Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Can you blag your way into a job?

What happens when you know you’d be brilliant at a job even though it’s very different to anything you’ve done before? Maybe a friend or relative secured you the interview? 
Let’s think through how to “blag your way in” with a suggested 9-step plan.
1.        Convincing
First you need to be convinced. If you are then it’ll be easier to convince your interviewer.  A clear mindset can help you land a great role even where, at least theoretically, you’re not necessarily experienced or qualified for it.
2.        Transferables
The key is finding where you have “transferable skills” or experience. For this you’ll need to put yourself “in their shoes”. What is it you’ve achieved before that will sound almost exactly like what they’re looking for? You’ve got to show how you’ve done something so similar it might as well have been in the new job. 
3.        Strip it back
Work out the “real” core requirements of the job. Mostly they’ll be related to the following:
Being organised, problem solving, measuring or monitoring, teamwork, adapting to change, talking to people and reading / writing / arithmetic
Now identify a couple of times when you’ve been brilliant at each one of these skills.
4.        Search for …the “bridges”
Look for the linkages that show that these examples are relevant. Now practise explaining how they relate to the new job. You’ll need to be careful what words you use to avoid distracting your interviewer with references to other sectors or irrelevant job titles etc.  You may also want to expand on why this is a great comparison and to make the connections clear for your audience to understand your line of thinking.
5.        Search for …the people
Find someone, or alternatively - someone who knows someone, who’s done a similar job. You’ll be amazed what your social / work networks will yield. If you look hard enough there’s always someone you can meet for a coffee, call, email or send a message to who can give you some nuggets of advice about the job, organisation and sector. 
People love to be put in the role of “expert” so now you can test out whether you’re on the right lines with the core skills and “bridges” you’ve been working on.
6.        Learn quick
Arm yourself with a couple of stunning answers to “when have you been a quick learner?”. Firstly because these will be useful in any interview and, secondly, because you’ve got to convince your interviewer that the next person in this job doesn’t need relevant skills or experience… they just need to be adaptable and willing to learn! 
7.        Reflections
Sound and look like your interviewers to make it as easy as possible for them to imagine you in the job. Use their words in your answers – the ones in the advert, job description or on their website / publicity material. Dress in a similar style to them. Check out their dress “culture” before you arrive with anyone who knows the place or try to catch a glimpse outside their premises / in corporate videos etc
(If you’re feeling ready for advanced level “reflections” you could even experiment with some small scale body language “mirroring” - although you’ll need to be very subtle please.)
8.         Turn on the charm
Do your homework! Research their sector, organisation and the role itself. Know what their “hot topics” and current issues are so you can demonstrate your passion and commitment to the new job.
9.        Why you?
Work out what you have that’s unique to you and potentially valuable to them. This is your “unique selling point”. You may even have more than one thing that’s different about you and what you can bring to this role – besides the benefit of having a ”different perspective” (i.e. no “relevant” experience - at least on paper!)

To blag or not to blag?
Once you’ve been through the 9 steps above thoroughly then please ask yourself whether or not you’re convinced you could do the job. If the answer is “yes” then you’re probably ready to test the blag. Good luck!

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

"Keep it Simple - with your next Job Interview" - Time to Spring Clean your approach


Modern life can be extremely complex. Job interviews can feel the same. So it's worth spending a few moments making things simpler for yourself the next time you prepare.

Here are a few practical ideas to “spring clean” your approach and to succeed at interviews.

First impressions start days before you enter the room
How you reply to your interview invite will make an “impression” on whoever receives it.

Think tactically about the words you use in the phone call, email, or online acceptance you send back to your prospective employer.  You need to appear professional and as much like the organisation’s ideal candidate as possible.

Remember also to spell and grammar check everything you write.  Clarity, correctness and attention to detail are paramount - especially if these are skills required in the job.

Remove any “mystery” before the big day
Take as much of the “surprise” out of the interview as you can by researching the organization and asking well crafted questions in advance of the day to ensure you know exactly what's expected of you.

Make a list of things you need to ask that will help you to be properly prepared.  The answers should dispel the impression that this is some mystical process where they want to catch you off-guard.  Generally they're not trying to do this.

Beside the “where…”, “when…” and “who…” questions you could consider some of the following:
E.g. how long should I expect the interview to last? Are there any tests?  Can I prepare anything beforehand? Is it ok for me to refer to notes?

Take your notes with you
Most interviewers will allow you to use notes.  They'd rather have someone who refers briefly to notes and answers a question, than someone who looks blank and struggles to know what to say.  It also shows that you've arrived properly prepared.

Add to your notes a list of the questions you will ask at the end of the interview.  In the heat of the moment, with the prospect of being near the end, you may forget what you were going to ask.  It's really important that you have questions because it shows you care about the job and it allows you to demonstrate the level of your motivation and the depth of your preparation.

Key words and bullet points
Make notes in the days before your interview to help you structure your answers.  Use single words or short phrases rather than sentences and paragraphs.  That way you can keep your replies more natural and instinctive.

You'll have to listen carefully to the question and, with only key words to refer to, you're then more likely to talk conversationally and sound less like you're reading a script. The result should be that your answers are more focused and sound more believable.  The added bonus is that it ensures your answer will be different at every interview.

Make it simpler for your interviewer too
Filling staff vacancies is expensive and time consuming.  Make it as easy as possible for your interviewer to picture you in the job and also being successful in the role.

When explaining what you achieved in a particular project concentrate on the “so what?” factor.  What happened as a result and how does your interviewer know that this was a great outcome?

If you can do so then give some facts, scale or context to help your interviewer.  Use numbers or percentages where they strengthen your answer. For instance if you had great customer feedback or praise from your boss then mention that too.

Simpler is clearer
Keeping your approach simple will help you and your interviewer.

Spring-cleaning your preparation may take a little extra effort the first time you do it - although it should improve your overall technique and how you present yourself at your next interview.


Remember - they want you to be the perfect candidate for the job.  If you are the ideal person then their search is over and their vacancy is filled – simple!

Monday, 7 July 2014

"Can u get my son off the sofa please?"



"I'm sorry ...I don't follow" I replied in a stunned manner.

The woman on the other end of the phone repeated the point slower and louder than the first time.

"I said: can - you - get - my - son - off - the - sofa - please? He graduated recently and went to an interview where he thought he'd done quite well - until he had some feedback that told him he hadn't.  Since then he's just been sitting round mumbling that he'll never get a job. I need you to I help him please!"

As she took a breath I slipped in a question - "is that so he pays his own bills?"

She resumed in the same insistent tone "I don't care who pays the bills... I just want him to stop grumbling and get a job!"

This is an extreme version of a common plea from parents who contact me for help, convinced that their recently graduated offspring are ill-equipped for the job market.  

The other variation of this call is "my Mum / Dad said I should ring you" - in an unconvinced and long-suffering tone which is surely reserved only for 20-somethings who haven't yet escaped the power of their parents to impel them to do something they really don't want to do.  

Fear not though. I win them over pretty quickly when we meet for a coaching session - once they realise that I'm not going to speak to them like a parent. They soon get the hang of the 'sleeves rolled up' and fun nature of my coaching sessions. Of course the fact that I'm just getting them to talk about themselves helps too.

They like me even better when they get their first job and ...maybe glimpse their "grown up" lives ...where they no longer have to do what their parents tell them they should do. So maybe they realise that their parents MAKING them contact me turned out to be a good idea.


Incidentally, there is a happy ending to the "son and sofa" story.  He turned out to be a lovely lad who joined in enthusiastically as we practised what he'd be asked at interview and who listened intently to my advice. And now... He has his dream job working on multi-million pound performance cars ...and he's vacated the sofa!

claire@121interviewcoaching.co.uk

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