By Amit Kalra, Guest Contributor.
Until a few months back, the behavioural interview process had proved to be the Achilles’ heel in my professional journey. Being an immigrant to Canada, and new to the process of job hunting in North America, I couldn’t manage to figure out exactly what the hiring managers wanted from me. I had been rigorously applying to positions and I was getting invitations to interviews, but ultimately, I wasn’t chosen as the successful candidate.
Failure after failure to crack the secret of the interview process had created some serious self-doubts about my abilities. Ironically, I experienced so many rejections that the fear of failure ceased to be a concern in my mind. This was the only silver lining to emerge from an otherwise discouraging period.
I realized there was an urgent need for some deep self-reflection. It was during this period of introspection that I discovered things about myself that had been hidden from my conscious mind. I had been making the job search all about ME. I had been approaching interviews with the mindset of, “This is going to be my dream job!” I know now that I should have been asking myself, “How do I become this company’s dream candidate?” Rather than focusing on achieving what I wanted, which was to be hired, I realized that I needed to focus my efforts on becoming the candidate that would leave the employer with no doubt that I was the new hire they had to have.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to go through this self-reflection alone. I was blessed to have a wonderful mentor in my career coach at Success Skills Center in Winnipeg. She kept me motivated and on track throughout my journey.
I learned that preparation for an interview is exactly like a deep meditation exercise. If willing to be completely honest, job seekers have the opportunity to uncover answers to the most complicated questions about themselves such as, “Who am I?” and “What’s my purpose?” Theseare the things an interviewer really wants to know.
Instead of cramming to memorize a few repetitive responses, presenting authentic answers to interview questions creates an interesting exchange where one can bring his or her personality, uniqueness, values, and qualities to the table. As job seekers, there are two ways we can approach interview questions: we can present just like the majority of the other candidates, or, we can open up our personality so that the listener is drawn in and becomes a “fan.”
As an old saying wisely states, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For me, the first step was to arouse the curiosity of the potential employer via my résumé and cover letter in order to secure an interview.
The next step came into play during the interview when I was able to discuss what I would bring to the employer. The job description acted as a guiding path for me; every single word helped to project a picture of the company’s ideal candidate. I took my time and read through each job posting very carefully.
While scrutinizing the posting, experiences and accomplishments from my career history started to form in my mind. I selected the best of my past work and prepared my stories, each with a positive outcome that benefited my employer. The more I practiced, the stronger the connection became between my mind and heart. “Self-bragging” is an art and to make it compelling is part of the preparation that’s required before an interview. Believe me, a fully prepared mind works like a magnet. It doesn’t just attract and hold the attention of the interviewer, but I observed that it seems to go beyond that to enthrall the person.
In a behavioural interview, not only is the interviewer trying to discover how the potential candidate reacts to different situations, he or she is also scrutinizing the candidate’s personality. Among other things, they watch for signs of passion, clarity of thought, positive attitude, and a sense of commitment and responsibility.
Questions like how you acted when you experienced a work conflict or how you handled criticism are not hypothetical ones; vague replies don’t cut it. Answers have to be specific and authentic. No one expects job candidates to be superhumans liked by everyone in the workplace, and who receive only praise and appreciation for work they do. In these interviews I saw the value of my preparation. I was able to deliver specific, relevant answers that directly addressed the questions. My responses were interesting and portrayed a picture of me as someone who was focused and possessed deep self-understanding. It may sound cliché, but the STAR technique worked wonders for me.
In a nutshell, interviewers are human beings just like the rest of us. Their role is to hire a candidate who fits the role and the culture and will make significant contributions to the betterment of the company. So, here is our opportunity to present as the “dream candidate,” showing who we are, what we can do, and what we can be.
I am delighted to report that I now sit on the other side of the table in my role as a Talent Acquisition Advisor for a leading aerospace company. Everything I learned in my own career journey is what I now watch and listen for in the candidates I interview.
To paraphrase part of a speech once made by Mr. Obama; “We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”
As an interviewee, I believe that my demonstrations of being a truthful, authentic, prepared candidate who allowed his personality to shine through are what ultimately landed me a job I love.