Last week, RCV International a Cape Town-based-recruitment agency discussed interview fear and how even a mild degree of it can affect a candidate’s chances of a successful interview. This week RCV suggests, by means of a case study, ways of conquering this fear so the candidate can present herself (or himself) at her or his best. Their subject is Lisa, a publisher with 12 years‘ experience in a big publishing company and recently retrenched. She is terrified of her first interview after retrenchment for, despite her long work experience, she has never actually had a proper job interview. She was invited as a student intern to join the company and rose through the ranks to being a publisher ‒ and then bang along came retrenchment!
Lisa’s previous senior status did nothing for her confidence in facing a demanding interview. If anything it made it worse, as she thought she would be judged according to impossibly stringent standards. ‘They’ll expect me to cool, competent, very verbal and witty.’ She wailed. ‘And in walks gormless me, not unsurprisingly, the first to be given the boot by my last employer.’ Clearly retrenchment had plunged Lisa’s morale into an all-time low.
‘Right,’ said Vuyo, ‘ that’s enough of beating yourself up. The first thing, you must remember Lisa, is that only 20 per cent of applicants for a job are invited to an interview. Interviews are expensive for companies and so they invite only those applicants they think will add real value. There’s a huge amount of preliminary sifting through applications before they make their list. Most are thrown out. You can be certain there was a lot in your CV and cover letter that interested and impressed them.’
Seeing her friend was looking a bit less panic stricken, Vuyo sailed on. ‘So now you’ve creamed round one, we’ve got to see you do the same in round two ‒ the interview. The way to do this is preparation. If you do your preparation well,I can guarantee you ‘ll have a good interview. In your case, this means facing up to what you are actually frightened of‒ the actual answering of the interview questions. Am I right?’ Lisa nodded.
‘So that’s what we’ll deal with first, though there’s lots of other aspects to a job interview we’ll come to later. Robyn and I have worked out a plan for the question part. First of all we’ve made a list of the questions asked in most job interviews. You work out how you would answer them and then we’ll have a dummy interview with Robyn and me being the interviewees and you the candidate. The interesting thing about these dress rehearsal interviews is how well they work. They seem to give interviewees confidence and consequently, they become much more fluent in their answers.’
‘The number and variety of questions the interviewers can ask are endless, but in some form or other, these are likely to come up:
– Why did you apply for this position?
– What do you consider to be your strengths?
– What you know about this company?
– What attributes or skills you bring? (N.B. Name those relevant to this job. Not for instance that you are a champion cyclist if you are applying for a job in publishing)
– Why were you retrenched?
– How you get on with people i.e. how good are your interpersonal skills?
– Give an example of how you handled a stressful situation.
‘There’s a right and a wrong way to answer each question. The ‘Lisa’ below is very definitely answering the first question in the wrong way, even though it might be the scrupulously truthful way.
Will you tell us why you applied for this position of publisher of tertiary academic books in our company?
Lisa: Well you see I was retrenched a month ago and so to be frank I was very pleased and relieved to see an advertisement for an opening in your company, even though the portfolio was very different from that of my previous job. There, I was publisher of their adult education section. However, publishing is publishing whatever the genre, so I decided I would manage being an academic book publisher.’
Lisa laughed, ‘The way I’ve been feeling.’ She said, ‘I probably would have blurted out something like that or even more insensitive.
I’d answer, ‘I was delighted to see your advertisement for a position in academic tertiary books. I have thought for a long time that my background does equip me to be in that branch of publishing. I have an MA in English literature and was a tutor in the university’s English department for two years so I have a first-hand understanding of your student market and of your academic authors. My publishing experience has been all with adult education and training, which I found rewarding and interesting, but I would enjoy a change.’
‘Wow’ said Vuyo.