I’ve Got the Job (Well Almost)!
David Ivers is from Sydney, Australia. He is a qualified Primary and Secondary School Teacher. In total, he has served on school leadership teams for 16 years in senior leadership roles.
So, you tidied up your Résumé, polished off your Cover Letter and sent your job application in. It seems like months ago that you did that and at last the phone call has arrived. You tell your friends and family that you think you’ve got the job if you can only get the interview next week! It can’t be that hard, could it?
Just as you need to do your research when you’re making the job application, you also need to do some research for the interview. The first thing to understand is that the job interview might well be only one part of the selection process. It is not unusual for an employer to triangulate the information they have about a prospective candidate. Typically this could include: producing a work sample, presentations based on a given question or data-set, an aptitude test or psychometric testing. Depending on the area you would be working in, other considerations may come into play. For example, if you are applying for any of the Emergency Services, a test of physical fitness may well be a part of the selection process.
The interview is a crucial part of this jigsaw puzzle. Two common types of interview are the Hypothetical Scenario Interview and the Behavioural Interview.
The Hypothetical Scenario, is not unlike the practice in a First Aid exam. As a side-note, if you have not successfully completed or maintained a First Aid Certificate, consider adding that qualification to your Résumé. In many areas of employment such as Teaching, Emergency Services, Public Transport Services, just to name a few, a First Aid Certificate is often considered an important addition to your other qualifications.
In the First Aid exam, you are asked to demonstrate your theoretical knowledge and then given a scenario in which the theoretical knowledge is applied. This type of interview requires a degree of ‘thinking on your feet’. Often the interviewer will stretch your application of the theoretical by asking a series of ‘what if’ questions. Such questions almost always require a decision that leads to the recommendation of some action. For example, having explained how you might improve literacy levels in a school, the interviewer might then ask how levels of poverty might influence literacy levels and how you would address this.
The Behavioural Interview pretty much means what it says. The questions are designed to have you draw on your experiences, check your behavior during the interview and make sure that you are not trying to fake your way through the interview.
The interview is a crucial part of this jig-saw puzzle. Two common types of interview are the Hypothetical Scenario Interview and the Behavioural Interview.
Some questions are of course givens in an interview and are usually drawn from the Role Description. The Role Description should typically be available to you in the application package and should form part of your research and preparation for the interview.
You should expect the question: Why have you applied for this position? The Behavioural Interview tends to seek examples. For example: Could you tell us how you would apply your skills and experiences to this position? Likewise in the Behavioural Interview, there will be check questions, this is how the interview validates answers previously given in the interview. For example, for Question 2, the interviewer might ask: What is a strength that you would bring to this organization? You might say ‘leadership’. Later at Question 7, another interviewer on the panel might ask: Could you give us a specific example of a situation in which you showed leadership? If you seem to struggle or ramble or simply provide a non-answer or worse, no answer, then you were trying to fake your response to Question 2. Similarly, if you claim to be a volunteer at your local Church, expect a question that asks for the name of the minister responsible for that Church or Parish.
The other key to any interview are the behaviors that are observed. This begins from the moment you enter the room and continues until you leave the room. The interview is a formal recruitment and selection process. Typically, you should dress in a formal manner, dark colors often work well. Enter and leave the room with confidence. It may seem unimportant but if you are being interviewed for say a teaching position, the panel wants to know that when you enter a room (think classroom), that you have a definite presence about you, that the students will notice you are there!
Try to resist bringing large bulky folders into the interview room. The interview panel should have all of the information they need from your written application. There are some exceptions to this. If the job requires you to show that you are operating at a standard that is industry regarded as quite high, then a sample portfolio may be of benefit. If you are applying for a Visual Arts teaching position in a high school, a sample of your own artworks might be appropriate. With technology these days, increasingly job applicants are creating digital portfolios and providing the panel members a link to the portfolio. This allows them to view it before or after the interview.
If the interview is with a panel, it is highly likely that each person represents the stakeholders you would be dealing with if you won the position. Expect that each will ask you 2-3 questions. With 5 members of the interview panel, you are looking at an interview with 10-15 questions. Such an interview has plenty of scope to have behavioral questions and opportunities to see how you respond under pressure and ‘think on your feet’. It is critical to success that you look directly at the person asking the question but ensure you make eye contact with each member of the panel when answering. In most interviews, including the Behavioural Interview, it is likely that someone on the panel will ask clarifying questions. This often occurs where there is a vagueness to your answer or poor alignment to a previous question. It does work the other way too.
If the question asked could have more than one interpretation, it is valid to ask your own clarifying question. In a Behavioural Interview, this indicates that you have the ability to seek guidance when necessary. Be cautious about interviews that ask you to evaluate your current position or the management style of your current boss. At the end of the day, such questions are usually reflective of a poor interview design and run the risk that you will be critical of your current employer. If you fall into this trap, know that you are indicating to your prospective employer that you would most likely do the same to them one day.
The keys to a successful interview are to:
- Recognise the formality of the occasion.
- Thoroughly research the organization.
- Wear dark and contrasting colors. A black suit, crisp white shirt, and a red or white tie, with polished shoes, tell that you are likely to be self-aware and capable of looking after yourself.
- Enter and leave the room with confidence.
- If a handshake is extended, a firm grip is appropriate.
- Answer each question truthfully and thoughtfully.
- Use examples that are drawn from your experiences to ground your answers.
- Do not be critical of your current employer.
- Refocus your answers when a clarifying question is asked and use real examples.
- Be prepared to ask the occasional clarifying question. If it is a two-part question, ask if the panel could give you the first part, answer it, then the second.
- If you genuinely have a question to ask at the end of the interview, ask. That said, keep such questions to a minimum.
- Remember to check your references. Ask them to give you three words that describe you, personally and professionally. This gives you an insight as to what your prospective employer will be told.
- Have a vision of yourself in the job, that you can articulate.
- Have a vision of where you see yourself career-wise in the future and be prepared to articulate that.
The Cover Letter and Résumé gave your future employer enough of your story for your future employer to be interested. The interview is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and how you might apply it, how well you can think on your feet and of course how clearly you can think and articulate yourself. It is your chance to put your best foot forward and show that you are the best fit for this organisation.
Carpe Deim – Seize the Day!