9 Jan


I recently experienced what would best be described as a conversation of professional interest. It was not a job or promotion interview or a performance appraisal. It did not have a specific structure and was informal in nature. I was however sat across the boardroom table from a significant player in the recruitment and business communications field. Since part of my work is helping people with job applications, CV & Covering Letter preparation and latterly trying to manage their online profile, I felt this conversation of professional interest would be an easy one. My aims going into the meeting were to learn much by asking savvy questions and present myself in a solid, focussed and professional light. I came away from the meeting very happy and energised. It had been a most enjoyable conversation, I learned a great deal and felt I’d given a good and true account of myself.

That night though, the doubts set in and as I re-ran the afternoon’s meeting, it occurred to me that if it had been a job interview, the panel would be removing my application from the top of the pile.


1                     I didn’t always answer the question I was asked. If you are asked a question at interview –answer the question that has been asked. Don’t answer the question you would like to have been asked or the question you think the interviewer might ask later. If you are asked ‘how was your journey?’ you should answer that ‘I drove here. It was fine and thankfully I had gauged the journey time properly’ not ‘My car has been giving trouble and at the last minute I decided to take the bus. It’s ages since I’ve taken the bus. God I had no idea the tickets were so expensive. Is there a travel allowance for employees here?’

2                     At some stages in the conversation, I tended to drive the agenda in certain directions, into areas of expertise that I wanted to learn about. This is a tricky issue in a real interview situation. Are you showing initiative by ensuring you get to make your key points and demonstrate all the qualities, experiences and skills that set you up as the most suitable candidate for the job? Or are you coming across as someone that likes to set their own agenda too much? I don’t think there’s a simple straight answer to this question. If the interviewer wants to focus in on your voluntary work with the sick or the homeless, they will generally have good reason for that – even if you would prefer to spend more time on your most successful project to date. However it is also not unknown for candidates to achieve success at interview by the sheer force of their personality and their ability to control the agenda in a passionate manner that makes them appealing to potential employers. In most cases though, it is important for a candidate to adhere to the interview agenda.

3                     Let the Interviewer see how you think. Like doing Leaving Cert Maths – there are marks going for the right answer, but a great deal of attention is also paid to the thinking and calculating process. Can you think on your feet? Can you break down a problem into parts and tackle it in stages? Do you have a good sense of humour? Can you persevere with a problem? Do you have the facility to observe a problem from several different angles? In World War Two, military intelligence recruited code-breakers in some instances from the ranks of successful cryptic crossword participants in the national newspapers. Use pen and paper, or whatever materials are to hand if necessary.

4                     In my conversation of professional interest, there were a number of occasions where I had the opportunity to ask a question and didn’t. This showed I was focussing a little too much on my end of the conversation and missed the chance to ask a useful question, thereby engaging more with the interviewer. A good question gives your interviewer a chance to really engage with you across the boardroom table. It gives you the chance to show what a good listener you are and as anyone who’s ever been involved in teaching will tell you, the framing of a good question is an art in itself. So consider carefully what questions you want to ask at interview.

5                     Do your research on the company. Check out their websites. Talk to people who work there. Be familiar with their product, how the product is developed and brought to market, the markets, customers, competitors, developments in the field, strategies for future development and basically any knowledge deemed relevant to your application.

6                     Tell your own story and have some good stories to tell. Interviewers want to know how you act in certain situations, how you relate to others, how you think, how you cope with pressure, change and adversity. How do you deal with failure? Do you have examples of where you showed leadership? Where you showed you could assist in projects and be a part of the team as well as always in control? Develop and refine a bank of stories that contain examples of you functioning at your very best.

7                     Be passionate about what you do.

8                     Be  genuine

9                     Strike a balance between being excessively formal and overly casual – no text or Twitter speak LOL – OMHY. No group hugs.

10                 FINALLY – Be a confident, passionate, temperate, prudent, achieving and smart advocate of your best personal and occupational self.

© Mary Hosty January 2012


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