Almost every job description lists the qualifications required by an employer. Education, experience and demonstrated skills make up the bulk of the posting and in some instances, that’s all that’s provided. However, if these alone are enough for an employer to choose the candidates who will succeed, there’d be no need for personal interviews.
So once education, past and present experience and required skills are confirmed, employers turn to their interviewers to size up the people before them as good fits personally. For you the applicant, this part of the application process can be most frustrating. Many people lament lost opportunities even though they met all the stated requirements for employment.
It’s critically important to be self-aware of how you come across to others; to know yourself. You may think you’re coming across as self-confident and assertive when in reality, an interviewer sizes you up as aggressive, arrogant, self-important or conceited. You might promote yourself as a team player, but the interviewer might have serious doubts about how your going to fit in with the existing employees based on how you’re coming across in the interview. This is especially true when you consider that interviews are typically where applicants are on their best behaviour.
Now as an applicant, you might not think this assessment of your personality and individual qualities is entirely fair. After all, you’re under pressure and may be one of those people who performs great on the job itself but comes across poorly in an interview. Who is to say that the person interviewing you and making a hiring decision is good at assessing personalities and ‘fit’ in the first place? Further, if the truth is that interviewers have made up their minds about an applicant in the first 3 minutes or less after first meeting them, how much information are they really working on to make these career-changing assessments?
As an applicant, I recommend you concentrate on the things you can control and not those you can’t. What you say and how you say it, how you dress, stand or sit, your eye contact, smile, advanced research, interpersonal skills, attitude, knowledge etc. – all these are within your control. So too are your tone and volume of speech, your vocabulary, warmth or lack thereof, tact and use of humour, insights, your handshake – again, all within your control.
I get that with so many things to think about, you might wonder how anyone could be successful! Thinking on all these things might just distract you from performing at your best and ironically result in you being passed over for jobs you’d otherwise be perfect for. This is the mindset of those who’d rather take the easy way and just wing an interview. They reason, “I can’t know what the other person is thinking can I? So I’ll just not bother or worry about all that stuff and just do the best I can.”
For some this is a cop-out; not wanting to really invest themselves in the time it takes to prepare for an important interview. They may not get the job anyway, so it could be a big waste of time; time they’d rather spend doing things they enjoy, and interview practice is at the bottom of the list. They figure that only one person gets the job and so there will be a lot of disappointed people; many who did do their homework and practice ahead of time – and they failed too. So why bother?
Why bother indeed? The answer is because preparing gives you a better chance of succeeding. The odds go up considerably for those who take the time to prepare. Preparation will help you figure out what kind of person does well in one job vs. another kind of person. Sit outside the place of employment just watching people come and go and you can learn a great deal about how people dress and interact with fellow employees. Do they seem happy, stressed out, robotic or engaged? Have a meeting with those doing the job you’d like to land and you can ask about the atmosphere, what it takes to succeed, desired personal qualities and this is all part of the company culture that is promoted as desirable behaviour.
Now, if what you learn tells you that in truth you’re not a good fit with an organization, think seriously about continuing to compete for a job there. You may fool some people and indeed get hired, but what if one of the people you fool is yourself? How long will you be happy and do you really want to be back job searching in 3 month’s when you and/or the employer decide the fit just isn’t there?
Want some solid advice? Get to know yourself. No, I’m not being flippant. Identify your personal qualities and ask friends, family and co-workers how you come across. Ask for honesty not flattery; the good and the not-so-charming. Be thankful for all the feedback you have and then armed with all you learn, start the hunt for the job and company where someone with your personal qualities PLUS experience, education and skills will be the best fit.
Way too many people ignore personal fit when looking at potential jobs and employers; yet its personal fit that every employer takes into consideration at every job interview. Unless they want a round peg in a square hole to shake things up, pay attention to finding the proper fit.