ve been bitten once, and are thus shy about showing your hand again. That’s an understandable reaction, but I believe that there are certain professions where you have to pepper your interview with fresh ideas, even if you run the risk of having them stolen.
How much detail you give can vary from job to job. But you should not lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve: namely, get a job.
If you hoard your ideas, chances are you won’t get the job. Are you any better off for that?
I would try to find a way of giving ideas in such a way that they realise a) you are the best person to deliver these ideas, and, crucially, b) there are more ideas where those came from.
Show them you are the kind of person who has good ideas on an on-going basis. It’s not unlike the scenario on Dragon’s Den where the dragon says they’re not mad about the current idea, but they like the person pitching it, and invest in the likelihood that their creativity and drive will produce a winning idea in the future.
The interview performance as a whole should be integrated, or all-encompassing: you should be the embodiment of your experience, your achievements and your future potential.
Walk into the interview and be the answer they are looking for: it’s like finding what you think is the perfect boy/girlfriend, and as you get to know them better, you realise they ‘stack up’. When you walk into an interview, you are just one more person, but from the very first interaction they start to form a perception of your profile.
If you can prove yours is the profile they’re looking for, you’ll get the job.
So my advice would be to have ideas. Not so many that you give away the family jewels, but enough to prick their curiosity, and enough to let them realise that there are more where those came from.
Preparation is the best cure
Q: I hate job interviews. I did best man for my brother a few years ago. I was as nervous as could be beforehand, but I settled myself with two fast brandies and got through it fine. I didn’t bring the house down, but I didn’t fall silent either. “Result”, I said to myself. Would I chance a few swift ones before my job interview next Thursday (DMcM, email).
A: Absolutely. Maybe bring a bottle in and share it around: no-one likes someone who’s selfish.
Er, what do you expect me to say? First off, public speaking is not enhanced by a few settlers. Preparation is better than anything you’ll get neat or on the rocks.
At the wedding, others present were drinking too. It’s not an interview-style environment. You need your wits about you next Thursday. Start working on examples that show you have what the interviewer is looking for – and, when you get the job, take it handy at the Christmas party.
Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. To get a copy of their presentation Making Job Interviews Work For You, email firstname.lastname@example.org with interview presentation in the subject line.