Interview Killers

Published: 1 April 2015

We all know that first impressions count. Once made, it needs to be reinforced, emboldened, or simply not spoilt! Interviews are about reinforcing the positive first impression into a lasting perception.

In the pursuit of any role there are many wrong turns to take; it is after all human to err. Many are inconsequential and recoverable. Some we can simply raise our hands to and accept that it ‘isn’t meant to be’. Others are avoidable.  This is a simple and light view of some of the more common interview killers we regularly encounter.

“Let me be honest… Can I be honest… If I’m honest with you.”

We’d naturally assumed you already were! While it’s a care free statement, it can give pause for thought. Now this may not be a big thing, but it’s often impressions made around the margins that make the difference.

“I’m a Trouble Shooter”

A quick straw-poll of my colleagues agreed that we’ve never seen ‘trouble shooter’ on a job spec or had a client ask us to hire one. Don’t use it as lazy short-hand hoping to create an impression of high octane action. Fixing, recovering and turning things around are all valuable short-term facets to a bigger responsibility / accountability. The real value comes afterwards; once fixed, make something run to the optimum. Change delivery is one thing, ensuring the business can capitalise on the consequences of change is another.  Evidencing both is key.

“…. I soar like an eagle…. I might look like a Poodle but I’m a Rottweiler inside.”

Both of these quotes are real, astounding isn’t it! Life is not a motivational poster, and this isn’t Crufts! We want to know you, the real you, so we can help you consistently show the best version of you to prospective hiring managers. Avoid hyperbole, describe yourself in tangible, human terms. Remember, people hire people. And, as with Trouble Shooter, we’ve never seen Poodle or Rottweiler on a client’s wish list either!

“Hello mate… thanks fella. *@&~#ing great result!”

Communication style is rather like dress code; if in doubt err on the more formal side. Over familiarity and choice language will lose more favour than it will win. Our role is to get to know you, and we will be friendly. But, in the same breath we need to be assured that you will present to the hiring client in a manner that meets with their prevailing culture.

“I’m a fast streamer, I’m talent.”

Being part of a talent scheme is an accomplishment. This stuff is important. It’s very important within the context of your present employer. Outside of this you need to add the context; what does this signify? You are successful in environment ‘x’, but can you leverage or replicate this experience elsewhere? A sub-set of this type of killer is the expectant gaze that often follows the pronouncement of a recently attained MBA. Again, a valuable and impressive accomplishment, but it should all be about what it has given you , enabled you to do things better, rather than simply being a badge.

“I’m not doing this for the money… I’m worth £X….I earned £X in my last gig, I don’t need to work“

No doubt you are proud – rightly so. You have put yourself and your dependants into a secure spot. But this approach risks putting a crass spin on what might be altruistic, well intentioned and pure motivations. Not needing the money might make a non-issue out of possible salary concerns, but it will give others the thought that there is little holding you there if they don’t hear your fuller motivations.

These examples are real. And barring the ‘Poodle’ are things we’ve heard many times in one form or another.  All were given with good intent but in reality are merely symptoms of the problem. The learning here is to address the cause; ensure that you are connected with your motivations, your skills, your experiences and the value you have delivered in terms your business, your customer, and your stakeholders recognise and value.

Being able to share this in a manner most appropriate for each audience you encounter puts you ahead of the pack. This will see you through interviews with good success. Iron out the banal analogies, the hyperbole and jaded one- liners. Have the confidence to replace them with the best version of you conveyed in simple accessible and reference-able terms. After all, people buy authentic people. Do this well and they will see ‘you’ and hire ‘you’.

Matt Cockbill is a Managing Partner within Berwick Partners and has been a Head hunter for more than 17 years, and has had the privilege of interviewing many thousands of talented people in the process. Matt has been known to slip into hyperbole himself time to time and has even tried soaring like an eagle, but accepts aerodynamics are sadly against him. 

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