Are you really ready to be interviewed?

How much time do you spend preparing for an interview? I don’t mean checking the address, wearing a clean shirt or even getting there on time, but thinking about what you’re going to say and why you’re going to say it.

Believe it or not most HR interviewees don’t spend any time at all trying to work out what an interviewer is likely to ask and then preparing clear and interesting responses.  Too often interviewees think it’s up to the interviewer to winkle the information out of them and that the stock answers you’ve used before will do – maybe that explains why you keep getting interviews but not jobs?

The interview is your chance to impress the interviewer with your skills and experience, your ability to frame a clear argument, to explain complex projects with clarity and precision and to make yourself seem invaluable to a potential employer. 

It is vital that you actively listen to what you’ve been asked and consider how best to respond – professional interviewers will be checking how relevant your answers are to questions.  Avoiding the question and answering with some other statement in an effort to sell yourself, rarely bodes well and will leave the interviewer wondering what you have to hide.  They will also be able to see through any waffle, and if you keep doing it then the interviewer will think you have nothing interesting or original to offer, and they’d probably be right.

Good interviewers will want to particularly understand your reasons for leaving roles, historically and now.  You need to be genuine with your answer – even an interview that has run perfectly to this point can fail if your career move motivations are not perceived as credible.

To illustrate, let’s imagine an interview with any decent search firm and hear how the interviewee might respond and how the interviewer is likely to interpret the answer.

I’m leaving my job because I’ve run out of challenge

  • always a curious one when you’ve just told me that the company is in high growth mode, lots of M&A work ahead, lots of projects on the agenda?

I’ve hit a ceiling with nowhere to progress

  • you applied for your bosses job and got passed over?

I just feel like a change

  • passed over for promotion/poor bonus/you’re about to be fired/personal crisis looming/you’ve just been told your job is “at risk”?

My notice period is completely flexible

  • are you kidding me?!  If your projects are as important as you just told me, if you’re as well regarded and respected as you’ve just told me, your company leaders aren’t letting you go anywhere easily

I’m not actively looking, I’m very happy in my current job

  • come on now!  You’re busy, happy in your job, but you’re talking to me AND you’ve taken the time to apply for my advertised job??

The company doesn’t have the culture it used to

  • You’ve got a new boss.  You don’t get on.

I don’t think I get the recognition I deserve

  • You’ve just been passed over for a pay increase/your bonus was smaller than you wanted?

I’m one of many who have been made redundant as part of mass cuts, the company is struggling financially

  • Be careful – I’ll check and if it was only half a dozen of you who got the chop….

Not everyone leaves their employment by choice.  Not everyone leaves their employment because they really have exhausted all possible challenges with their current employer.  You need to think in advance of any interview just how you’re going to talk about this. 

Any kind of vagueness or glib explanation will only affect your credibility with the interviewer.  Lying and fudging the truth will invariably be found out.  Professional interviewers can spot B.S. from a mile away and their “gut instincts” are honed to spot any inconsistencies. 

Also be mindful that professional interviewers are checking constantly to ensure that your story remains straight over multiple conversations – after all their reputation is on the line when they recommend you for a role.

Often it is best to just come clean with an objective explanation.  If you’ve already established credibility with the interviewer at this point, they will appreciate your transparency and likely give you coaching to present the right “spin” to help back up your story.

The interviewer is typically the “gate keeper” that determines whether your application progresses, or not.  Best to make an ally of them and leverage their knowledge to ensure that you give yourself every opportunity to be successful in achieving the job offer.

Like so many other things, preparation remains the key to success.