Tom O'Neil: Interview basics always the same

By Tom O'Neil

Questions come down to skill and culture.
Questions come down to skill and culture.

If you are struggling to make sense of the curly questions thrown at you during an interview, don't worry - you are not alone! It's good to remember, however, that in every interview ever conducted, only two types of questions have been asked:

1. Skill-type question - Do you have the skills, competencies, experience and expertise to be successful in this job? For example: "What experience do you have using Microsoft Office?"

2. Culture-type question - Are you the sort of person who will "fit" our organisational culture? For example - "Why would you like to work here?" or "describe your leadership style?"

Sometimes the interviewers' questions will include both types, to assess both your skill level, as well as how you deal with others in your team. For example: "Describe a time when you had to overcome a significant obstacle in a project you were leading? What did you do and what was the outcome?"

Who is the better candidate?

Most of the time we think the best qualified or most experienced person gets the role. In my experience, however, it's usually the one who best suits the company culture, once they have proven they have the baseline skills to perform the role well.

Burnt out

For example, imagine if you have two candidates applying for the same position. The first candidate is highly skilled, and has a strong background in the industry. Although they could do the job standing on their head, they don't demonstrate any passion for the job or industry in the interview, show a general lack of interest in opportunities to learn and develop their skills further and just generally seem a bit "burnt out". While they would score high on the "skill" indicator, they would rank low on the "culture" indicator.

Passionate

Conversely, if the second candidate was not quite as skilled and did not have the same length of service in the industry but demonstrated during the interview that they were committed to learn and develop, were enthusiastic about the opportunity and asked great questions during the interview, who do you think would get the job?

Determining an organisational culture

A great tip before your interview is to visit your potential employer's website and see if they highlight their organisational culture in some way online. Because the demand for top graduates is very strong, large accounting firms promote their firms internal culture very well for graduate recruitment, while other types of organisations may not mention it all.

As well as trying to get a lead from their website, research recent news stories about the business to see if this is the type of organisation you would be comfortable working for. Remember, recruitment is a two-way process - you must be just as happy going in to work every day, as they are in having you on board.

Tom O'Neil is an award winning business speaker, best-selling international author of The 1 per cent Principle and You're Hired, and MD of www.brandologist.co.nz and www.cv.co.nz. tom@tomoneil.com

- NZ Herald

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