Having worked in recruitment for a number of years, I have experienced all sorts of interviews. As you would imagine from choosing this profession, I enjoy meeting people. I like hearing about their backgrounds and working out if there is an opportunity for us to meaningfully collaborate. From the nervous to the over confident; the “out of breath – 30 minute late arriver” to the “day-early- turner-upper”; the ill-prepared to the website reciter – I have had the pleasure of meeting many types of candidate in my career. Whether an interview is an informal catch up over coffee, a zoom chat, a full on assessment centre or five-person panel grilling, there are some fundamental things you can do to make your career conversation count. It seemed timely to share, not anecdotes dating over a decade, but more constructively some advice around how to make your interview have impact.
Strike the balance
The situations I mention above are all extreme and I recommend finding the middle ground. Research the location of your interview, do a dummy run and build in some contingency so that you arrive not only on time, but in calm and unflappable state. Breathe, reframe and remain poised. And smile. You will appear demonstrably more confident and at ease. The more you feel this, the more it will show and natural conversation will flow which will incite interesting questions and debate, giving you the opportunity to show your research and your potential. Why wouldn’t you want to bring your best self to the interview?
Of course interviews in 2021 are likely to be conducted virtually, but it’s important to remember that they are still very real. So put in real research. Who are you “meeting”? What is their background? Why might they be on the panel? How does their background intersect with yours? How will you be able to develop rapport? What are the firm’s values, client base, sector activity, community involvement, commitment to inclusive behaviour at work? You should have done this prep by now, but refresh your research and connect it to your story. Don’t be the candidate who repeats corporate literature parrot fashion.
Treat it like a face to face interview. Get a good night’s sleep before and dress appropriately – top AND bottom… You’re not a newsreader – wearing what you would wear in an office environment will help to put you in the right frame of mind and add to the ease you want to be feeling. Besides, a pristine, freshly-ironed looking top with tracky bottoms is never a good look…
Don’t log in too early, but when you do, make sure you are already sat comfortably with the camera and microphone enabled. “I think you’re on mute” is ok for a zoom quiz, but will flummox you in an interview situation. Logistically, trial your IT set up with a friend in advance. What’s in the background? We don’t really want to see clothes drying or a strangely positioned lampshade hovering over your head… Consider a blurry or blank background if in doubt. Test the internet connection. Do people you live with know the time of your interview? Washing machine spin cycles or interruptions to ask if you want a fish-finger sandwich will throw your concentration and potentially be embarrassing. Consider headphones if you need to shut out potential distractions. Do some practice runs with a friend, record them and watch them back. Note your language. Are you repetitive? Do you overuse a word? Do you sit still or have any nervous habits that could be off-putting?
Of course, if any of the above happens, it isn’t the end of the world, so don’t let it throw you off centre for long. Everybody has had to adapt to remote working and to relying on technology. The Blake Morgan interview panel will be understanding about things out of your control. However you should control as much as you can so that you worry less on the day.
We want to get to know you in the time that we will have together, so bring your authentic self to the session. We pride ourselves on being straightforward, down to earth and unpretentious, so relax in the knowledge that you can be too. Have a glass of water or mug of caffeine of choice to hand, listen extra carefully to the question, pause to reflect on how you will answer it and maintain eye contact throughout. Three or four sections on the screen may be confusing, so if in doubt look at the camera. Try not to pay attention to the box with your own face in – our brains are not used to seeing ourselves when interacting like this, so accept it’s there but don’t focus on it. Remember that the panel will be doing the same thing. Nod to show that you have understood the question and are engaged in the process. Show enthusiasm just as you would in a face to face situation.
It’s not all about experience
At the beginning of this article, I used the words “meaningful collaboration”. Reflect on those and establish what they mean to you. What have you done, in or outside of a professional environment that demonstrates this? How can you show the panel that we are a good match for one another? You might not be at the stage in your career where you can illustrate this by talking about work experience. Don’t let this worry you – there will be plenty you can talk about. How do you prepare yourself for anything you approach? What values do you live your life by? What have you achieved that you are most proud of? Don’t be afraid to describe negative experiences that have made you stronger or to talk about aspects that you would like to develop.
Let’s not forget however, that for every icky situation I have witnessed, there will be a candidate feeling that they have not had the opportunity to put themselves across in the best light, showcase a relatable quality, share an area of development or highlight some relevant experience. The Blake Morgan interview panel are trained to elicit this from you, but don’t come away with feelings of “wasted opportunity”. Make sure you prepare questions and ask them. It’s ok to ask for a moment to provide some additional information about something that might not have come up in the main body of the interview, but wait until the end of the session or an appropriate moment and don’t ramble. Be mindful of the allotted time as the panel will likely be running to a schedule and causing a knock-on delay might not go down well. Ask if you can email any questions through after your interview. Part of Blake Morgan’s personality focuses on being “committed”, so make sure that we are the kind of firm you can and want to “commit” to.
I wish you the best of luck with all of your interviews and hope to see some of you as part of our process. Thank you for your interest in Blake Morgan.