Go to the internet and there are scads and scads of tips telling you how to win that job, how to nail the interview. Generally these well intentioned missives centre on things like:
- Promote your strengths and manage your weaknesses
- Maintain eye contact – Don’t mumble – Don’t be nervous
- Be assertive – Sell yourself
- Show your ‘action’ persona
So why go against such ingrained truths? Why rail against the tried and trusted? Well there are a few things to consider here.
Many interviews operate on an unequal power dynamic. The interviewer is all knowing, all powerful; ready to cast wise judgement upon your past, present and most importantly your future. The questions will be mainly one way. “Tell me about yourself?” That old chestnut about your ‘strengths and weaknesses’. “Why are you the right person for our company?” Reasonable questions that someone who is about to hire you might want to ask. But, nevertheless often an artificial construct. Questions which are beautifully set up for prepped answers and allowing you to create an illusion of you ‘Clark Kent here to solve whatever problem you want’. So can we draw any conclusions here? Yes the obvious one is that it’s a Game – a game with winners and losers and often he/she who plays the game the best gets the gig. No second prizes here.
But, and this is a big one; anecdotally quite often the candidate who interviewed the best doesn’t work out; wasn’t actually the best fit for the role. They were simply the most skilled at the game. So, it’s probably fair to say the interviewer is at fault. The interviewer is motivated by scoring the candidates against the questions; which are almost surely not aligned to the job itself. The interviewer is also looking at reducing risk – after all they don’t want a reputation for hiring duds. They’ve got just as much on the line as you do. Also, according to research most of us will hire in our own image – people like ourselves!!
So what can you do if the forces are lined up against you? It depends of course on who you are up against, the interviewers skills, the material fit to the job…. a myriad of variables actually. But the truth is: if you answer questions contrary to the expected responses, if you think and look 180° to your interviewers, then the chances are No Cigar! So, in essence that’s about it – Game Over!
So I am clearly coming to you with one of those dreary 2-3 word clichés like BE YOURSELF. Well yes Be Yourself – Not Party person You, Not Family person You, Not Inner City Hipster You …. The Professional You and by that I don’t mean bring the caricature of a ‘professional’ to the interview; that is seen through in a flash. What I mean is: Have a long hard think about what you do, what you can and can’t do, what you want to do? The kind of people you like to work with, what gets you motivated (beyond $$$) and what you might actually bring to the table for this company. Package all this together and you might actually be surprised at what you have got to offer. Once you reckon with this, hopefully up goes the confidence (the real confidence – not the rubbery kind you might see on The Apprentice). Next step ‘Be Honest’ I don’t mean soul baring stuff, but the kind of honesty you might give a well-meaning stranger on a long train trip! No lies but show your good side. It sounds passé, but if you genuinely connect with the interviewer/s there’s a high chance you will win the role.
Usually, though not always, if you didn’t get the role – it wasn’t meant to be. No harm done. Nothing ventured – nothing gained. It’s not a Slap Down. In fact maybe if it wasn’t the right place for you, it’s a good thing.
Which brings me to the point of the story: Louis Theroux would make a great recruiter! His documentaries are ultimately about getting to some kind of truth. As any of you who have watched his docos know, he’s usually dealing with what one might call people who are “a little bit different”; people who might not necessarily want to reveal all, people with reasons and secrets maybe? Inevitably he teases out honest, warts and all responses and it gives us all a little more breadth and understanding.
So what’s he doing that’s a little different? For starters he is not patronizing or judgemental. He’s not artificial. His questions are well thought out and often use open ended ‘what if’ hypotheticals. He seems to be talking with – not at the subject. So what’s the relevance you ask? Well in a nutshell, if an interview goes well – in other words for both you and the boss, it looks a little like a Louis Theroux chat – an exchange of thoughts, ideas, facts and aspirations. Now if you’ll just excuse me, I am just going to call Louis and see if he wants a gig here!!!