The Art of Communication Podcast transcript – Episode 23:  Successful job interviews

The Art of Communication podcast transcript

Episode 23: Successful job interviews

 

 

Sian

Hello, and welcome to the Art of Communication podcast. This episode is ‘Successful job interviews’. We’ve all had job interviews, haven’t we?

 

Robin

Yes, but not all of them successful!

 

Sian

Right! But in this day and age, you can have an interview sitting outside, you can have an interview in an office, you can have an interview on a phone on a video call. What’s ideal?

 

Robin

Well, if you go into their space, it’s an area that they feel supremely confident in. Some people would say they actually prefer to be at home on a video call. Because I can set my own screen up, feel confident, and I’m in my own space.

 

Sian

But I think to be successful with a job interview, you really have to be in the same room as the person interviewing so that you can see if there’s the chemistry, don’t you?

 

Robin

I had a client who had hired a new CFO during lockdown purely on the video. And once locked down and finished, they were able to go out for dinner together, he realized that the man he had employed was rude to waiters, and he said I never would have hired him. But when they are in the room, you get a much better feel of how they might treat the reception staff. You can see all that. But it’s also good for you, because they can see the real you.

 

Sian

Yeah, let’s remember that. It always feels like one way, as they are interviewing you. But if you go into their office, you get a taste of what their office is like their atmosphere and whether you want to work there.

 

Robin

I remember my first acting agent said to me, Robin, you got a meeting tomorrow with the Walt Disney Company and I went, Oh, my goodness, I’ve got a meeting Walt Disney, well not Walt Disney himself, he had died, but I had an interview with the company. And she said no, Robin, you have a meeting, it’s very important that you think of it as a meeting rather than an interview, because you have a choice, you can decide not to work for them. And also, she said they want, in acting terms, the right actor to come in the door to play that particular role in the film or play. In the same way that people in business are not holding interviews for fun, they’re wanting the right person to walk in the door. So it should be an equal meeting on both sides.

 

Sian

I think another important thing, when we’re talking about this is a phone interview. It’s not ideal. But if you have to do it, I’d say stand up. Because your voice just sounds different, doesn’t it?

 

Robin

Yes and also you have the ability to have different phases in the conversation. So you could be standing up and feeling strong, maybe if you want to talk about work, so your voice is centered. And then maybe you sit down for a little bit in an armchair, and then you get up and move around. So you have more options, I think if you’re on your feet,

 

Sian

OK, so if you’re on a Zoom call, in terms of what you look like, now we’ve done a whole episode, haven’t we on how to ace a Zoom call? But what would you say in a job interview you should wear? And is it the same thing, actually in person?

 

Robin

Well, in person, you have to wear trousers or a skirt. And you can just be clothed above the waist!

 

Sian

Yes, it’s not just from here up!

 

Robin

… except that the doorbell goes and you have to answer the door. And they’ll see. So it’s always a good idea to dress properly.

 

Sian

But can I say, I’ve interviewed somebody on Zoom recently, it was a man, and he decided to wear a jacket and tie on a Zoom call at home at home. So that was quite formal. But I really liked that. I thought it was a nice touch because he dressed the same way he would if we were in person.

 

Robin

So he was dressing the way that he would dress if he got the job in the office. Yeah, that’s a very good idea. Some people feel that if they put a suit on and a tie on, for example, as a man, or they look formal as a woman, at home, it might look like you’re trying a bit too hard. I think the one thing that I would say really trying to avoid, and this is the problem with video job interviews, is that you’re in close up on a screen. So we tend to look like a TV commercial if we’re not careful. And then we end up looking like we’re selling ourselves. And I would say the one thing about job interviews is we must never look like we’re selling ourselves. Of course, we are but we have to look like we’re not. So the mindset I think is you go in for the job interview, whether it’s on Zoom or in person or on the phone. And you say to yourself, I’m really interested in this job. If I think having talked to the person that the job is right for me, then great. And maybe I’ll decide it’s not right for me. So it’s a kind of even playing field between the two of you. And we shouldn’t end up selling ourselves because maybe we don’t want the job anyway.

 

Sian

Yes. So that takes us right back into going in for an interview. Wherever that place is – an interview outside, sitting on a park bench –  a lady wouldn’t wear a smart dress and big gold hoop earrings or something. If you were going to meet in a park, I mean, we’re here in the UK today and it’s quite cold …

 

Robin

Yeah, you’d probably wear a jacket or a coat outside and that would be fine. There’s a naturalness about being outside. It’s much less formal, isn’t it?

 

Sian

And walking side by side. You can have a much more intimate conversation strangely enough, then when you’re speaking right across from somebody. You can be much more yourself, than looking somebody in the eye.

 

Robin

I often try to have the first session, if I’m coaching somebody one to one, and we have the time, I tried to spend at least half an hour of it walking, because you get a different flavour from someone.

 

Sian

We should acknowledge here that not all job interviews require you to be in a suit or be formally attired. There’s lots of places now, where do you have to dress down, and you look like a complete prat

 

Robin

Or look outdated or look irrelevant! Yes.

 

Sian

So we’re saying dress for the role appropriately? Find out how the company runs its dress code.

 

Robin

Yes. But the one thing, of course, whatever you’re wearing, they want you to look focused, mentally focused.

 

Sian

So, let’s get into the office, or the place of work the workspace and you’re going in for an interview, let’s just do the basics. How could you fail even before you’re seen?

 

Robin

Number one is don’t be late. It sounds so basic. But if you’re late, it’s like you don’t prioritize this interview. Actors have something called ‘The Half’. If you’re doing a theatre show, you have to sign in at the stage door half an hour before the show starts. But the show doesn’t start at the time that the audience thinks it starts. So, if the show is due to start, say, at eight o’clock, backstage the show starts at 25 past. Now you think why 25 past, right? Well, that’s because half an hour from 25 past to five to eight, in this case, that is the half an hour. Because the show starts five minutes before curtain up time, because that’s the time it takes to get from your dressing room onto the stage. So, the same thing I would say with a job interview, even if you’re told the interview is at 11 o’clock in the morning, you can’t arrive at 11 o’clock in the morning downstairs. Because nowadays with security, it takes time to get processed. You got to get into the lift, you’ve got to get up there that can take 15 minutes. Yeah, so I would say get there super early, because it’s going to take you time to get to the right floor or the right office.

 

Sian

You once told me if you were going for a casting that you’d actually get there, sometimes half an hour or an hour early, to find the actual door? Don’t rely on a map, actually go and find it and have a coffee, then come back.

 

Robin

Exactly. So that when the interview itself starts, you’re cool and calm. You’re not panicking thinking, Oh, my goodness, me, I’m going to miss it.

 

Sian

Okay, so be on time. So what’s the other things we can do?

 

Robin

Well, I think the second thing is to know why you’re there. And that’s, again, sounds obvious. What I mean, by knowing why you’re there is have a clear understanding of what it is they are after. So, whatever the job description is, we’ve got to be really clear those are the things that they want to see. And therefore we’ve got to demonstrate those qualities.

 

Sian

I would expect somebody to read our website, every page of it, I would expect them to have read any media about us. I would also, oddly, this might be just me, I’d expect them to have looked up our annual accounts. If the company makes money, or if it’s a start up, you know, that kind of thing. If you go for a job interview at a charity, you should know how much money they raise every year. Because that gives you a good context of what your package might be. Yeah, but anyway, we’ll get on to that. So, I would definitely prep. I would read as much as I can, and probably prepare some questions. Wouldn’t you prepare some questions from your side?

 

Robin

Yes, absolutely. Because there’s nothing worse than at the end of an interview someone saying, so do you have any questions? And then you sit there going No, that’s fine. And now you look too desperate. It’s like saying no, I’ll take the job under any circumstance.

 

Sian

It’s like you said earlier, it’s not an equal conversation, because you’ve got nothing to ask. It’s respectful to come up with some questions. Okay, so we’re on time we’ve dressed appropriately, we’ve read everything we can about this company, and about the person who’s interviewing us. Really important if you can find out anything about them.

 

Robin

And also what they look like. I try to find an image because there’s nothing worse than sitting in reception, and not recognizing the person whose interviewing you. That’s quite helpful.

 

Sian

Yes, try that. Then we’re shown into a room. Normally you’re shown into a room by somebody who isn’t interviewing you. It’s just somebody showing you. Okay, what do you do at that point?

 

Robin

Well, the classic thing is people say, please take a seat whilst you’re waiting. Don’t take a seat whilst you’re waiting!

 

Sian

Wow, really?!

 

Robin

Because if you’re standing, pretend to look out the window, look at the artwork or look at their certificates on the wall, or whatever it is, so when they come in, your eye level is roughly the same height, right, as their’s, and therefore you start off on a much more equal

level.

 

Sian

So you automatically then start the interview well, and then they can tell you where to sit. Can I tell you a story? I was interviewing somebody. This was many, many years ago. I walked in, and this young man was sitting at the table with a newspaper in front of his face. And when I came in, he just pushed the newspaper aside and looked up at me and said, Oh, hello.

 

Robin

That was rather studied.

 

Sian

Yes. Because he was reading a financial newspaper. He’s trying to look at it and then he folded it up. And he said, very nice to meet you. He looked so casual. Like it didn’t really mean much to him this interview

 

Robin

So somebody who was sitting there eating an ice cream or even texting on their mobile …

 

Sian

Yes, put your phone away. As soon as you’re shown into that room, put your phone away.

Okay, so you’re in the room, you’re standing up, somebody comes in the room, and you’re about to be interviewed. So that person says, take a seat there, you sit down. Where do you put your hands?

 

Robin

Well, they’ve done a survey in the States that if you have your hands on top of the table, as opposed to under the table, you’re 32% more likely to get the job. Because on an animal level, if you show your hands, it’s a sign of non aggression, you know, you’re not hiding a gun or something. It does depend on where you’re sitting. If you’re sitting close to a table, and you can have your hands resting on the table, that will be okay, but if you’re miles away, then you probably want to have your hands resting on your legs.

 

Sian

Some times I’ve been interviewed, and they asked me to sit in quite a low chair, and I’m in a skirt. So I would just say if you’re in that situation, I would cross your legs.

 

Robin

Yes, and leaning forward is great because it shows interest. And I think we want to do some body language mirroring, not too much that it’s obvious. So if they lean forward, we don’t want to lean forward and they lean back, lean back. But if they’re quite formal, and sitting forward and asking quite direct questions, then maybe that’s the kind of response that they want from you, which is quite clear, quite short, quite precise. If they’re sitting further back, and they’re taking a bit more time, then maybe you can mirror that energy level during that part of the conversation.

 

Sian

Okay, good advice.

 

Robin

It’s also worth, of course, understanding what our own energy level is. So, if we are naturally a bouncy, happy person, and we meet somebody else who’s also over bouncy, happy, then we can both be spiralling off the ceiling if we’re not careful. And that’s not necessarily very helpful. And similarly, if we know that actually, we slightly under play, and can be a bit dry, we think, okay, maybe I just need to lift it a little bit. So, we just need to be self aware.

 

Sian

Okay, so the interviewer is going to start firing some questions. I don’t know about you. But I think the opening question is, tell me about yourself,

 

Robin

Nearly always, in some form or other? That’s really it, isn’t it?

 

Sian

That’s it. So any advice when somebody says, Tell me about yourself?

 

Robin

Well, I think third party endorsement is always the safest way. Because if you say to me, tell me about yourself, Robin. And I say, Well, I’m really, really hard working. And I’m very good with clients. And I’m a wonderful team player. And I’m actually all around wonderful person. It makes me look like I’m bigging myself up a bit. But if I said, Well, if you asked my clients, I hope they would say that I was a good team player, that I was always on time that I was energetic and added value to the team. I’m now putting those qualities that I’ve clearly shown that I value, but in the voice of someone else. So, I think third party endorsement is a helpful one for that.

 

Sian

And I think at this point, you should remember not to go on too long. If somebody says, Tell me about yourself, you can start with, well you know, I was born here. And then I went to school here. And yes, I think what they’re really asking you is, what’s your recent job history? Or What qualifications do you have?

 

Robin

Yes, exactly. And there’s also a chance here to put in a human side of yourself as well. So, you could say, well, my recent job was this. And this was my role. I hope if you ask the team there, they would say that I was this. I’m sure if you asked my brother, he would say something completely different. Right? That so you can offset not looking like you’re bigging yourself up.

 

Sian

Yeah. Okay. So, the next one is probably something like why are you good for this role? Or what do you want from a job? It’s going to be more specifically about that role, isn’t it? So, is there any special advice around those kinds of questions?

 

Robin

Well, again, it comes back to the job description. If the job description is we need someone who has the qualities of a, b and c, it would make sense to say I’m looking for a job that has c,b, and a.

 

Sian

That is so true. The number of times I’ve interviewed somebody and they come in and they say, Well, I’d really like to do that events job that you have going in your company. But eventually I’d like to be in research. And you know what, I need somebody in events who’s dedicated to event who wants to be wants to be in events, but you can see they’ve answered the question like, I can see this just my starter job in this company. And then I want to move into a more exciting role.

 

Robin

You don’t want a stepping stone person.

 

Sian

You’re absolutely right, quote back what the job description is.

 

Robin

It’s not rocket science. Is it, really?

 

Sian

No, it isn’t. So, what about that big question? What are your greatest strengths? What are your greatest weaknesses? What do you say? That’s so hard?

 

Robin

It’s a good question to ask, but it’s a very difficult one to answer. Because the classic one is, you know, what’s your greatest strength? I just work very hard. So you either answer it in a kind of ironic way like that with a smile and a laugh. It’s difficult to know how honest you want to be because you don’t really want to say, my weaknesses. I’m just very difficult to work with. I mean, to be honest, people find me tricky. I lose my temper a lot. And you think no, okay, there’s honesty, and there’s too much.

 

Sian

Yeah, actually, you’re making a joke. I know. But it’s funny, because when people answer it not so honestly, like they say, I’m a really hard worker, I’m always here on time, my greatest weakness is making sure that everybody else does that. I can’t stand it when other people don’t do that. It’s funny, because then you don’t believe what they’re saying. You think they’re just saying what they need to, in order to get the job. And actually, I think you should say, my greatest weakness is something, but I’m willing to train or I have trained for.

 

Robin

I think you could say my biggest weakness used to be, that I liked deadlines. I used to leave things to the last minute. I always got them done, but I kind of put myself under pressure. I’m much better at that now, because I know that about myself. So, I always hit my deadlines, but I put less pressure on myself by managing it better.

 

Sian

You could say I’d like to upgrade by PowerPoint skills. I’m taking a course next week.

 

Robin

That’s a great one, isn’t it? I see a gap in my skill set. By the way. I’m already doing that.

 

Sian

Yeah. Okay. Well, here’s the big one. Why are you leaving your current job?

 

Robin

The rule is, never say anything negative about anybody. It always makes you look bad.

 

Sian

So if you’re leaving your current company, because you can’t stand your boss, don’t say it. What do you say instead?

 

Robin

You say I’ve been there for X number of years, I’ve done the job that I’ve came to do. And I now feel it’s time for me for a new challenge. And that’s it – full stop. If someone says, Did you like your boss? What did you think of your boss? Can you describe your last boss? And if your last boss you felt wasn’t very good, for whatever reason? You say, Well, the proof is in the pudding. The company has done very well. So you can always skate around and be a diplomat?

 

Sian

Okay, I think another one that’s really popular at the moment: the time you failed, and what you did about it. So there’s lots of these books now about fear of failure and how failure is good and how we celebrate failures, because you took a risk, and you tried. And so if an interviewer says to you tell me when you failed, and what you did about it? How would you answer?

 

Robin

Firstly, by preparing that answer. Because this is a question that might very well come up. So, you’d be very foolish to think on the fly on this one. In my particular case, I can think of a couple of things that I did wrong in terms of career path decisions. At the time, they felt the right decisions. With hindsight, they were very foolish decisions. And I’d be very happy to talk about that. Now, as somebody looking back on something I did a long time ago. I wouldn’t say I completely messed up last week. Often the question I think that people get asked is, can you tell us about a time when something happened in your company and something went wrong? And what did you do about it?

 

Sian

Yeah, I used to have to answer that question in more recent interviews. And I would always give an example where crisis hit the company, you know, it wasn’t anything to do with me. But maybe I had responsibility in and around that issue. And I always said to myself, stay calm. And I think that’s a good answer. So, in the face of failure, stay calm. Look at your options, and bring everybody together for solution. Don’t enter into the blame game. Well, you did this. And she said that, and he did that. That’s not useful.

 

Robin

And it doesn’t make you look like a leader. And if they’re trying to hire somebody for a leadership role, then demonstrating those qualities under pressure is going to be it’s going to be helpful.

 

Sian

Okay, so that leads us really nicely into if you’re going for a more senior role, people often interviewing you say, what’s your management style? I never knew what to do with that. What do you say nowadays?

 

Robin

Well, what are the qualities that people want a leader, they want somebody who’s strategic and somebody who’s approachable, who’s empathetic, who’s strong when they need to be strong, who’s inclusive, so basically, everything good all-around human being.

 

Sian

It’s quite hard to be all those things. Originally, way, way back in the day, it used to be command control, as in I’m going to shout out what I want done. I want everybody to deliver on time, as I said, they should, but now it’s much more inclusive.

 

Robin

So that’s fine in a crisis. That’s what we want. We want people going Okay, listen up. This is what we’re going to do. Because we need that in a crisis. Somebody with confidence, confidence and clarity. But under normal circumstances, you want somebody who the team wants to work for. So, if you could say something like, what’s my management style? Nobody’s ever left my team voluntarily. Yeah. And then again, I think you could use the third party endorsement. You know, I hope if you asked my team they would say that I was x, y, z.

 

Sian

We haven’t mentioned listening in an interview. You said in a previous podcast, sell without selling it was called, you said use some key words is it’s the same here if the interviewer uses certain words with you. Do you repeat them back to them back?

 

Robin

Yes. Really? Yes, consciously. So if they say in this role, strategy is very important, it’s very important, that person is strategic. It would be useful if you then said, well, actually my last role, it’s interesting. You talk about strategy, because that’s something that we particularly looked at, then my strategy then was right, you’re not just repeating the word Repeat, repeat, because these are words that they want to hear. Yeah.

 

Sian

Okay, so we’re getting to the end of the interview, the interviewer says to you, do you have any questions? Now we’ve prepped for them. But I would say don’t ask a question that you’ve prepped, that you’ve already heard the answer to. Some people say, Well, I’ve got my questions. And they just read them off. They haven’t listened. You’re so nervous, you know, you think I’ve got to do those questions. Right? Yes. So, you should allow yourself to ask questions that just pop into your head.

 

Robin

Well have some prepped ones. Definitely. Yeah. The first meeting really rather, like we did in the networking podcast, we talked about this, the first interview is almost to get you to the second interview. Very rarely, are you ever going to be offered a job on the spot. So this interview, really this first meeting. It’s around creating rapport. Is this the kind of person that I want to work with? But assuming they’re seeing you and you have the skill set for the job, they’re really thinking, do I want to spend the next five years of my life with this person around? It’s the human skill set that comes along. And I think a lot of people forget actually, that how you answer a question is important. Your body language, how relaxed you are, how focused you are, and how you appear not to be selling, not to be desperate, you know, and that is about keeping the voice relaxed and listening and answering the question. One thing I would say, the two second pause is really important. This job interviews if somebody asks you a question, always wait two seconds before you answer, because it makes it look like you value the question.

 

Sian

Well give us an example. Again,

 

Robin

If you could ask me, I don’t know. What’s my favourite film? First of all, this is this is with no pause at all. And this is how it would sound.

 

Sian

Robin, what’s your favourite film?

 

Robin

The Matrix?

 

Sian

Yeah, it’s quite quick.

 

Robin

Yes and it sounds prepared.

 

Sian

Okay. Let’s try that again.

 

Robin

Here’s a slightly better way of doing the same thing. Okay,

 

Sian

Robin, what’s your favourite film?

 

Robin

About 20 years ago, I was single, and I went to the cinema on a date. And we went to see the Matrix. The first Matrix film. The evening went very well, we watched the movie, it was fantastic. And then later on, we went for dinner. And actually, that was the start of a whole new relationship. So if you asked me what my favourite film is, I’d probably have to say The Matrix.

 

Sian

Brilliant answer.

 

Robin

It’s more interesting, because I’m giving you some context. I’m not just answering the question. I’m telling you something about my life. But you look like you’ve thought about it. It’s storytelling, really. And all that storytelling makes it look like you’re having a conversation with this person, you’re not at a job interview.

 

Sian

So we’ve worked on how to answer certain questions and what questions you can ask, there is one burning question most people’s minds. Can you ask about salary in the first interview?

 

Robin

I wouldn’t actually, I think the first meeting is about chemistry. I’m with you,

 

Sian

I don’t think I’d ask in the first interview,

 

Robin

More important than money has got to be, do I actually want to do this job? And do I want to work with this person? If I do, now, let’s talk about the benefits.

 

Sian

I have to say, I’ve got a different way of looking at this. I wouldn’t talk about salary in the first interview. Because if they asked me back for a second interview, I know there’s a chance they want me. So, if there’s a chance they want me, there’s a chance I can get a better salary. So, to round this all up, we’ve got someone in the office now we’ve made sure they’ve turned up on time and prepped, they know why they’re there. They’re dressed appropriately. We know it’s a meeting, it’s not an interview, if you can possibly put that in your head, make sure that they listen, they respect the interviewer because it’s actually their gig, not yours. Go at their pace, make sure that you’ve got the same energy levels. So this is all going really well. Can you give us an example of what not to do now that you’re leaving the entity? How do you end really well?

 

Robin

You don’t want to end by assuming you’ve got it. And it’s amazing how many people blow it right at the very end with: Well, it’s been a great pleasure to meet you and I look forward to working with you. Oh, you think Well, hang on? That’s really got to be their decision. I think I would just say, I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. And leave it at that.

 

Sian

Don’t say, When will I hear from you?

 

Robin

No, we don’t want to look like we’re selling. We don’t want to look desperate. We wanted to feel like we just met this person. It’s a friendly meeting across it doesn’t feel like that. But the more we can make it feel like a friendly meeting, the more likely they are to have enjoyed being in our company.

 

Sian

And can I say the interviewer normally walks you to the door of their office like to the left or to the left or something like that. So prep for that, because that can be an awkward moment. So maybe you just have one other question left in your head to smooth that over while you wait. But definitely say thank you for taking the time. Yeah, I really enjoyed it. Lovely to meet you, get in the left and go!

 

Robin

Yes, leave neatly. I wouldn’t start a new story walking from the desk to the door. Finish well. Bring the curtain down on the show.

 

Sian

Yeah, just leave a bit of light chat getting the lift and go.

 

Robin

I think so.

 

Sian

Yeah, that’s it. Robin Thank you.

 

Robin

And we should remember job interviews should be fun.

 

Sian

They should be fun.

 

Robin

Absolutely.

 

You can find more episodes of the art of communication podcast, wherever you listen to your podcasts. For more information, visit Robin Kermode.com.

 

 

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As CEO of a global educational association it is invaluable that Robin has familiarity with the culture of communications across continents. Robin is warm, witty and laser focused on how to make the most of oneself in communicating and connecting. He is simply brilliant!

Sue Cunningham​

President & CEO, CASE

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