11. Preparing for interview

11. Preparing for interview

With a whole host of advice on job interview techniques, you’ll be able to get interview ready – fast. Whether you’re trying to figure out what the most common interview questions are, you want to know how to answer second interview questions, or you’ve got a competency-based interview coming up – you’ll find everything you need to nail your interview training.


An excerpt from James Reed’s book, WHY YOU: 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear Again (published Jan 2015)

The best person you can be at interview is yourself

This might not sound like new advice. It is often reported as clichéd advice. It’s not clichéd – it’s vital.

Interviewers are only human. They want to feel an emotional connection with a real person, not a politician. They love it when that connection happens in an interview room, but it happens less often than it might, because an interview room is an artificial set-up, one that can easily prompt artificial behaviour, stilted conversation and awkward pauses. It’s usually not where you see people at their best, even though that’s what everyone in the room wants to see.

After wading through countless canned answers, awkward pauses and half-truths, interviewers are often left craving a genuine encounter with a sincere human being. If you speak from the heart and don’t exaggerate, bluff or waffle, you’ll be giving interviewers what they crave. They’ll remember you for it, even if you’re not right for the job.

Oddly, being yourself in an interview situation is always harder than it sounds. It’s risky too, certainly in terms of getting a job. It’s not risky in terms of getting the right job.

It’s not about your CV. It’s about who you are and what you can become

 Most people start their interview prep by dusting off their CV and thinking of a few things to say about the sentences on that fabled piece of A4 paper. But if you’ve been invited for interview, your CV will suddenly be far less important than it has always seemed to you, because, by interview stage, an interviewer has already got most of what they needed from your CV. They’re now in interview mode, not CV mode. In interview mode, the primary assessment is of you and your personality, less so your work history. Also, your CV is all about the past, about a world of skills and technology and institutions that are either gone or perhaps soon to go. The future arrives relentlessly.

All that any business can do about the future is to employ people who can cope with change. If you can lead change – relish it, even – you will be in demand. Employers want people who will thrive in a workplace that might be unrecognisable three years from now.

That’s why anyone who bases their interview technique entirely around the contents of their CV is looking in the wrong direction. The interviewer will be looking forward, into a future they can barely make out. No one knows what’s going to happen next. The CEO doesn’t know. You don’t know. Your interviewer doesn’t know either. You can expect job interviews to reflect that uncertainty – and to select on the basis of it too.

The good news for you is that future-proofing yourself is a learnable skill that you can demonstrate in interview. It’s all a matter of adopting the right mindset.

To an employer, a job is a problem to be solved

Jobs exist in two completely different universes at the same time.

In one universe – let’s call it the “personal universe”, the one that we experience as interviewees and as people – jobs make life worth living.

In the personal universe, jobs provide us with a home, friends, stimulation, conversation, holidays, a new car and so on. This is the world of work that we recognise and that so many of us crave. Each year the global market research firm Gallup carries out a survey asking thousands of adults in 200+ countries a very simple question: “What do you want most?” The most common answer, every year and all over the world, is “a good job”. There’s something in us that wants to work. Consequently, no one can be blamed for wanting a job and all the life-affirming things that come from it.

But jobs inhabit a second universe too – let’s call it the entrepreneur’s universe – and in this universe a job does not exist to keep you happy.

In this universe, jobs are a by-product of an entrepreneur’s desire to build their own business, a business the entrepreneur hopes will solve all of his or her problems via solving other people’s problems. For entrepreneurs, their business is often all that stands between them and financial ruin, so they fight hard to keep it going. It’s worth remembering that every company, be it Marks and Spencer or your local corner shop, is either run by one of these scrappy individuals or was started by one. Companies differ in the extent to which they retain their founder’s “survive-or-die” ethic, but it’s echoing off the walls in most companies, certainly in the companies that have and will survive

In this universe, your interviewer is best thought of as someone with a stack of problems for which they will pay money to solve. Collectively, these problems are known as your job and, to be blunt, that’s all any job ever was. It’s a rather stark and unemotional way of looking at life, but it’s no less true for that.

Too bad, then, that many candidates can glimpse jobs in one universe only. They see a job primarily as a tool for their personal economic or psychological advancement, and forget that a job is primarily about solving problems on behalf of someone else. This personal bias surfaces in their answers.

It might be going too far to suggest that you should think of your interviewer as a motorist who’s broken down by the side of the road and in need of help, but it’s not a bad starting point. It’s certainly better than thinking of the interviewer as a food truck by the side of the road, as so many candidates do.

A bad interviewee, then, defines a job as something that will solve all their problems. Good interviewees know that a “job” is what happens when you can solve someone else’s problem – so start pitching your answers that way.

Now you’ve read our guide, why not check out our courses and our webinars?