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Reading their mind – how to know what your interviewer is really thinking

Nerves get the better of many people when they are faced with a row of note-taking managers and HR people

The interview continues to be a key part of the recruitment process, with job hunters keen to show themselves to their best advantage without coming across as desperate. Unfortunately, nerves get the better of many people when they are faced with a row of note-taking managers and HR people, but it helps if you can put yourself in the interviewers’ shoes and understand what they are looking for. Interviewers usually have four key concerns.

Are we right for each other?

If this sounds a little like a first date, there are some similarities. The employer is trying to figure out whether you are a good fit not only for the job but also for the organisation’s culture. The interviewers are constrained by equality law and policies; however, they can’t help but get a warm and fuzzy feeling when a potential employee seems very like them.

This can pose problems for organisations in that people recruit clones of themselves, which leads to a lack of diversity; for example, it was reported a few years ago that the BBC was encouraging interviewers not to recruit people just because they were like them.

There is nothing wrong with an organisation trying to find out whether you would suit their ‘get in when you like provided you get the job done’ culture, or a hard-driving company finding out whether 7am breakfast meetings are your kind of thing.

Is your CV honest?

The interviewers are going to test this by asking questions that prompt you to show the skills and experience in your CV. “Can you tell us about a time when you….” is the usual beginning of these competence questions. Be ready for them by having examples of how you demonstrated your expertise in the forefront of your mind.

Can you perform well in this role?

The panel is going to want to know that you can do this job. One of the problems with competency interviews is that they favour people moving sideways, as they ask questions about what people have already done rather than trying to spot potential.

This does not mean that the employer won’t consider you unless you have already done everything in the job description. Be honest and tell them that something would be a new challenge to you but that you have previously met challenges successfully. Say why you think you could meet the new challenges in this role and try to demonstrate that you have potential.

Will you stick at it?

Recruitment is often expensive and always time-consuming for an organisation. They don’t want to be re-interviewing for this job in a year’s time, so it is up to you to convince them that you will stick at the job for a reasonable length of time. Explain that you are passionate about the opportunity, or the organisation, and let them know that if you get the job, you are looking to build your career with them.

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