This is the third and final in a series of linked blogs covering the key steps to getting a flexible job. In the first we looked at how to craft a winning CV; in the second we considered how you can establish a great working relationship with your recruitment consultant and in this final blog I look at how to smash the interview.
I started my HR career in graduate recruitment and interviewing was always a part of my corporate work; so it took me some time to understand that just because you work in HR doesn’t mean you’re familiar (or comfortable) with interviews. Based on my experience I’d like to share some of my best tips with you.
1. Plan ahead
Most people spend very little time thinking about interviews until they find themselves facing one. But there are a few things you can do to improve your chances even before that first interview materialises. Once you have clarity on the role you want find someone to give you a mock interview. A ‘trial run’ will leave you better prepared for the actual thing. If you don’t work with any in-house recruiters then ask around via the CIPD online community or branch network.
Make sure your HR knowledge is up to date. Check whether there have been any important law updates and identify the topics of current interest to the HR community. It’s generally possible to do this by attending free or low cost events (often organised by CIPD branches) and by signing up to newsletters from the most popular online HR magazines.
Check out your interviewer on LinkedIn. While the interviewer’s focus will be on finding out about you and how you can fit the vacancy; knowing a little about him or her can make the whole experience less daunting. You may even find you have things in common.
2. Be professional
Being professional is both about the way you look and the way you behave. Your interviewer will be judging you on this as much as on your technical skills.
This is particularly important if you’ve been on a career break and are now planning to return to a flexible role. Check your interview outfit makes you feel good – if it doesn’t then invest in something that says ‘professional’. It doesn’t have to cost thousands. A simple outfit in a muted colour will do the trick. It’s probably best to avoid anything that demonstrates the quirkiest aspects of your personality at this stage.
Being professional also means arriving on time (or preferably five minutes early just in case) so check out where the interview is being held in advance and plan your journey.
3. The interviewer wants you to succeed
You’ve been shortlisted, your CV suggests you have the skills to fill the vacancy and your interviewer wants you to succeed. Keep that in mind and it will help overcome any nerves you might have. Interviewing people can be hard work. It’s disheartening when a series of interviews results in no suitable candidate to fill the role.
It’s the interviewer’s job to thoroughly check out your background. But he’s not trying to catch you out or ask trick questions. You can make his job easier by answering with relevant but succinct detail. There’s a skill to giving just the right amount of information - which is where a practice interview can be very helpful.
Focus on your strengths and potential contribution. If you’ve been in a flexible arrangement previously then share how you made it work. And if you don’t understand a question or need a couple of minutes to gather your thoughts it’s OK to say so. Stumbling through an answer when you’re not sure of what response to give will only detract from your credibility.
4. Stay positive
The reality is you’ll probably get rejected a few times before you get your ideal job. Remind yourself that in the highly competitive HR jobs market you made it as far as the interview; and see each one as a valuable ‘practice run’ that will help you hone your skills.
By all means ask for feedback, but be prepared for the fact not all of it will be useful. You may have been pipped to the post by another candidate who seemed to be a better cultural fit. Trust the interviewer has a better insight into this than you can have as an outsider. Rejection is always disappointing, but it’s rarely personal. Dust yourself down, make adjustments if you need to; and remain confident that the right job is out there waiting for you. Good luck!
Anna Meller is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD whose early career was heavily recruitment focussed. https://www.linkedin.com/in/annameller/