Career rethink #5: Nab a new ‘real job’

Survive a job interview, says HR consultant Godelieve van Eekelen, by being authentic, not rehearsing an act

Dogs sniffing each others' bottoms; job interviews

Job interviews. It’s sniffing each other out, right? S’mutual. Laura Eades 2014

There has been a lot of brainstorming on Illustrated Guide to Life about how to start your own business if you want to do things differently. I think about this a lot too, for myself.

But I’m also an HR specialist, so I also know a lot about this: if you decide to go for a steady job, (for whatever reason – hopefully because you really love the sound of it), how do you get through a recruiter or manager’s vetting process?

1. Try to mindread – not them, yourself!

First of all, approach this from your point of view. Don’t try to get into the mind of the interviewer. Think for yourself, show them where you’re coming from. This alone will make your approach have so much more impact!

In the current economy it may not feel like it, but I believe it’s as much a job interview for the company as it is for you (yes, you are entitled to turn down offers, hurray!).

2. It’s not ‘What are they going to ask you?’, but ‘What do you want them to know?’

Prepare. I don’t mean preparing for standard questions. Instead, think about the impression you want to leave behind, what does the other party need to know about you, what do you want to bring across?

Make a top 5 (or 7 or 10, whatever works for you)  list and make sure to mention them.

Also, what you want to know from them to get a good view on this job and the company?

And of course by preparing, I also mean reading their website and googling the people you’ll talk with. But that was already on your list now wasn’t it?

3. Tell them about real situations and stories

You say you deal well with stress, you’re a team player, you’re responsible, you’re analytical, empathic, driven, you’re a good manager, you’re great with numbers? Give them an example of a situation which shows this.

4. Let your experience feed your curiosity

Asking questions is as important as giving answers. Or maybe even more important! By asking questions you gather information that is relevant for your decision whether you want this job or not.

But also, by asking intelligent questions you bring across a lot of your experience and it’s a way of showing them what’s important to you.

Is the answer unsatisfactory to you? Ask another question, or ask for an example!

5. Just ‘be yourself’. Oh, sure. Whaaaat??

Yes, be yourself. To be yourself in such a stressful situation is of course a dreadful assignment and may feel as impossible. I believe it’s not. Embrace the stress you feel, it makes you sharp.

And let me ask you, is it really stress you feel or is it excitement?

6. Breathe, take the situation in, listen

Not listening to the questions is the most common mistake candidates make.

When you are asked a question, breathe in and out at least ones before you answer, it gives you time to think about the answer (can you include one of your top 5 list you want to bring across?).

Good luck! Hope you get the job. If you didn’t, you could always invent one…

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Godelieve van Eekelen is a 37-year-old Dutch HR specialist living in Berlin. Formerly Amsterdam-based, she emigrated two years ago and is in the process of developing a job which fits her life as a mother-of-one. Optimistic, impatient, pragmatic, empathic, analytical.

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