Archives for posts with tag: Interview

When you’re interviewing for a new job, there is in my view one type of question you should parry. That question is anything to do with being in the role you’re interviewing for.

The question is sometimes phrased along the lines of:

‘Can you describe what your typical day might be if you took this job?’ or

‘What would your priorities be coming into this role?’

You might be tempted to blurt out ‘how the heck do I know? I don’t work here, I don’t know the company, the people, the products, services, challenges, objectives or anything else well enough to answer that. I need to assess the situation first before I decide anything. Alternatively, I can share with you some vacuous generalities if you like…’ Assuming you want to work here, I don’t recommend quite such a confrontational approach to what is an unfair question.

Rather than attempting to answer the 64-thousand-dollar question, it’s much better to parry it with ‘It depends‘ and illustrate the approach you would take to learning the role so that you’d be best placed to answer the question with the knowledge, experience and authority of having lived it for a couple of weeks. After all, that’s what you did in previous roles and look how well they turned out, right?


Here’s what I’ve learned about applying for jobs over the years, and I think this information is pretty current. It’s also pretty obvious, so excuse this if it comes across as full of platitudes. My hope is that it will save you time and increase your success rate.

Firstly, if you don’t know a single person in or associated with the company you’ve seen a job ad for, think very hard before applying. It’s like getting an unsolicited invitation to tender for business, your success rate is 0 to 5%.  This sounds defeatist, but you have to go with the numbers and the politics.

One Job, Several Interlopers

One Job, Several Interlopers

Secondly, you can set up all the job alerts in the world, but it’s waste of your time to apply for the role if you don’t know who the company is. If you don’t know who the company is, you can’t consult your network to find out who you know who works there or with the company. You have to hope it’s a recruitment company that has the exclusive right to the role and is not simply trawling for CVs. Guess who’s in control there? The picture here is from a few years ago, and is clearly 4 different recruitment companies looking to hit the firm with candidates for the same role.

Thirdly, if someone reaches out to you, asking you if you’re interested in applying, this is a good sign. You’ve pulled them to you, rather than pushed yourself to them. Now you have some measure of control, because you know they’ve done the research and you look like a good fit.

Fourthly, and perhaps most transparently, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, perhaps more so these days. Your network of contacts and experiences is unique to you and it’s an asset that should be secured and used to help yourself and other people you value.

In a previous post, one of the 3 things I discussed that you need to satisfy in an interview scenario is ‘can this person do the job?’ If you want the job, and the company culture is right for you, how do you persuade the company that you’re worth the risk if you haven’t got the experience?

Every successful line manager, Director or CXO at some point was a first-time line manager, Director or CXO – the X of CXO meaning any C-Suite role, like CEO, CFO or COO. Someone had to give them their first shot.

If you’re interviewing for a sales manager role, and the company is looking for experience of having led a multi-million dollar sales team, and you don’t have it, it’s very hard to argue your case. What generally happens is that those people were top performers in that team and graduated to become the team manager, even though the skill-set required for a manager is completely different to that of a ‘sole contributor.’

When I look back at the jobs I’ve had, I’ve switched around quite a lot, and in quite a few cases my boss at the time decided I was worth the risk and – to adapt a well-known ABBA song – took a punt on me. Happily, I paid them back on their decision.

When you need someone to take a punt on you, you need to fall back on things that will make you successful in a new role, evidencing your adaptability, perseverance, commitment and enthusiasm, while drawing parallels from your career where you made similar leaps. Then, when you’ve presented your best case, relax, you’ve done all you can. They will or they won’t.

You did your prep, you were well presented, you answered all the questions. Congrats, you nailed the interview! That’s great, it’s a hard thing to do. You should be delighted, even if you don’t end up getting the offer.

Either you will get the offer, or you won’t. If the offer doesn’t come your way, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. You did your best, you couldn’t have done more. Here are the four reasons you didn’t get the job.

1) It was already someone else’s. The company was going through the motions or through the necessary compliance process of looking at a couple of other candidates. In fairness, you could have tried to find this out during the interview. There’s nothing cheeky in asking about the other candidates so that you can sell against them.

2) Someone else better than you got the job. Don’t beat yourself up, you did your best and it took a truly exceptional candidate to edge you out. As the Desiderata says, there’s no point comparing yourself to others. There will always better and lesser folk than you. The important thing is that you did your best.

3) You wouldn’t fit in. This is a blessing in disguise and the company is doing you a favour. If the cultural fit wasn’t right for you, you would have been miserable in the job.

4) There was no job. The company was having a look around, or decided not to appoint a candidate. These are the worst types of companies. They’re true time-wasters and your time is valuable so you’re better off where you are.

Interviews are tricky things to negotiate sometimes. They’re quite unnatural exercises, with both parties on close to their best behaviour, and probably not the behaviour or personality they’re going to display when the person has started with the company.

When you boil it down though, there are three things common to an open interview and two of them you can control directly. The other you can’t. Here they are.

1) Can this person do the job? You need to have examples of how you can do the job and be able to demonstrate how what you’ve done in previous jobs will equip you well to do this one.

2) Does this person want the job? Are you genuinely motivated to secure this opportunity, or it is really interview practice for you, you’re shopping around, you’re benchmarking yourself with a view to applying leverage in your current role, it’s your second choice if your first choice doesn’t come off, and so on? You need to demonstrate you’ve done your homework on the company and are genuinely interested in where it’s going.

3) Will this person fit in to our company? This is the most important question, and one you can’t do anything about, unless you’re lying to the company and by extension to yourself. The cultural fit has to be right, or else you won’t enjoy working there, and since you’re going to be doing it 5 days out of every 7, give or take the odd holiday, what’s the point of working somewhere if you don’t enjoy it? If you know people or are connected to people in the company, ask them what it’s like working there. If you don’t know anyone, ask your interviewer what the culture is like. If they waffle, or they give you an answer that you feel is disingenuous, that’s not a good sign.

When you join a new company, that company has all the power for the first 12 months of your stay there. So remember that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. You may really need that job, but to stay in it, make sure you score 3 out of 3 on these interview rules.