Seven rules for today’s interview for a job

Seven rules for today’s interview for a job

Being interviewed for a job has changed, not just over the last decade but over the last thirty months. What lands you a job with one company will get you shown the door at another. How modern high-tech business bosses see a potential colleague is quite different from what a traditional employer in a long-established business makes of you. You don’t change your personality from one interview to the next but you surely must adapt your approach.

In any interview your hoped-for employer will talk about your experience of the knowledge and skills s/he wants you to bring to the job. These skills are important but experience of them is overrated. That is history and in a world where development counts above all else, change is what they are looking for. Change means creativity. Lots of people say they aren’t creative. It doesn’t need to be true. Anyone of average intelligence can be taught to be creative. You should demonstrate creativity at an interview. If you do, you will probably be hired for it.

Rule No 1 for any interview today is that it is not about you, even if they tell you it is. All communication is about the person receiving the message not about the sender. Think about the other person before, during and after your contact with them and you stand a good chance of getting it right. You must be able to read them in order to harmonise your approach with their receptivity. Reading people can be taught. It is also non-stop demanding because dealing with others is a continuous business, not just a brief package. 

Rule No 2 is look as though you want the job. Curiosity is not a natural instinct for everyone. Some parents teach (or used to teach) their children that asking questions is impertinent. Today it is the hallmark of enthusiasm, interest and willingness to learn. So – feel enthusiastic, look enthusiastic, behave enthusiastically. That includes smiling. You know that when you smile you are opening a door; when you don’t, you are slamming it shut.

Rule No 3 is ‘prepare for your interview’. You will obviously have looked at the website of the organisation you are hoping to join, but do more than that. Read the accounts if they are published. If you know anyone who has dealt with the company or had any reason to learn about them, perhaps because they are in the same business, ask about it. Learn everything you can. You won’t use it all but dropping a praising fact that you have discovered will impress the interviewer(s) tremendously.

Rule No 4 may be the most important of all. Ask questions – not silly, irrelevant questions, of course, but questions about the future of the business, about the competition, about the impact of AI, about how the supply chain has disrupted the production line, about competitors’ products. Ask me how I once got a job even though I was totally unprepared for the interview.  Your questions will come from two sources – what you have prepared before the interview and what the interviewer tells you in answer to your initial questions. If s/he says something like “We are here to interview you, not for you to interview us” thank them very politely for seeing you and say you don’t think you will fit their culture. Smile as you do it. Shake hands all round. Smile again. You may think you have lost but you have escaped a desperate trap.

Rule No 5 is to arrive early for the interview. About 20 – 30 minutes early. You can absorb something of the culture of the business while waiting. If they have a receptionist you can chat to him or her and, depending on how friendly they are, you may learn quite a lot that you can keep in mind during your interview. ‘Read’ the receptionist and modify your questions so that they are acceptable – but don’t be shy. You are applying to work for the business; you are entitled to know what they are like.

Rule No 6 is to keep a constant look out for changes in the attitude and behaviour of the person interviewing you. Our own receptivity to what we are hearing from someone else is shifting all the time. The interviewer has a life that is pressing on him or her just as much as yours is pressing on you. Understanding their changing mood and disposition is key to all conversations, not just interviews. Are the interviewers eyeing their watches, glancing at other people while interviewing, yawning, looking out of the window, reading their mobile phones? These are all signs of boredom. Your job is to make the interview more interesting.

Rule No 7 is follow up. ALWAYS follow up regardless of how well or badly you thought the interview went. To leave a nice feeling that you were a good candidate is even more important if you don’t get the job than if you do. I have known times when a rejected candidate was called back and offered the job on the basis of their follow-up email. If you can get yourself on good terms with the person who interviewed you – or even the HR person who handled your application – you may be able to keep in touch with them, even to make them part of your network. No contact should ever be totally abandoned. Everyone has something to offer.

The best preparation of an interview is to do a few roleplays. They are tough but people who do them always ask for more.

Sometimes only when they think they need a new job, but better to get equipped earlier.

Good morning

John Bittleston 

We’ll always try one roleplay interview with you to see how you are doing. Ask us at 

19 February 2023