Interviews can be terrifying. You spend hours planning your outfit, making sure you haven’t overlooked anything. Then you panic about getting stuck in traffic or lost so set out so early that you end up having to kill an hour drinking coffee in an attempt to calm down and only wind up more nervous than you were when you left the house. But do not fear, jobseekers! We’ve found out what it is that employers are really looking for when you go in for an interview.
The potential employer is already a little bit aware of your experience and has already selected you for interview – so you’ve already won the first battle. When you get to interview, it’s really your chance to stand out from the other applicants and prove why you’re the best person for this job. So here are a few things that the interviewer will be looking for. (And how you can show that you have them!)
No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, whether in banking, teaching, or design, your potential employers will want to see that you have at least a little bit of creativity. It might not be creativity in the usual sense – particularly if you’re going for a job in finance or engineering – but chances are in some way your role will involve some kind of problem solving and being creative in that is great. “If you think about any basic problem and you think about how people would typically solve that problem and you look at a way in which you did it slightly differently, or you did something that really challenged the status quo,” says Jackie Smit who is a Resourcing Business Partner at Telefónica O2 and is responsible for recruiting staff across two major departments at O2. “It’s about showing your ability to think outside the box.”
It’s one of those clichés when applying for jobs, “I’m really passionate about working in the media industry.” But what does that actually mean and how can you show it to employers?
Well, first of all maybe steer clear of announcing that you’re passionate about whatever it is that the company does. It’s much better to be able to show that you’re passionate. “You need to really read up on the industry,” Jackie advises. “It’s not enough to just go on the company website. You need to be the kind of person who goes on to relevant websites and reads relevant news on a daily basis.”
Maybe it’s surprising that employers want people who have strong opinions. You might think that they’d prefer it if you sat down and shut up and got on with your job. But Jackie says that people who have strong opinions work well for businesses like O2 that have strong opinions. “It doesn’t have to be the right opinion – because there is no right or wrong opinion,” he says. “But I look for someone who can take a definite stance on something and is able to justify that in a coherent and intelligent way.”
So make sure you do your homework. Don’t walk into that interview without having read up on what the company are doing and having some ideas of things that they could be doing better. It’s not criticism, it’s suggestions of things that they could improve – and what business doesn’t want to make itself better?
Funnily enough, as well as wanting people who have opinions, employers also want people who are going to get the work done. You’ll need examples of things that you’ve done before – and it’s really great if you can give them a numerical value, “I achieved 20% over target,” or “I delivered savings for the company of over £400,000 a year”. “You need to give short, sharp examples or what you’ve done,” Jackie says. “Think about what you were involved in at university. If you’ve had to deliver a group project, you can talk that up. Talk about the role you had and what you achieved, it could be that you delivered it a week ahead of schedule. It’s important to think about what you did, not what about the group did. You need to remember who’s being interviewed – they’re not interviewing the group.”
How you’ll fit in
One of the reasons that employers interview you is to work out how you’ll fit into the team that you’ll be working with if they offer you the job. If you’re not going to fit into the team then you probably won’t produce your best work, so it’s important to the employer that you’ll fit into the team. “I’m looking for someone who’s not going to rest on their laurels, we look for people who are going to roll their sleeves up and get involved in the team,” Jackie says. “We want someone who’s going to be able to contribute to the discussion.”
For more advice on job interviews, have a look at…