Give them what they want

I wrote an article a little while ago about interviewing and tried to give a
few tips on what I thought would be useful pointers. Since the market seems to
be turning tricky, it feels like a good time to do so again.

The obvious points remain. However, I thought there were a few things that
were definitely worth mentioning. The first relates to how you sell yourself in
an interview.
As you go through the interview process it is likely that you will be met by a
variety of different people. One will be your future boss. One is likely to be
that person’s boss. Others could well include HR, outside directors and
potential colleagues. Sometimes, external consultants, such as headhunters or
occupational psychologists could be included.

Each of these people is going to be looking for similar traits and skills,
but it is likely that each of them will have a slightly different agenda. For
example, a potential plc FD will be interviewed by the CEO, the audit chair and
the chairman. They all want the same thing – a world class FD – but they will
focus on specific skills they each
perceive to be the most critical.

So, when it comes to each interview, you need to make sure you are
demonstrating the skills that the interviewer most wants to hear about. This
means that beforehand you need to understand what that individual is seeking.
And you can plan for that.

At the same time, it’s likely there will be things in the vacant role that
you won’t have done before (otherwise, why apply for the job?).

So, at the same time as demonstrating your capabilities, you also need to
make sure that you address the weaknesses, and that you explain why they are not
really weaknesses to worry about anyway.

For instance, if the role is an international one but your experience has not
been international so far, you need to think about what experience you have that
will mitigate that weakness. For instance, you might point to the fact you have
dealt with international business previously through audit. Or you might mention
your experience in dealing with a variety of multi-site businesses, so you can
draw the parallel between the style of management required in an environment
like that and one where you are managing a number of different countries.

Finally, and just as importantly – don’t oversell. There is no point getting
a job because you are a brilliant interviewee and then finding you fail to do
the job to the required standard. Get a job because you are good enough to do
it, and then do it well.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Berndtson

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