“You’re maths just wasn’t fast enough,”
“You came across as a bit too casual,”
“Next time try and relax a bit more,”
“You’re good with numbers, but you need to work on your storytelling,”
“We thought you were very, very, very good, but we just don’t have a spot for you right now,”
“This is an automated rejection. Do not respond to this message.”
The Spear is no stranger to failure when it comes to job interviews. At last count, he has done 20 in the past year alone, the vast majority of which ended in some form of “thanks, but no thanks.” And that number of rejections is set to swell as we once again enter Interview Season; that brief period from late March to early May when aspiring graduates affix their armour and fight each other to the death in an eruption of no-holds-barred orgiastic violence, the lucky few emerging from the melee with a contract in hand.
Or so he’s told.
Yes, there will be many an interview to be had in the next few weeks. So now would be a good time for The Spear to recap some of his previous learnings, and perhaps an opportunity for the reader to garner a little knowledge from his many tales of woe - for there are many.
Now the first thing to understand is that not all interviews are created equal. What type of interview you have managed to wrangle will play a big role in your chances of eventual success, and some are uniquely suited to certain types of individual. The Spear categorises the four main types of interview as Video, Phone, Face to Face and Assessment Centre.
The Video Interview is a fairly recent addition to the toolkit of your standard HR department that many applicants find rather awkward, like meeting a colleague on the bus, or that first RSVP date. Used as a screening device early-on in the recruitment process, candidates must answer a series of automated, timed questions to show how well they can present and cope under pressure.
The Spear has undertaken three or four Video Interviews and found them to be quite manageable, given the questions are usually quite standard. So long as you do your prep, dress right, can handle talking to a small image of yourself and can manage your time well, you’ll do fine.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for The Spear’s favourite type of interview; The Phone interview. While much more natural, and able to be done while in your underwear, the phone interviewee has to deal with those pesky squishy things called actual people. What’s that, The Spear hears you say? You’re a Millennial who has never had to use a phone to talk to a squishy person before? Well you better get some practise in son, because this type of interview requires the ability to interpret and imbue verbal nuance.
You can also expect the overall experience to be much more of a grilling as the interviewer hones in on any perceived weaknesses in your responses. Unlike a video interview where you may be able to generalise your way through, dropping in such terms as ‘innovation’, ‘digital’ or ‘thought-leadership’ for good measure, expect to be asked to apply or explain those buzzwords. On the plus side, you can have all your materials laid out in front of you, and you don’t have to look good (a talent of The Spear).
Face-to-Face interviews are on the other hand uniquely suited for the better-looking among us, but are by no means an insurmountable obstacle for the beauty-challenged. That said, you will have to prepare for them as you would have for the aforementioned RSVP dates. For The Spear, this usually involves bathing sometime in the preceding three days and applying a piquant dash from that little bottle he picked up on special from Priceline, but to each his own.
No matter what your fragrance, the real challenge of face-to-face interviews is that all of your vulnerabilities are on immediate display. No second-try videos, no phone ‘interference’, no written questions. Everything - from your inability to think quickly to that nervous twitch that you just can’t control - is being assessed by the interviewer the moment you walk through the door, consciously or not. So if you’re the jumpy type, you might want to practise reverting to your ‘happy place’ in a bid to present a cool, calm and collected self.
And it is exactly these kinds of self-control techniques which the final gate of hell, the Assessment Centre, is designed to break down. If you’ve been successful throughout the process thus-far by erecting defences to your true self, be prepared to have them put under sustained attack for a prolonged period in an attempt to flush out your true colours.
Like The Spear’s favourite Chinese dating show, If You Are the One - where male a suitor tries to woo 24 single ladies for the chance of a date - the hiring organisation to an extent relies on the passage of time for you to reveal your own weaknesses. On the brutal dating show it is a given that the longer a contestant is on stage, the more girls will reject him by switching off their light.
Similarly, in the Assessment Centre - a potentially multi-day event where you will be interviewed, tested, given group tasks and asked to present to, wine and dine senior employees – there is little hope of ultimately hiding the underlying you. So it’s best to make sure that whatever lies beneath that interview-veneer of yours is squeaky clean.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a certain amount of fake-it-till-you-make-it involved. Employers like confident applicants, however confidence may be exactly what a new, inexperienced graduate is most lacking.
The Spear’s advice is to remember that the interviewers know this too. They know you’re not a seasoned professional. They know your knowledge is limited. They know you probably can’t remember everything you’ve ever been taught. They’ll understand if you’re not perfect. So take confidence in the fact that you don’t have to be.