Winning an Interview

New version - CV Builder from John Lowe on Vimeo.

Introductory Narrative

This is an exciting subject to write about. The point of an interview is to get the job. A really good performance on interview will result in a job offer. Your whole life changes. You text friends, leave messages and send emails. You want to share the good news with everyone. It is amazing to think of the changes a new job brings to your lifestyle: new motivation, new journeys to make, new colleagues to meet, and a new financial perspective.

Your sole objective of an interview then is to be in a position of choice – to be offered the role.

This chapter will demonstrate how you can dramatically increase your chances of being offered the job. Interview preparation is core to our highly-successful reputation as recruiters nationally and internationally. Its innovative approach challenges conventional advice. Its new, fresh approach redefines the interview. Your positive, successful performance will create a positive, successful outcome. I have prepared many thousands of candidates for interviews and this is one of my particular specialisms.

I have developed an interview format based on my unique combination of experience as a career coach, recruitment consultant and headhunter. I visit clients, find out their needs and relay that information to candidates. Whilst each role and candidate is unique, I have developed the Lowe Interview Profiler, which ensures that candidates present themselves confidently, positively and articulately.

What is an interview?

Most candidates envisage interviews primarily as a test or examination. In terms of feedback, it is not uncommon for a candidate to be asked by a friend, ‘How well did you do?’ and the answer to be, ‘I think I did well. I think I answered all the questions,’ or ‘I don’t know. I was not able to answer some questions.’ In this instance, the interview was viewed as a knowledge-based exercise, a question and answer scenario rather like a quiz – the more questions you answer correctly the better you are judged.

Importantly, and right at the outset, we need to redefine the role of an interview. Contrary to what you might envisage, an interview is an opportunity to perform rather than simply to be tested.

As a candidate, it can be difficult to know what preparations to make for an interview as there are so many aspects of the event that are unpredictable.

How do I break the ice?
Should I try and establish a rapport with the interviewer?
What sort of person is the interviewer?
Are they quiet, shy, friendly or aggressive?
What mood will they be in?
I want to come across as positive and confident, but not arrogant and pompous – how do I balance those factors in my presentation?
I don’t think I know enough about the job! I hope they don’t ask me too many questions.
I have looked at the website, but it does not help much in terms of this role.
If there is an interview panel, which person should be the focus of my answers?

Your Interview Profiler

Your  Interview Profiler is designed to ensure that candidates give the most positive and articulate account of their skills. It changes the emphasis from a question/ answer interaction to the interviewee making a presentation about their relevant skills and creating a positive profile.

The challenge I had was the following: I was sending candidates throughout the world to Bahrain, Paris, London, Geneva, Barbados, Lagos, Munich, Burkina Faso, Rotterdam and Düsseldorf to meet strangers whom, in terms of personality mood and values, candidates could not gauge or anticipate. There they had to selectively talk about the part of their working life that they thought was most relevant to the situation.

The candidate cannot properly prepare for a situation where the parameters are so disparate. However, what the candidate can do is prepare and present a powerful synopsis of their skills that would impress any audience. Integrate this format into interview dialogue and interaction and you will see at first hand the benefit, relevance and power of Your Lowe Interview Profiler.

As a recruitment consultant I use this method to prepare all my candidates for client interviews. As a career coach, I use this profiler to instruct all my clients in the art of interview preparation – senior executives on external interview or internal appraisal, MBA students returning to India, China, Africa and Europe. It works for panel interviews and it works when you have multiple interviews for different jobs and are wondering how to adjust your style to each interview. It works cross-culturally. It is not country specific; it is not role specific. It is always you specific.

Your strengths

As a prelude to developing a powerful presentation of your personality, you must answer the question:

‘What are my particular strengths and how have they worked for me in the past?’

A key output of this process is the identification of your four most character defining and commercially relevant strengths, and the subsequent creation of Your Interview Profiler that directs you to align each of these strengths with two brief, descriptive and, where possible, quantifiable examples of how they have manifested themselves in your working life to date.

Your choice of strengths will depend on the circumstances in which you are applying them.  If you are preparing for a general interview or one where you are not clear about the job requirements, then choose the four strengths that generally best describe your personality.

If you are aware of the job description and have a clear understanding of the soft skills required, then you should choose and elaborate on those particular skills that are most relevant to the job. For example, if you are preparing for a sales type role, then goal-orientated, persuasive, good communicator and decisive would be complimentary and focused choices of strengths.

If you are preparing for a technical interview involving IT, accounting or banking, then analytical, organised, good under pressure and works independently might be personality characteristics that would naturally complement this type of work environment.

Compiling Your Interview Profiler

This is always a motivational and exciting journey of self-discovery. This is all about you, your strengths, your achievements. This is a time for you to evaluate and reflect on your achievements and your unique balance of personality (soft skills) and your experience to date, both academic and work (technical skills). Start the evaluation process and discover what unique talents and experiences you have to offer your next employer.

So let’s recap. Your Interview Profiler is a template featuring four of your personality characteristics. Each characteristic is supported, confirmed and endorsed by two examples from your CV.

Practice:

  1. Choose your four dominant strengths from your descriptive personality lexicon in Module I.
  2. Indicate these four strengths, together with sub-topics. The sub-topics are ‘anchors’ that will help you to define your strengths more clearly.
  3. Always give examples that demonstrate how your strengths benefited your employer. Be brief, specific and quantify the benefits where possible. For each strength, reflect on your experience to date and choose two examples that will endorse (prove) this skill.

At the end of this exercise, you will have a powerful interview technique that you can use for all interview situations.

Using Your Interview Profiler

You can now use Your Interview Profiler to perform at your best on interview. For example:

Question: ‘How do you think you will cope with aggressive clients?’
Answer: ‘I believe I am a strong communicator. When I worked in customer support, there were complaints from dissatisfied customers. I received the highest number of compliments from clients for dealing with their problems. When I was leading the debating team at university, the environment was competitive and aggressive. I coached our team to deal with truculent behaviours and how to use humour to deflate a contentious argument. So, I believe I have the skills to deal effectively with difficult clients.’

Adopting the Interview Profiler method requires a radical rethink on the optimum format for interviews. In contrast to the autobiographic style, this method concentrates on you, in other words, your personality. This benefits you by allowing you to articulate your strengths and it benefits the employer as it provides a more useful and transparent means of assessing your suitability.

Remember, from an employer’s perspective, the candidate is being assessed for a role that will be new to them involving new challenges, new situations, new cultures and it is the candidate’s positive personality characteristics and how they articulate them that will determine their interview success.

Using Your Interview Profiler, which highlights your personality characteristics and endorses each characteristic by examples from your previous performance, must therefore constitute the most powerful interview presentation style.

The amazing fact about Your Interview Profiler is its simplicity, adaptability and outstanding success record. It will dramatically increase your chances of being offered the role.

When you are being interviewed, it is normal for the interviewer to volunteer information such as a synopsis of the company and details about the job, its duties and responsibilities. Using Your Interview Profiler, you are volunteering details about yourself so that the interviewer can make a judgement and compare you and the job.

The most difficult question you could be asked on interview is: ‘Tell me about your personality.’ This verbally bowls most people out and leads to one or two fairly sparse monosyllabic statements. This reaction is totally understandable, though logically it is a question we should be experts at answering. Our personality is something we rarely talk about or describe in isolation. Yet, we must identify and talk about it as personality traits and strengths are fundamental to our success at work. The sequence of formatting, adopting and presenting Your Interview Profiler is challenging to describe. Ideally, it requires one-to-one coaching sessions and hence I have used different scenarios to ensure you grasp the fundamentals.

I shall conclude my description with a challenge.

Practice:

You are one of 10 candidates who must give a 30-minute presentation about yourself to a panel of three interviewers. You are not briefed about the role and your presentation will be interrupted by questions from the panel.

To prepare for this challenge, you must focus on your personality, your experience and give examples of why you think you have a successful track record to date. This emphasis on you as the prime focus, rather than the role, is the fundamental strength and success of Your Interview Profiler.

This advanced format supersedes the more traditional autobiographic descriptive- based style, whereby you simply describe chronologically your past experiences. Adopt this unique approach and you will dramatically increase your success ratio of interview to job offers.

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