From my most junior ranking to my current role as a chief executive, my feelings about job interviews have never changed. At best, they are a false environment where, more often than not, the applicant projects the person they want to be, or the person they feel the interviewer is looking for, rather than exhibiting the person they truly are.
Often this is the result of an applicant's many years spent honing their interview approach. Their interview performance has become a default setting as it worked for them in the past. This makes an interviewer's ability to penetrate the facade to identify and understand the real person essential in order to avoid making a regrettable decision for the business.
What I have learned after years of experience interviewing people, is that interviewing a job applicant is not dissimilar to interviewing a prospective housemate. You are going to spend a lot of time under the same roof as this person. Accordingly, you need a confidence that they will fit in with the other housemates, they are all they seem to be, and they are there to make an enduring commitment.
To help me with this, there are six characteristics in a conversation with a job applicant I mentally tick off in order to identify the right person for the job. These tips can be useful for the interviewer and interviewee.
My test for this is not about the depth of a person's ability, but the breadth of their curiosity in life. Do they have genuine outside interests? Do they have friendships spanning different lines and backgrounds?
Often I have found people are more interesting than they project themselves to be. As a chief executive or interviewer, I should not have to work hard at finding out what makes you interesting. An applicant that leaves me wanting to know more about them gets a big tick in my book.
One of my great frustrations is people that think solely about the department they work in, rather than at the very least showing an interest and appreciation for all departments and how the business in total comes together.
So, when it comes to a job candidate, I look for their intuitive interest in the whole of the business above and beyond the role they are applying for.
It does not matter what the passion (within reason, of course), but it is a shut door for me if I do not recognise the applicant's emotional connection to something or someone.
Without passion, people simply exist, they don't live: selfishly I want to live with people, not merely exist with them. Sparks of passion are your best bet at building a pushy and positive culture.
The only way I have learned anything in my career is from the mistakes I have made. In some ways, I am proud of them, but even more so, that I have learned from them. So anyone who, in a good, healthy and open conversation claims to being mistake-free, I would prefer it if they went and worked for a soulless franchise or equivalent.
5. Point of view
I am not an avid reader, but I am highly aware of the issues going on in my country and the world. What I expect from an interviewee is a natural and comfortable perspective on significant issues relevant, or not, to our business.
Without an awareness of what goes on around you, how can you possibly expect to be effective in a competitive work environment?
I look for someone who can tell me a story about a vision they have set, and their journey to achieving it. And, most importantly, I want them to clearly articulate how they mobilised people to achieve those outcomes. These sorts of leadership qualities are something I look for in applicants at all levels.
While a job interview will always be a contrived interaction, it need not be one where masking who you really are is necessary in order to hear those magic words, "you're hired". And for those interviewers out there, remember to dig deep beyond the surface as you might find some gold.