What Interviewers Want
The Interviewer’s Nightmare
Hilary couldn’t remember an interviewee as difficult as this one. First of all their CV was a mess. They didn’t seem to understand any of the questions – the answers were rambling and unfocussed and he couldn’t get any sense out of the interviewee or get them to shut up; next thing he was in front of another interviewee who just stared at him and could only answer in monosyllables. This seemed to go on forever. He found it hard to focus. “I am not going to get what I want today – they are all the same he thought.” As time went on and one bad interview faded into another – and there was nobody to get excited about. That image faded to be replaced by this perfectly groomed candidate who was giving all the perfect answers and who suddenly declared:
“I shall be your new MD as well, within the year.” He woke up sweating and decided that he really didn’t like interviews.
Most interviewers dread interviewing, many do it against their will and under duress. It seems that if an interviewee does not lie or exaggerate then they have nothing to say and you find yourself saying: ”it’s so hard to get good staff you know – even in a recession”
It’s difficult being an interviewer
As an interviewee you just have to worry about the one interview and whether it will be a good one or not. Here are some of the challenges an interviewer has to deal with.
1. Being fair: Equality legislation since 1998 requires that interviewees be treated equally – so there can be no questions about race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin etc. What the interviewer is looking for has to be decided before the interview and particular job requirement have to be justifiable so that particular people won’t be inadvertently excluded. For example: if at least five years experience is required the employer has to be able to justify why the figure is set at five years and not four!
2.Being consistent: It is very dangerous for an interviewer to come to an interview without being properly prepared and hoping they will get into the swing of things after one or two. The danger is that they will miss the right candidate – which could be you! If too many interviews are squeezed into the one the chances are that interviewees later in the day will miss out.
3. Staying fresh: Because the interview questions are being repeated over and over interviewers frequently lose track and are not sure if they have asked particular questions of the current candidate.
4. Dealing with underprepared candidates: It’s difficult talking to people who don’t know what the job is, what is required and what they have to offer. This happens a lot where a job is advertised and there are large numbers of replies.
5. Dealing with over-prepared candidates: Cutting through the generic rubbish spouted by candidates who have had sessions with an interview coach which works wonders for their self-esteem but no their employability.
6. Recalling information after interviews: Research shows that interviewer are poor at recalling details of interviews. They seem to have a better memory for the poor interviews than they good ones.
7. Interviewers are subject to bias (despite their best efforts): This can be affected by impressions from the CV or the job application (more usually unfavourable – a bad spelling mistake may be enough to do it!). There is a common tendency among interviewers to make a judgment prematurely at an early stage of the interview and then to ask quick questions that will confirm their impressions.
How you can help the interviewer
Before the interview:
• Research the job and the company thoroughly. Don’t stop at their website – do a full Google search, use LinkedIn to see if you know anybody connected to the company. A trawl through Facebook and Twitter might uncover reasons what the company
might not be the best to work for and why staff turnover is so high. Some employers
do Facebook and Twitter searches on potential staff members – shouldn’t you?
• Know the company’s products and their standing in the marketplace that will
make it easier for the interviewer to engage with you since then you will both
speak the same language.
• Understand the job description in depth – what is the essence of it and how you match the criteria. The interviewer wants to know if you are a good fit. How easy
is it to find the skills in the job description in your CV? The lazy job-seeker sends
in a generic CV and asks “do you have any jobs?” – that turns the employer into
a job agency. Faced with this type of CV the employer rejects the writer as being
lazy and not worth the bother. The effective job-seeker tailors the CV to the job
description and makes the interviewer’s job easy.
• It’s not enough these days to be qualified and experienced. Interviewers expect
you to be able to show how your particular mix of experience, skills and
qualifications are relevant to their business. The skills that are used in logistics
transfer into a lot of other areas apart from the immediately obvious. The ability
to plan and organise things properly are valued in almost every business.
During the Interview
• Establish positive rapport with the interviewer from the start – use good eye contact.
• Work on establishing a positive friendly rapport as quickly as possible in the interview – this will help to get the interview into a more conversational mode
more quickly – and this will reduce the likelihood of surprise questions.
• Let them finish their questions – don’t try to second guess them. You’ll find the
extra few seconds you get useful in helping you to deal with your nerves and
getting your best answer on the table.
• Aim for short, concise answers from the start. The interviewer is usually under
• Most interviewee nerves comes from poor preparation. Preparing in-depth will
not eliminate nerves complete but will make them more manageable on the day.
• Try and think like an interviewer before the interview. Ask yourself: If you
were the boss what would you be looking for?
Finally, remember a job interview is not only a search to find the best candidate –
it’s also about finding people who will engage and fit into the company’s culture
and their way of doing things. Understanding both sides of the interviewing
process is a very good start to any career.
Brian McIvor is joint author(with Mary Hanson) of the INTERVIEWER’s BOOK
published by the Orpen Press. He is an experienced, trainer, executive coach
and author and frequently broadcasts on career matters on radio and television