Over the past few months I’ve had a few job interviews. Unfortunately I did not get those jobs, but it was useful to go to the interviews nonetheless.
I say a few jobs, really it’s been two. I had a few other interviews for academic jobs a few years ago, but other than those it has been a long time between ‘real’ interviews. I’ve had some experience in retail interviews in between, but because I have so much experience in retail — and I had worked at one of the positions during the holiday periods before, so didn’t even need an interview again — I hardly count those.
The two interviews I did have were for permanent editing positions with a company that I like and respect. As I founded and edited a journal during my studies I thought I was well suited for the positions. Obviously getting to the interview stage meant the recruiters also thought along similar lines. So I was quite happy to get the interviews.
The company used ‘competency-based’ questions during the interview. This means they gave me a situation and I had to answer by giving a bit of background, what I did and the resolution afterwards. One such question was ‘Tell us about a time where you had to evaluate a problem and what was your solution?’ There were about ten of these types of questions, ranging from customer service to financial management.
When at the first interview — my first in about two years — I thought I was giving good answers. After I left I began reflecting on it. I realised as I was leaving that I didn’t think I’d get the job. I felt I had repeated some of the answers a bit too much — did I mention I was working on a postgraduate degree? It’s amazing how many transferable skills can come from that sort of thing. Still, I felt like I used that ‘I studied’ a bit too much. I was also a bit too hasty in answering questions. Meaning I didn’t think about finding the best example to answer the questions, merely the first.
As expected, I didn’t get the job. But I felt much better going into the second interview since I knew what to expect. I also thought it would be worthwhile bringing in answers that really showed my personality. I thought it would make me stick out a bit more. As I play a lot of games, I was determined to bring those experiences into my interview. So I did. Unfortunately I didn’t get the second job, either.
On the advice of a career counselor I requested feedback from the people who interviewed me. I was a little hesitant at first because it was almost two months later. I wasn’t sure I would be remembered or if it would be useful. I also thought it might sound desperate.
It turns out I was wrong. They people did remember me and provided useful feedback. They told me what I did that was good — and should be repeated in further interviews — and what I could improve upon.
One thing I needed to work on was merely a misinterpretation on my part. The company had asked about something financial. They wanted an example of balancing financial books, understanding Profit & Loss and/or using spreadsheets to manage accounts. I organised a conference using such a procedure, so I have the experience. But I misunderstood the question, interpreting it instead about the financial health of a company. I used to be a manager at a retail company. Part of the role was keeping close track of sales and staffing. If the company wasn’t making the planned sales I had to try to manage the budget for the day by cutting staff. In one sense I was performing a close focus on financial information. But I wasn’t answering the question they way they were expecting. If I get a similar question in a future interview I will now know a better way of answering it. They also recommended not using games as an example. Since I have quite a bit of professional and academic experience, I should focus on that. If I do use the games example, do it near the end.
I’m hoping that with the feedback I received I will be able to interview better. The people who interviewed me were confident that I would get a job, perhaps even in that industry, shortly. As they mentioned, I had an impressive-enough CV to get the interview. From there it’s about finding the best fit for the job. The two people who were hired instead had a little more direct experience in the field. They also suggested ways for me to get that more direct experience. Or, if not that, a way to make it sound like I would be the best fit by using my academic and professional experiences. I will get a job, it’s just a matter of when.