Got an Interview? Think Carbs…

So I realised pretty early on in my blogging career that every second blog article is about careers advice. Having read a fair few of them, they’re all pretty waffle and talk about the shit you already know and tell you to do the stuff you’re already doing, like firm handshakes and eye contact. But what else are you looking for? Let me tell you how I structure my answers in competency based interviews, how I prepare for them and maybe tell you some things which you may not have thought of already.

Why should you listen to me? Well, I can’t think of a good answer. If you think my advice is useful, go for it. I’ve been interviewed a countless number of times, by some of the biggest companies in the world, from investment banks, accountancy firms and others that make stuff and sell it. I haven’t got an offer from every place, but I got through to final rounds. So I’m by no means an expert, just someone with a little tiny weeny bit of experience.

So here’s what you should bear in mind:

1. Structure: Yes, as the title suggest, think carbs. Or should I say CARBs. That’s Circumstance, Action, Result, Belief. STAR doesn’t work and if you can tell me the differentiation between Situation and Task, I will give you a sticker. Besides, the STAR model doesn’t encompass anything about your beliefs – which is what your interviewer is looking for!

So let me give you a breakdown of each bit. Circumstance is the situation you’re going to describe in which you’ve displayed the skill the interviewer is asking for. Action is what YOU did in the situation in order to meet the target/deadline/goal. Result is the result YOU attained and how that affected the overall team goal. Belief is what YOU think was important in the example you’ve given and how this applies to your work ethic and to the company that you’re interviewing for. Also, use examples from more than your educational career.

2. You: Notice how I capitalised YOU in the above section. That’s because a fair few people, when giving examples start saying ‘We’ and ‘Our’. Yeah, that’s all fine but I don’t care what your team did. I want to know what YOU did in your team. Make sure you know the difference. Be careful of it as well – even I start saying ‘We’ when I mean ‘I’.

3. Insert research here: The knob interviewers will ask you a specific question that isn’t relevant to anyone. Who cares when the company was founded and what each different department does?! These interviewers have egos, and they’re useless in finding the right candidate (memorising info on a corporate website isn’t an indicator to how good a candidate is). Having said that, they do exist. So brush up on your research. But instead of waiting for the question “Tell me what you know about our firm”, which may or may not materialise, make sure you insert bits of info into your answer (mainly the Belief section). “I know reputation is everything, your founder in 1913 built this business on that sole principle”. Don’t wait for your interviewer to ask you for your research. You’ll quickly find that you’ve missed your opportunity if you do wait.

4. Listen: Contrary to most people’s behaviour, an interview is a 2 way process. As well as the interviewer listening to you, you should be listening to them. Answer the right question, make sure you’re giving the correct example for the correct competency. If you’re not sure what competency they’re looking for, ask! If the interviewer stops writing, it means you’re waffling, move on. If the interviewer keeps butting in and asking you another question, it means you’re not getting to the point – listen to them and understand why they’re asking you a follow on question. Remember they’re there to give you a job; they want you to do well so that they don’t spend any extra time and money looking for a suitable candidate. Also, that intro bit where they tell you their name and role in the firm, remember that. Use their name during the interview, ask them questions about the role they do. Like I always say, people LOVE talking about themselves, and if you ask about your interviewer, that’ll leave a good impression.

5. Know your shit: This is like uber simple but a lot of knobbers get it wrong. If you’re applying to an audit role (for example), know what audit is. No ones expecting an extreme level of detail here but at least the overview of the job. If you want to be a Corporate Lawyer, know what they do. It’s so easy to get information online and yet loads of people don’t do it. Know about the market place and what the industry’s doing. Read trade publications and reports. If you can’t be arsed, that either means you’re lazy or you’re not interested in that field. Either way, you should probably stop applying because you’re only wasting your time. Knowing what’s happening in the industry shows your keen and aware of the wider picture.

6. Remember you’re a human, and so is your interviewer: As human beings, our requirements are all the same, as are our common defects. Our moods sway our effectiveness and our attention sometimes lapses. We also like when people smile and ‘connect’ well with us. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Make sure you’re building a rapport with your interviewer. Don’t memorise your answers word for word like a script and then blurt it all out when the time is right. Ease your body language, don’t sit there like you’re about to have an anal examination. Be aware of your speed and tone – don’t talk too fast or too slow, and change your tone throughout the interview – if you’re monotonous, you’re boring, and the interviewer will wonder more about what to have for lunch than what you have to say. Be wary as well that sometimes interviewers go off on one… if they do, it’s your responsibility to bring it back on track. If you’re halfway through your interview and your interviewer is still talking about themselves, butt in and swing it to your favour. DON’T BE SUBTLE in your answers, assume your interviewer is a bit autistic and that everything needs to be explicitly stated! Don’t assume anything.

7. Dressing in a suit is only the beginning: OK, so you’ve put your favourite suit on, but your tie’s too short and you’re not wearing a belt. The cuffs on your white shirt are dirty and your hairs messed up in the wind. Why didn’t you go to the bathroom in those spare 15mins before the interview to sort yourself out? Oh, and wear nice shoes.

8. Ask intelligent questions: Don’t start with “How much is the salary?”. Rather, “What kind of clients does this office have?”, “What’s the average career progression path?” or “What training is available for soft skills?”. You should have a good indication to what the average starting salary for an industry is, keep it at that until you receive your offer letter.

9. Sit close, get water: Offices usually have square desks. Don’t sit on opposite ends. This implies a power-play and makes it difficult to build rapport. Sit closer to your interviewer. Don’t take the seat they offer if there’s an empty chair in-between you. And before you start, ask for a glass of water. Water’s good when your throat gets dry or when you need a few seconds to think of an answer. DO NOT get sparkling, because you will burp half way through a sentence. Still’s the way to go.

10. You’re always being assessed: Yes, even when they say you’re not, you are. Never say anything unprofessional, don’t bitch about the interviewer to your fellow candidates when you walk out and don’t go for a toilet break half way through an exercise. As soon as you finish, don’t whip your phone out and start checking your emails and texts – wait until you’re out the building.

That’s it I guess, hope that somewhat helps. Let me know if you have any more advice or share your experiences by commenting below!