How to get past the interview and be the successful applicant | Life of a Lady Blog

Smartly dressed young women shaking hands in a business meeting at office deskI had a positive response to a recent blog about interview techniques so am returning to the subject because it is a crucial part of the business process and one you need to win. Only today I was at a company in the process of selecting highly paid executives and they said they always eliminated the cut-and-paste jobs. Also they were surprised at the way some of the applicants obviously had done little research into the company – these applicants of course were never chosen for an interview but instead received a bland letter of rejection.

Most people loathe interviews. If you’re one of them you don’t like the set-up which is usually quite formal. You possibly find it difficult to get your personality across so you come out feeling you haven’t done yourself justice. (Once someone I know was turned down for a job and the feedback said they she had an aggressive streak – something which really puzzled my mild-mannered mate.) Then you get the rejection letter which means you have to go through the whole damn process again.
Unfortunately interviews are necessary (and guess what, interviewers hate the rigmarole, too). But if you want a career you need to conquer not only nerves but the whole procedure as well.

Here are some random thoughts from someone who has been interviewed for jobs and who, over the years, has interviewed applicants for a diverse collection of businesses.

The main thing to realise:

The company advertising the job does not care about you.

Tough but true. In fact, they don’t give a toss what YOU want. The only thing they do care about is their business – whether you will fit in with their team, whether you will benefit their company, whether you will help them achieve their financial goals, what you will cost the company – and if you are a woman, whether you are of child bearing age. Yes I know it is against the law but trust me in the discussion afterwards, as I can attest, this subject is prominent. I once gave a receptionist’s job to a young woman who told me, on her very first day at work, that she was pregnant and more: that there were complications so she needed time off to see her doctor. To a small TV production company this came as a real blow.

If you have an interview on the horizon, try this technique. When you are sitting in front of an interviewer, imagine yourself dressed top to toe in kitchen foil. Every answer you give should reflect back to their company and how good you would be as part of their team. Turn every answer towards how well you would work for them. Even personal ambitions and desires should reflect how well those would aid the company.

One very qualified candidate I interviewed said when asked why she wanted the job said the office was “near my home”. What did I care about that? It made me think any company would do as long as it was close to her home. And if she found a company even closer she would leave to join them! If she had said: “Going to the office will mean a shorter traveling time so I will have more energy for my work”, I might have been impressed. She was neck and neck with another similarly qualified candidate but that answer cost her the job.


Major mistake 1: Appearance.

As long as you appear clean and tidy, that’s sorted, right? Wrong. Cleanliness is only one important aspect. Because you are a savvy woman you know it takes only seconds for an interviewer to make up their mind about whether he/she is going to do a full scale interview or go through the motions? From the time you walk into the interview room you are being carefully scrutinised and when you arrive at the desk, the decision has been made. The whole thing usually took about 6 seconds. These days it’s even shorter.
Appearance is not only your clothes. As important is your body language, the expression on your face, the way you stand, how you walk towards the desk, the way you greet, the handshake, the way you sit. Above all, the way you smile.

Solution: Think positively and practice … in front of a full length mirror walk towards yourself and think “Would I give a job to this person?” Is the expression on your face nervous or alert? Do you stand straight, look someone in the eye, smile naturally (not forced) and sit without fiddling? These days interviewers pay as much attention to body language as they do to what you say (some companies have a body language expert silently watching). Practice seeming relaxed – you aren’t of course, you just have to act it. Look attentive not like a coiled spring. And wear clothes which are professional. Even if the usual office garb at the place is casual, go for a smart look, you can’t go wrong.

Major mistake 2: Lack of knowledge

Incredibly, people often go for jobs without knowing exactly what the job entails. Sometimes this is because the advert is sketchy or they don’t read it properly. Frequently they think they can just busk it and they will be okay – but, trust me, your sketchy knowledge will soon be discovered.

Solution: Three things to do before stepping into the interview office: research, research, research.

The internet is brilliant. Find out what the company does, how successful it is, what they do, where they operate, figures etc. And then, get this, you drop a few facts into your answers. For example (an ideal kitchen foil syndrome as well): “The reason I want to work for this company is that it has a good future – making 55 million widgets a year – and exporting to 19 countries means its market is big and expanding.”

“Bingo,” thinks the interviewer, “here’s a live one.”

Major mistake 3: Saying the wrong thing

There are several questions which crop up in most interviews. One of the most common – and the killer – is: “Why should you get this job when you haven’t any relevant/or much experience?’

This is the answer the interviewer will most often get: “No I haven’t any experience but I really want this job and will work hard …fingers to the bone … nose to the grindstone, elbowto the wheel …” etc.

Refer back to my comments on the kitchen foil syndrome to know this is the wrong answer.

Solution: NEVER admit you haven’t the experience (even if it is true).

You will have to think of the correct answer for you. One which got the applicant the job was: “In my last job I tried things which they said was impossible but I went ahead anyway and sometimes it worked. So if I got this job I would do exactly the same!” What that young woman did was to turn the questioner away from her lack of experience and towards her other qualities of initiative and drive which most companies seek.

Your answer must take account of my kitchen foil solution: another good answer might be: “I don’t just want a job with your company, I want a CAREER so I intend to do evening courses to get qualifications to be more useful and when I’m ready, be qualified enough to move up the ladder”. This got the candidate the job – and after a year or so, promotion.

Major mistake 4: Lack of preparation.

You know you will be asked the above question, so think of a good answer before you go in. You’d be surprised how many job applicants seem totally nonplussed at being asked the most basic questions. As they spend anxious, silent, minutes trying to think of an answer, the interviewer begins to doodle, thinking : “Hope the next one’s better.”

Solution: Prepare for your interview by seeking advice from people you trust.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, what questions would YOU ask? Let’s see … “Why should I give you this job?”; “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and another killer “Is there anything you want to ask me?”

Don’t make the mistake of a (failed) applicant who said: “I’ve booked a holiday in three weeks’ time so would it be okay to go?” The right reply will be on the internet. Find some facts allied to the job for which you are applying and include it in your question e.g. “You made 5 million widgets last year and your shares went up 3 per cent, what do you think the price will rise to”… you will be amazed at how impressed the interviewer will be.

Summing up:

  • check appearance and suitable clothes
  • sort out body language
  • do intensive research about the company and the job
  • prepare beforehand (ask a friend to be a tough interviewer) with questions and answers
  • Last nuggets of advice: think positive.
  • Never forget that kitchen foil (take a piece in your pocket or handbag to remind you!)
  • Apart from that – good luck!

About the author

Lady Val is our Life of a Lady Blogger. Lady Val is also the founder of 'Lady Val's Professional Women's Network.' You can Reach Lady Val on: Life of a Lady Blog, Lady Val's Professional Women's Network

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