When job seeking, Interviews are like dating and the first thing both parties are looking for is compatibility. At interview, an employer has a really difficult job. Historically, and following the unwritten rules of hiring, many employers simply do not hire the right ‘people’. They may hire someone who, on paper, appears to have the sought after skills set. What if they have all the right qualifications but don’t know how to speak with customers, or prefer working in isolation and not engaging with colleagues? How will that help your business if your customers are driven away, your staff are demotivated and disengaged because they can’t get on with their colleague? Not at all is my immediate thought.
In today’s world of recruitment, successful employers who have motivated and engaged employees focussed, at the interview stage, on the actual fit of the person. In making this the starting point, they know that any minor skills deficit can be easily addressed as their new employee will have the right attitude to learning and developing.
So, how does an employer determine who may or may not be an ideal employee for their organisation? I’ve put together some questions they use in trying to get a good insight into a job seeker’s personality. This is something that is more difficult to change. After all you can upskill someone providing they are trainable but it’s a different ball game trying to change a personality. I include some questions below that today’s employers may use to determine a ‘cultural fit’. These are in addition to the more common Competency or Behavioural questions.
Tell me about a time you had a measurable impact on an organisation? This is not only about revenue generation. It is about giving some thought to how you felt about your role, how it connected to your colleagues, to the company at large. It’s about how you prioritised, why you chose to do it that way, and the overall impact on colleagues and the business.
Who did you admire and respect most in your last organisation and why? What kind of person are you? Was your respect for someone due to their wealth, their morals, work ethic, people skills, leadership? Ask yourself this question now about someone in your current job for whom you have a lot of respect. Ask yourself why do I respect this person so much? You may be quite surprised once you start making a note of the reasons.
When working in a team, what do you find most challenging? This requires honesty and a balance of a strong productive team you were part of and a time when your team was not as productive. On both occasions, why was that? How did you deal with it? What did you learn about yourself at that time? Try always to make your examples relevant to the role you are applying for. For example, if it is results focussed, you don’t want to highlight examples of missing deadlines. If it is teamwork, you don’t want to demonstrate sheep-like tendencies but instead promote strong leadership skills and a consultative approach to team problem-solving.
What would your best friend say is your main strengths and weaknesses? This is a slightly less direct and invasive way of asking ‘what are your weaknesses’. As with all other questions, demonstrate and don’t just declare. Give examples of why your friend would cite these particular qualities and areas for development you might have. Perhaps a weakness is a shyness around speaking in public. The employer will want to hear what steps you’ve taken to address this. You may have joined a debating society, got involved in community projects with young adults, etc.
If you could swap places with someone for a week, who would that be and why? This is similar to asking who you respect in your organisation. They are looking for what qualities you aspire to, or may already have. Again, be honest in your response and in your preparation for the interview, consider this question carefully and how you might answer it.
My best advice to anyone going for an interview is “just be yourself.” You’re only good at being you and if you try and become someone you think they want, you are likely to trip up somewhere in the interview process. Immediately your honesty and integrity are in doubt. If you’re not the ‘right fit’ then just move on as the chances of you being happy in that type of organisation are quite slim.