How to Interview Well
Executive, manager, graduate. It’s all about value offered. Nail the interview by changing your mindset.
By Jacquie Liversidge
Find in this article:
- What is means to interview well
- What an interview truly is (hint: partnership)
- The employer perspective
- Your perspective
- Change your perspective
- A good interview response
- A bad interview response
- What defines ‘good’ in an interview
An interview for a role is not merely the employer deciding if they want to hire you over someone else.
An interview is the business’ opportunity to determine whether they like you as a person and whether they want to enter into a complex agreement with you, but it should also be an opportunity for the interviewee to decide whether this role is something they want to spend most, or some, or a good deal of their waking hours in.
Australia has truly fantastic and very robust industrial relation laws. There are so many good things about these laws.
But they do make the task of hiring someone inherently more challenging—if this person is not a good fit, it can cost a lot of money to manage the wrong fit for the role out of the business. The stakes are up.
From the perspective of the employer:
- Will this person stay?
- What are their career goals, and how does this role fit in with that?
- Will they grow with the business?
- Is their attitude receptive to my management style?
- What will my clients/customers think of this individual?
- Will my existing staff get along with this individual?
- Do they manage their personal life well in such a way that it won’t impact their capacity to achieve the duties of the role?
- How seriously are they going to take this role?
- Do they really have the skills I need?
- Do they understand the role?
- Will I get along with them?
- Will I be able to grow with this business?
- What are the staff like?
- Is it a toxic environment?
- Will I get training?
- Will the work be too demanding/too boring?
- Is the role what I think it is?
- Will I be able to meet the expectations of the role?
- What will I learn?
- What is management like?
- Will this job contribute to my career?
- Will I be recognised for my achievements?
- Are there problems in the business?
The interviewer and the interviewee have almost the same concerns. You are less interviewing for a role, and more entering a partnership. And yes, junior, graduate, management, all of you are entering into the same thing.
But interviews are only scary if you perceive the interviewers to have greater power than you.
This feeling of inadequacy in an interview and of a power imbalance essentially takes root in your own self-perception.
If you approach the interview with the sense that the organisation has more to offer you than you have to offer the organisation, a number of things are going to occur:
- You lose your ability to confidently negotiate a higher salary;
- You are likely to take a lower salary;
- You are going to be nervous;
- You won’t want to impose—and you don’t ask the right questions;
- Your responses will be surface level.
Your own confidence in an interview can be impacted by any number of external factors. These could be anything like:
- Current employment you wish to leave as soon as possible;
- Financial hardship;
- Low levels of self-worth;
- Disengagement from the workforce;
- Anxiety and/or stress;
- Lack of preparation.
To do well in an interview—which you can do—I need you to do something. I need you to put all of it aside.
Anxiety, self-worth, the money in your bank account, put it away. You can’t change these right now in this moment, so we are not going to try.
But you can change the lack of preparation.
You are trying to enter into a partnership with this business where they pay you money and you help their business.
This should be a huge deal—research the business. Go to their website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, read up on recent news articles.
Here’s an example.
John walks into an interview relaxed and poised because he knows he has more to offer than the business has to offer him.
He’s going to treat the interview like a business introduction—because that is what it is. He’s potentially coming into that business.
The business will pay him a wage and they expect a return on it. And this is true for every wage and salary.
He’s researched the business, he viewed the strategic plans available online and he has looked at the executive team.
He identifies what the executive team and he have in common and he’s sure that from what he can see, this role would be a good fit for him and he would be a good fit for them.
Your employer expects some sort of return on your wage.
. What will you return?
In the context of administration, this is to enable the other operators of the business to exert its efforts towards core business.
In the context of sales, this is to achieve set commercial goals.
In the context of management, this is to inspire the best behaviours and outcomes of staff in the interest of business continuity and growth.
John is going to be paid $180,000 because he arrives to the role with the confidence, and the proof, of his capability to deliver a return on that through business change management, strategic planning, project management, stakeholder relationships and corporate governance.
Each role has a specific value to the company.
If it did not, the role simply by the law of economics would not exist.
The key to nailing an interview is identifying what that value is, and becoming the answer for it.
Deconstructing STAR in interviews
STAR, which refers to situation, task, approach and result, is the standard model for behaviour-based questions.
STAR has developed its own entity over time, but fundamentally, what STAR comes down to is that it is the natural way we all tell stories.
So let’s not overcomplicate it.
This is why STAR is a staple of interview responses. It is your actions which will see you hired which you demonstrate through the application of your judgements and knowledge in the context of a challenge.
Basically, you want to pull your best stories in the interview because your capacity to demonstrate your value is what will see you be hired, be paid more and ensure that the role is the right fit you.
Here’s a good example followed by a poor one.
“John, tell me about a time you solved a problem.”
John takes a moment.
There’s no need to rush into the response—that won’t do any good.
John thinks about the context of the role he is going for. He’s applying for a senior management role.
This company has 50 staff across 4 different sites. In the context of this, he thinks back to a similar challenge.
This business he’s applying for is a service based business. That means that in all likelihood, the cost of staff wages is almost certainly the largest cost the business faces.
He offers this:
“Newly to my previous role, I had on one occasion viewed the quarterly report and identified staff wages encroaching on 50% of total revenue. I then undertook an analysis of each staff member’s work processes to identify potential time savings in individual roles, which was key to uncovering significant shortfalls due to administrative backlogs causing a flow on effect to other roles. I then researched a number of digital solutions to streamline and digitise paper processes to ensure that staff working remotely were not held up by incorrect paperwork. I also identified the administrative roles were under stress due to communications primarily conducted over the phone. I rewrote the processes for staff offsite to support the uptake of the newly-available digital resources and modified the roles of administrative staff to ensure that resources were uploaded to the system. I then ran training for all staff involved and overcame resistance to change by hearing the complaints of staff and addressing these with empathy. As a result of communicating the merit of the changes, administrative staff were significantly relieved of the support function of their role, offsite staff were able to access files and resources without repetition and the business was able to accommodate 40% more revenue in work completed with the same staff, thereby significantly reducing the percentage of revenue paid to staff.”
This is a STAR example.
He tells you the situation.
The context is the 50% spent in total revenue on staff wages.
And the rest is what is going to get him hired.
The result, well, it worked, and it translated into a provable metric.
Now here’s a bad one.
“John, tell me about a time you solved a problem.”
John launches straight in, he wants to look confident. He knows the job is the management of 50 staff across 4 different sites. They must have technical issues all the time.
“I was once responsible for fixing a big problem with our computers. The computers weren’t able to access the internet that day. I had restarted the routers but nothing worked. I called iiNet who told me that we hadn’t paid our bill, so I paid it and we were able to get online again.”
This is probably a real problem and something that happens, and it is only management that would have the authorisation to access the account.
But. It’s too junior.
It’s sparse in detail or judgements. He made the only right judgement void of creativity.
And also, he didn’t the pay the bill in the first place.
He didn’t act on an opportunity, he didn’t save money. He literally just fixed a real-time problem. It answers the question, but it doesn’t offer that innovative value.
Tell your best stories, offer your value, take your time and allow yourself to feel those nerves.
If you’re nervous, you’re invested. That’s a good thing. And ask the questions you want to know—don’t allow yourself to think that interviewing the hiring manager back will go against you.
This is a partnership you’re entering.
We hope it helps you on your way, and as always, happy hunting!