Q: In a recent job interview, I was asked a very unusual question: ‘how did you prepare for this interview?’ I didn’t know what to say and muttered something about reading their website. In fact, I had put in a huge amount of preparation, including speaking to somebody who works there and doing two sessions with a career coach, but I wasn’t sure I should reveal all of that. Would it show that I was lacking something? (AC, email ).
A: It is an unusual question, but I have come across it before, and, I have to admit that I would have taken a different tack to the one you did, writes Mary O’Brien-Killeen, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
I would use the question as an opportunity to demonstrate how I prepare effectively for every career engagement. This was a big event for you and they would like to know that you don’t walk blindly into such engagements.
Yes, I would have told them about my meeting with the current employee. No, I wouldn’t have revealed that employee’s name, but I’d have made it clear that I felt it was important to learn all I could about the company, what it does, where its customers are, significant challenges it faces, and the overall market conditions in which it operates.
Would I have told them about the career coach? Why not? Again, it shows preparation and that you take things seriously.
Might they think you are overly rehearsed or sculpted because you had been to a career coach? Only if you actually appear overly rehearsed or sculpted. A good career coach seeks to develop your trust in your natural communication style rather than driving you somewhere that is not sustainable for you.
There is no shame in speaking to a career coach or an employee. In fact, quite the opposite. They were powerful indications of the level of motivation you brought to the interview and the panel should take a great deal of encouragement from that.
Follow the leader
In a competency-based interview or application form, when you tell a story about how you lead, it is vital that you also show how others followed.
Leaders without followers are not leaders.
What I am getting at here is that you should not underestimate the importance of demonstrating how the actions you took in terms of being a leader – be it in the workplace, the sports field or the community – moved others to follow or.
Candidates all too often omit to include the result of what accrued from their actions. The merit of the story lies in those outcomes.
So, as a teacher, for example, you may wish to tell the story of how you developed leadership capacity in others by training one of your colleagues to take on the responsibility for the school musical. You had run the musical for, say, the previous five years and you wished to pass it onto someone else.
For the story to have value, the teacher who took over the running of the musical, must, in reality, have succeeded in staging a good musical. Without that, there is no proof that your leadership had the desired effect.
For the leadership story to have impact, there must be clear evidence of followers, and those followers must achieve things.
Sli Nua Careers (www.SliNuaCareers.com ) have offices in Galway (Patricia Maloney, 091 528883 ), Mayo (Ballinrobe and Claremorris ), Limerick, Dundalk, Sligo, Tralee and a full online service. Their services include CV preparation, interview training, public speaking and presentation skills, and career direction. For more details, visit www.slinuacareers.com/galway-office