The Purpose Of A Job Interview


As I regularly speak to groups of unemployed people, I often ask them how they feel about job interviews. While a few look forward to them with genuine enthusiasm, most tell me they dread them. Given that an interview of some kind takes place before hiring, let’s look at what an interview is, the purpose it serves and of course how you can perform best.

So what is an interview? Do you see it as a mandatory meeting called where you’re to be drilled, interrogated, the truth sweated out, then evaluated, judged and ultimately rejected as undesirable; sometimes with no explanation whatsoever provided where you went wrong? Gee, no wonder you dread the interview process!

A job interview is really conversation between two or more people, where everyone agrees the discussion will be focused on an opportunity. It is an opportunity for both you the applicant and the employer to see if you’ll be a good fit for the job and equally if the job and the employer are a good fit for you. Sure they’re offering a job, but you’re offering yourself as a solution to their needs. If they had no needs, there’d be no job to apply to.

The purpose of the job interview then is to find the fit. To have received the offer of an interview, you must have impressed them enough with your résumé and/or cover letter. So this meeting is really about finding out what’s not on the résumé. Your attitude, personality, beliefs etc. are all of interest to the employer to decide how you’ll impact on the chemistry in their workplace and with the team of people you’ll potentially work with. It’s also a chance to elaborate on your experiences, so the employer can gauge how you’ll do in the future.

If you want to improve on your interview performance, do your homework. Research the company, find out who the interviewers will be ahead of time and look them up on the company website and/or their LinkedIn profiles. Find out how the organization is performing, current challenges, recent successes and something of their culture – what it’s like to actually work there.

Now this is going to put some people off because this sounds like a lot of work with no guarantee of a positive result. Consider however that if you do put in this effort, you’re ahead of those who don’t bother and it will show in the interview answers you give, and the comments and questions you pose yourself. Imagine putting a lot of time into researching ahead of 4 job applications/interviews; 3 of which don’t turn into a job offer, while the 4th one does. You’ve had fail, fail, fail followed by success. This investment of your time sure beats the energy and time you’ll put into applying for 40 jobs, doing no research and wondering why no one will give you an interview. That’s fail x 40.

Now you can improve your chances of performing well in a job interview if you go into it ahead of time having prepared yourself with specific examples that respond to the questions you’ll be asked. You CAN predict with a high degree of accuracy what you’ll be asked before you even step in the interview room. How? Read the job posting, highlight what it is they are looking for, what you’ll actually do in the job and especially look for anything that is repeated in the posting. If problem solving comes up 3x in a posting, it stands to reason that’s a significant part of the job.

Okay so you’ve highlighted what they want. Great start! Now, to prepare yourself, start writing down the details about times in your past work experiences where you’ve actually done the things this new employer is looking for. In other words, write out a specific time when you solved a problem, making sure you include how you sized up the situation, what you actually did and include the positive outcome such as keeping an angry customer, getting praise from the boss or selling something in addition to the original purchase. Don’t generalize how you usually do things; specific examples are so much more believable.

Of course your answers are huge, but don’t overlook the importance of making a strong visual presentation. In other words, let’s not overlook your appearance. Do what you can NOW to improve on your looks. Get a haircut, shave, get into proper fitting clothes, the type of which would be a step up from what you’d wear to the job. Your choice of clothes tells the interview at a first glance how seriously you take the interview and a degree of your intelligence and respect for the process.

Walk with purpose, stand with both feet equally planted on the floor, not off-balanced on one leg. Sit slightly forward, show interest and enthusiasm for what’s being discussed, smile, look people in the eye, extend your hand and be friendly. Basics for sure, but not to be overlooked and assumed as common sense.

A conversation with an employer about an opportunity is again how I suggest you go into the interview. This should be a positive exchange of information. You’ve got more control in this whole process than you might imagine, right up to deciding if you want the job or not. Your performance influences the outcome, and in a nutshell, that’s the point of this meeting.

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Finding The Right Fit


I meet a great many people who are dissatisfied with the jobs they have. I also listen to an equal number of people who are unemployed completely and stuck deciding what it is they really want to do. That great job or career that everyone else seems to have, continues to elude them.

When I do talk to people who are by their own definition successful and happy, I’ve generally noticed that they’ve found an occupation that combines three key elements; it pays them well, they’re good at what they do and yes, they like what they do.

I’ll bet you can easily bring to mind people you know – perhaps even yourself – who are good at what they do, enjoy the work but aren’t paid sufficiently well in their opinion. Such people tend to look at other organizations where they might do similar work but be compensated better. Money may not be everything, but money does give the means to live life on one’s own terms and without enough of it, there can be a gap between how one lives and how one wishes to.

Then there are people who are paid well and are good at what they do, but they hunger for work that is more challenging, more rewarding. The work has either never really satisfied them or they’ve come to want to do something more meaningful and rewarding.  These people will often surprise those they know by quitting good paying jobs to pursue other interests, leaving co-workers shaking their heads and wondering.

Finally, there are those who are paid well, like what they do but they aren’t good at it. A lot of the time they don’t last long in the job before being let go, but if they are in positions of influence and seniority, they can last a surprisingly long time in an organization; perhaps even resulting in the organization shutting down in the extreme over mismanagement and bad decision-making.

When all three factors align; being paid well, enjoying the work and being good at what one does, it would seem the fit is right and it’s this we call success.

Now while a lot of people I’ve shared this idea with like the simplicity of the above, I find it interesting of note that most immediately pose some variation of the same problem time and time again. “I’m still left needing help to figure out what it is I should do job-wise.”

The two are related of course, but they are different; finding the right fit and finding the right job or career. Let me explain. As an Employment Counsellor, I like the work I do, I feel I’m paid well and I can say I’m good at what I do. Were I to pick up and move to another organization but in a similar role as an Employment Counsellor, I might get paid less, or find that the scope of my job changed significantly. Hence I might have the right job but the other factors changed; in this case compensation for my work or the real work I’d be doing.

This could be where a lot of people go wrong; both job seekers and those who help people find employment. We broadly state the functions and responsibilities of a job – saying a Nurse does this or that, a Carpenter does this kind of work, a Labourer on an assembly line performs this or that, but really the experience of any one of these people will be different from others in the same roles but in different organizations.

The Carpenter might find a great fit in a small, rural community doing precision craftwork, where his talents are highly sought out and another might be happier doing restoration work in large cities working on a team of restoration carpenters. The job title might be the same, but the work done might need very different skill requirements and the environment the work is done in might mean the difference between liking the job or not. This is a factor only the person can decide.

I have for years felt the best place to start a job search is in fact not to look around at jobs on a job board, but to look inside one’s self. What makes you tick? That simple question requires a lot of thought and self-awareness. In other words, get to know yourself; your likes and dislikes, preferences for working alone or in groups and under what circumstances for each. Determine the work environment, the kind of supervision you need and want. Skills you can generally acquire and work to improve if you choose. Learning about yourself first isn’t a waste of time or stalling your career development. It’s putting yourself in a place to ultimately succeed as you’ve never succeeded in the past in finding the right fit.

The good news is that you can find the right fit by design or chance. The bad news is you can go through a lot of jobs and yes even careers attempting to find what’s the right fit for you if you don’t pay attention to learning about yourself first.

Maybe it’s because we think we know ourselves well that we overlook the obvious; but it’s been my experience we don’t know ourselves as well as we assume. And over time, yes, we change and so do our preferences.

May you find the right fit for you.