A big challenge when preparing for job interviews is to first of all identify your real skills and strengths – and then to portray those properly on the day, writes Sean Browne, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
And the irony is that you may not fully recognise what you have to offer until you stop thinking about yourself and focus instead on what the employer is actually seeking in the successful candidate.
Imagine the employer going home to meet their spouse on the evening they have appointed the special one. What would they like to say to said spouse in that instance?
“This person can definitely get us into new territories. They can open doors for us that we couldn’t previously open in ABC Ltd. They are as sharp as a tack in terms of how to use technology to speed up the passage of information around the company – as you know we’ve always struggled with that side of things. They’ve just moved to this area and they badly want to make a ‘go’ of a job like this.”
Ideally, the employer should be excited about taking you on because you fit the bill, you’re mad to learn and, unbelievably, you want to come and work for them.
Until you know what the employer wants, it is difficult to hit the exact spot. So take time to think like the employer. Ask colleagues or friends – or other employers you know – what they think this potential employer would like to say to their spouse on that fateful evening.
When I do this exercise with clients, it is surprising what comes up. Sometimes the actual technical ability to do the job is not as important as other factors – e.g. a higher public profile can separate one candidate from another because the employer badly wants to build the company’s standing in the sector.
If you can figure out what the employer wants – really, really wants with a passing doff of the cap to Mel B and her crew – you can put yourself at the top of the queue: aim for the ‘bite your hand off’ position, where you are so on the money the employer can barely contain their excitement (though, of course, you might not spot it in the stony faces of the interview panel.)
I have been on panels where candidates have taken us to ‘bite your hand off’. Afterwards, the biggest fear was the client saying no. That’s the standard you should be aiming for in interviews: to be so much the right solution, it’s not funny.
Thinking about what the employer is seeking in the successful candidate will also eradicate a tendency towards introspection that can afflict candidates. When we spend too long looking inwards, we can confuse ourselves: we struggle to see the woods from the trees.
By using the employer’s desires and needs as your guiding light, you will identify and focus on the relevant parts of your work history, education and training.
Of course, all of this is predicated on the assumption that you can deliver on the expectations i.e. that you can do the job. If not, you’re going for the wrong job in the first place.
If you can’t deliver it, don’t promise or even suggest it: but, if you can, hide your light atop a skyscraper.
Sean Browne is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.
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