Interview chairs are uncomfortable. They’re designed to try you; test your mettle. You can find comfort in confidence and victory too. You have to wholeheartedly believe you’re the best fit for the job, to convince an interview panel that you are.
While scrutiny is to be expected, it’s important that we are aware of all we have to offer in terms of experience, skills and flair. It’s crucial that we don’t let a lack of trophy qualifications or other labels hold us back. Who we are and who we can be, are not limited by any award or tag.
They can, however, be limited if nerves take hold while we’re perched in the hot chair, causing our words to stick or pour; our frame to seize, jitter or flop. Most have no idea how this might come across until such time as they undergo pre-interview coaching.
Describing her clients’ experience to the process, Meg Healy of Cork Interview Coaching says: “People are surprised. They find it difficult to listen to and look at themselves. They see mannerisms they didn’t realise they had. “I had one client, who crossed her legs, dropped one shoe and scooped it up again continuously. She was totally unaware of this nervous habit.”
Nerves aside, confidence is something that often sits uneasily with Irish people, according to Ciaran Hourican, managing director at H-Training, Cork: “At an interview, your task is to demonstrate your ability in a competitive process. “We [Irish] don’t receive compliments very well and we don’t behave confidently a lot of the time.”
Explaining how job candidates can ‘become victims of their own humility,’ by leaving awards off their CVs and underselling their quality and worth, he adds: “There’s a real skill in shifting that for an interview, without coming across as too bombastic and alienating the interview board.”
Providing a glimpse into how he works he says: “I never advise people to be disingenuous in an interview. I look for what is already there and help them to frame that better while watching the vernacular.
Hourican says he has seen people who can stand up in front of an entire division and regale them to high heaven, who find interviews far more challenging. “That’s because the outcome affects them, their livelihoods and their families,” he says. “There’s an emotional variable in interviews.”
Acknowledging that “the performance side of it can be really challenging,” he continues: ”It’s important to recognise that there’s a framework and certain hoops you’ve to jump through. But it behooves you to understand what they are, so as to realise the best results.”
The hoops we have to jump through can vary from one person to another in discriminatory and less-than-fair ways. On that topic, Kate Moynihan of LINC in Cork, has this to say: “If you are gender nonconforming, trans, or particularly butch or masculine in your presentation, you wonder whether your interviewers are going to view that and whether you are going to be judged for it.
“People who have had this experience, have spoken to me about it. They’ve asked me: ‘Given the way I dress, how will I come across at an interview? How am I going to be viewed? Am I going to look too butch? Are the interviewers going to create a view of me that way?’
“This creates an extra stress when going for an interview,” she says, and nobody could doubt that it would.
Moynihan says interviewers may well think they would always be open to LGBTI+ people and may fully intend to be. We talk then, about unconscious bias and the high unemployment rate amongst trans people.
This calls to mind IBEC’s statement in May of this year, that 1% of the population will experience some sort of gender variance, meaning many organisations will have transgender employees as part of their workforce or will liaise with transgender candidates as part of the recruitment process.
For all, the Guidelines for Employers and Employees published by Trans Equality Network Ireland (TENI) in 2017 make informative reading.
Another who has in-depth knowledge of the recruitment process is Fiona Byrne, group marketing and communications manager at Osborne. She says that while professional career coaches most certainly have their merits, the right recruitment consultancy should provide candidates with the highest standard of advice and coaching.
“Within Osborne, we offer candidates highly focused interview preparation sessions before they attend any interviews through us,” she says. “The advantage of this consultancy-led service is that each session is tailored and specific to the client who is hiring.
“Our consultants know our clients inside and out,” she continues. “As part of our recruitment process, we take the time to understand their culture, identify the key skills they require and understand their interview styles. This gives our candidates the edge and allows them to explain their skills and experience in the most optimum manner.
“Our sister company, Osborne Career Consultants, provides candidate services ranging from CV critiquing, psychometric testing and personality profiling, to the roleplay of competency-based interviews. This supports candidates who have been out of the market for a time, or are unsure of how to begin a job search. Also, those who have been continually unsuccessful at job interviews.”
There’s no doubt that job hunters benefit from interview coaching from recruitment agencies, given the close relationships they have with the organisations that are hiring (their clients) and the candidates they select to put forward, and that they also benefit from experts like Hourican and Healy too.
Asked whether candidates in the running for one of the ‘big’ jobs in the private sector or public service should assume their competitors will have been interview-coached, Hourican replies: “Those going for mid and high-level roles know there will be a lot of high calibre people going up against them. Being as prepared as possible is obviously going to lead to the best outcome.”
No matter how prepared anyone is for an interview, the possibility of encountering bias on the part of an interviewer can be anxiety-inducing, to say the least.
Sometimes there are barriers that need to be broken. Sometimes there are limits we create with our minds. Speaking of the latter, Hourican says that while education opens doors, mindset and believing in yourself is important. “I regularly challenge people on the messages they give themselves about not being enough.
“I’ve clients from sales backgrounds who are ‘walking under a cloud’ because of a lack of education and having a particular piece of paper. Many of these guys would buy and sell some of the most highly qualified people I’ve encountered. This is something I’m always quick to point out. You have to make sure you are not creating a ceiling within your own mind.
“I know it’s a tough world and lots of us go through challenges. But I am a believer because I have seen people surprise themselves a lot. This can be a watershed moment in their life and career, when they say: ‘You might think I am stupid for daring to think I should go for this job.’ My response is: Go for it. With bells on. Why not?”
- Research the company.
- Present yourself immaculately appropriately and punctually.
- Believe you are right for the job.
- Listen to the questions and answer honestly and sincerely.
- Make eye contact.
- Firm handshake.
- Remember it’s a two-way process, you too are deciding if this is the job for you.