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Ask Lawrence: What is the proper etiquette for interviews?

26 Sep 12:00 by Lawrence Akers

Lawrence Akers Interviews

Let’s face it, the interviewing process can be a rather daunting and overwhelming experience. When job hunting, having the opportunity to work for an organisation that excites you in a role that offers the right challenges can often feel like a dream come true and the beginning of the next chapter of your professional career.

This week, I’m exploring some tips that are going to help your interview experience go just that little bit better. 

Ask questions before the interview

Prior to going to your interview, make sure that you ask your consultant any questions that you believe you need to know to present well. This may include questions about the role itself (such as why it exists) or the culture of the company and personality fit, or even what the intended interview process is going to be. You may also want to know details such as if there is public transport to the location or what kind of parking options are located around it so that you can plan out your trip and leave yourself plenty of time to arrive feeling relaxed.

Be sure to ask for some form of job description and if you have any questions about the position, make sure you’re clear before you go in. Additionally, if there are any words that you’re not sure you understand, get clarification. I once had a candidate accept a part time position and, only after they received their first payslip, decide it was time to ask me what ‘pro-rata’ actually meant. While many consultants who have gone through these sorts of experiences will learn to cover all bases, communication is a two-way street. 

Speaking of which, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve told your consultant about anything on the horizon that could impact on the job should you be successful, such as upcoming holidays or other requirements. Nothing looks more disorganised and unprofessional than someone relaying after an interview that they’ve forgotten about their upcoming one month holiday in Europe. You wouldn’t believe how frequently that actually happens!

Be prepared with experiential answers

Let’s be honest - you wouldn’t have got the interview if the client didn’t think you could do the job so the interview is less about the mandatory skills and more about the finer details. With that in mind, you’ll want to go into your interview with some examples in mind of times where you’ve used your skills and abilities to deal with a situation and to get a positive outcome. You’ll often be able to anticipate what kinds of questions you’re likely to be asked so have a think about that and come up with some responses that highlight your skills and achievements. Think of it as preparing case studies stating the problem, your actions and the results. 

Additionally, elaborating on your roles and responsibilities and don’t assume that the interviewer should know everything about your role because it were mentioned in the CV. It's about hearing it first hand from you and your involvement. Your daily responsibilities may seem normal to you but many people with similar titles actually have different roles. Given this, try to avoid using general terms (ie. I was an ‘Account Manager’) and, instead, pretend that you’re talking to someone who has no idea what you do and elaborate in that detail. Describe your role, how you fit within the team, and how you worked with your clients.

Be engaging and enthusiastic

This can often be a challenge for people if it isn’t naturally them however you want to ensure you across as being personable and enthusiastic about the opportunity. Show a passion for what you do and your achievement; if you are not excited about the opportunity, how do you expect others to feel your enthusiasm? Organisations are always interested in those who are passionate about their work. 

On the flip side, don’t be too overly confident. I recall one interview where a client phoned me afterward absolutely furious. When I explored what had happened, it turned out that the candidate had become so relaxed that she decided it was a good idea to put her feet up on the desk while talking to him. It might not seem like a big thing to some people however this is clearly an unprofessional line that had just been crossed and in a situation like that, you need to keep it professional.

Give feedback

Once your interview has finished, give your consultant a call and let them know how the interview went. They’ll be keen to know what kind of questions you were asked and how you responded, and what your general thoughts were on the role. If you’re feeling positive about the role, be sure to let your consultant know. If you’re no longer keen, offer up an idea about what it is that has turned you off as it may be something that your consultant can discuss with your client and ‘fix’. 

Your consultant may be likely to gain your feedback first before talking with the client however you could also ask if they have heard any feedback from their client. Depending on the interview process, they may have already heard something back from the client as to who their thoughts may be leaning towards.

Be polite and professional

Sending a follow up thank you email is always polite and acceptable. Sending too many emails, texts or attempting to connect on LinkedIn may not be viewed as a good idea though. Many companies will go through an agency in order to help remove that kind of behaviour so certainly don’t overstep the mark by assuming that the client is your new best friend because you felt the interview went well. If you have any questions after the interview, make sure that they come through your recruitment consultant - they’re there to manage that process.

References

Some agencies may do reference checks prior to presenting you while others may do them if the client offers so that they can be used to explore any concerns that the client may have identified. Either way, make sure that your references know that they’re acting as a reference for you and that they’re free to take the call. Nothing is more frustrating than making several attempts to get hold of a reference when that may be what is holding up a position being offered.

Don’t take it personal

Look at it this way; if you’ve been interviewed for a position, chances are that you’re one of a small handful that made it from potentially hundred of applicants. If you’re unsuccessful in securing the role for whatever reason, try to avoid taking it too personally and realise that it is all part of the job search. Unfortunately, only one person will often be successful in securing the role so take the decision graciously, feel free to ask for feedback, and accept what is given. Often it may even be down to really small details, such as who they believe is going to fit into the culture of the company better. These details can often be so small, however when the candidates being interviewed are coming in that close, the client will often have to look at every aspect to determine an outcome.

I hate to say it but there have been instances in the past where people have not taken the decision against them in the most professional of manner. It becomes a really awkward and uncomfortable end to the process for all involved and, sadly, burns bridges that didn’t need to be burned. Everyone involved will know already that it is disappointing for you however the best thing to do is to explore if there is anything that could benefit future applications and continue to work with your consultant for upcoming opportunities.

Job hunting is hard for everyone - for the people applying, for the recruitment consultant trying to find the best match and for the client, who is often time poor, trying to make the best decision with the applicants that they have. By keeping it professional means that you will continue to always put your best foot forward.

If you have any thoughts, questions or simply would like to get in touch with me and offer up a topic for the next Ask Lawrence, you can contact me on lawrence@creativerecruiters.com.au or you can find me and connect with me on LinkedIn