Most of us have gone through job interviews and some (including myself) have had the experience of being on the other side – the one of the interviewer. In both situations, the outcome can be either painful or exhilarating, depending on our expectations and attachment to a certain outcome.
Let me start by sharing with you the most amazing job interview experience in my life so far. It took place long time ago in the summer of 2003, but it has impressed me so much that even now it stays fresh in my memory. It has been almost a year after graduating from university and constantly applying for jobs, going through countless interviews and being rejected every time for not having the required work experience.
I pretty much knew what company I wanted to work for, but it felt so out of reach because it was one of the top ones, and I started thinking: “How can I even dare to dream so big?” But somehow I did. Needless to say that most of my friends laughed at me when hearing about my aspirations, telling me to lower my standards, as I’ll never be able to get in; and most of those that I called for help turned their back on me.
One day, though, an opportunity arose by meeting a former high-school colleague, who was already working there and who offered to refer me for a position that has just become available. Even though I was aware of the amazing opportunity that showed up, I was more nervous than ever – because compared to all the other interviews I’ve been through, this one really mattered…so there was no room for failure, not this time.
After the first two interviews with the regional managers that went very well, the final one was with the decision maker. It was this particular one that exceeded all my expectations, and has taught me a lot in terms of conducting interviews, building relationships and leading through example.
This is how my interviewer started: “I want you to forget that this is an interview. I want you to treat it like a friendly conversation and feel at ease in my presence. Imagine that I’m your old time buddy – I’ll treat you the same. My intention is to get to know your personality – your education and skills were already mentioned in your resume and the previous interviewers have spoken highly about you. So for starters, how about going together to the cafeteria and grab some coffee?”
Sounds out of the ordinary? It definitely was, but in a very pleasant way 🙂 My nervousness was gone in an instant – we even made a few jokes about that on our way to the cafeteria. After that, we went to a different room and got seated in some very comfy armchairs, separated by a coffee table that had a tray of cookies, a few bottles of water and some juice on display; I was invited to help myself with any of those during our conversation.
He started talking a bit about the company, what they were looking for, what they appreciate in an employee, how their work environment was, their culture, vision and values, etc. At any time I was encouraged to interrupt and ask questions, instead of waiting till the end. Shortly, I started to feel like I already knew my interviewer, as well as the company – he has opened up first by telling me everything that I needed to know instead of interrogating me. Everything after that came naturally, giving me the opportunity to be myself.
He didn’t work from prepared questions nor did he mark down my answers on a checklist. That would’ve been the most impersonal and easiest thing to do and anyone could’ve done it – instead, he gave me his full attention and actively listened. I believe that in order to be able to do a great interview, you have to be genuinely interested in the person and treat them as your equal regardless of your position. This was an interview technique that, as a candidate, I’ve experienced then for the first time and never after … at least not yet. So at that time I thought that if I’ll ever be on the other side (the one of the interviewer) I’ll definitely adopt this technique myself.
Several years later I have – with great results, lots of appreciation and compliments from the candidates that I’ve interviewed….even from the rejected ones, whom I’ve called personally to deliver the message and thank them for their time and interest. Why have I bothered to go the extra mile when the majority of hiring managers don’t? Because this is not something to be taken for granted – after all, instead of interviewing with our company, they could’ve done that with someone else; however, they’ve put in the effort and time to prepare for our interview – and this is what I’ve been thankful for.
It takes only one interview experience like this one to open your mind and make you see things from a different perspective. And once that happens, any other interview experience that doesn’t meet those standards would leave you a bit disappointed – and in the same time, it would make it difficult for you to settle for less. In correlation, this applies not only to interviews, but to any other situations that we go through in life or people that we meet, because we learn through contrast.
Wondering if I got the job? Yes, I have 🙂 They’ve seen my potential, took the time to get to know me and had a big contribution in shaping me into the person that I am today. Remembering my time with that company always brings a smile on my face – it’s a standard to relate to and am very grateful for having had that experience. It really doesn’t take much to show humane qualities – yet lately the majority are quite self-centered, don’t care much, take things for granted, and “keep it professional”. At what cost, though? We spend about half of our life at work….who would want to spend so much time in a rigid, unfriendly, and hostile environment?
In my opinion, professionalism doesn’t mean stiffness, indifference, and formality. It means quality of service, competence, and efficiency combined with a welcoming personality and a warm smile! 🙂 A good company will always be aware that customers and employees are the foundation for its success – without them, it won’t succeed in the long run. That’s one of the reasons I admire Richard Branson – he’s a great businessman but in the same time, he definitely knows how to have fun and engage his employees!
My two cents for those of you looking for jobs: know your values and must-haves and don’t settle for less, no matter how hard it gets. Your vision and beliefs combined with action, patience, and perseverance work wonders! Don’t buy into other people’s beliefs, especially those who tell you that it’s not possible – that’s their view, but it doesn’t have to be yours. Take advice only from those that you admire and who already have what you want!
And remember: whatever you ask for, make sure it comes through you first. Want a good salary? Offer value. Want quality? Offer it. Expect high moral values? Make sure you have them. Already offering that and still not being appreciated? You might be in the wrong place – move, you’re not a tree.
Good luck! 🙂