Secret Interview Techniques

At this early stage in my career, my experience with the interview process is very limited. With little experience the best way to understand the procedure is to research what is required in an interview, and to understand what the people interviewing you really want. I was excited to research and write this blog because success in this area will ultimately be what starts me on my future career path when I have completed my studies.


Step 1 – Get selected for an interview!

The first stage of the interview process is actually to get an interview. (This is often the most difficult step). So, what is the most successful way of getting a new job?  From the research I have done on this topic I believe the following steps are vital in achieving success with regards to employment:

Networking: Research shows that 80% of jobs are found through your network of friends, colleagues and people you have done business with ( Networking is not something you start doing when you need a job. It’s a continuous process. Keep in contact with people you respect and like to work with, keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, and use social media to showcase your work. You create brand awareness – where you are the brand.  Quite often effective networking will even let you bypass the interview process. (Ref 1, 2)

Your CV/Resume: You might spend a lot of time and effort detailing your career path, responsibilities and success stories in a four page CV.  You’re wasting your time. TheLadders, an American job site has done some research on this. The average recruiter spends on 6 seconds looking at your resume (Ref 3, 4).  Of those 6 seconds, 5 of them are spent looking at the following 4 bits of information:

  • Your name
  • Current position: title, company, dates of employment
  • Previous position: title, company, dates of employment
  • Education

Researchers tracked interviewers eye movements to see where they look on a resume.  The photo below illustrates how the eye seeks out key information in a dense text resume versus one that is laid out simply and clearly.  From the capture of the imaging scan you can see clearly how the eye just disregards the areas where dense, detailed information is.

interview - what they look at

For your resume to be effective, it must be simple, clear, and concise. Its only job is to get you in the door, and in front of the interviewer.  From there the rest is up to you.

Every industry will have a process that is tailored to it’s own specific needs. In the film industry a resume alone will not be enough. You need to have a portfolio of your work ready, either on a website, a YouTube channel, or links to sites where examples of your work can be seen. Your resume can have a simple link to your work.

Internet job sites: Only about 5% of job applications to advertisements on job websites are successful.

Step 2 – The interview process

The first telephone call is important. Be polite, be clear, answer the questions. If they phone at an awkward time, ask to postpone the call to a more convenient time. Take their contact details, and phone them back when you can talk without being disturbed. Once you have been selected for an interview, there are one or two very important points to remember. A large part of the interviewers decision to hire you is not only subjective, but also unconscious. People generally make their mind up about the people they meet within the first 60 seconds. First impressions are therefore very important, and especially in a job interview.

To start with:

  • Arrive on time – it shows you’re taking the interviewer and the job seriously
  • Dress appropriately
  • Look the interviewer in the eye
  • Try not to look as nervous as you may feel

Below is a list an interviewer prepared in order to give you an idea of what they look for when they interview people (Ref 5). It is surprisingly simple:

  • Be yourself
  • Be confident in who you are and what you have to offer.
  • Sit up straight
  • Relax
  • Know the company you have applied at – do some research
  • Make sure you know your own resume
  • Make sure you know the job you’re interviewing for, and that you have the skills needed.
  • Listen
  • Answer the questions – if you don’t know the answer, say so.
  • Have some questions of your own
  • When the interview is over, stand up, smile, and thank them. And try not to trip and fall over when you leave!
  • Follow-up with an email the following day to thank them for their time.

A good interviewer will make you feel at ease, and will ask questions that will let him get to know you and your skills better. The internet is full of sites that list the types of questions interviewers ask, and it’s good to look at these, as some questions are industry specific. Practice interview questions with friends and family. They do sometimes ask strange questions such as “how many golf balls fit in a school bus?” They don’t expect you to know the answer, but they’d like to see how you would go about finding out what the answer is.

A brief checklist in the form of a mind map is added below;

Interview_techniques (1)

My personal interview experience

As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog, I have very little experience in this area with regard to the actual job interview process.  However as a scholar I applied for the position of Head Girl and was required to go through an interview/selection process. The head of Sixth Form and the Head of Secondary interviewed each of us individually. We were asked (i) why we wanted to be Head Girl (ii) what changes you would like to see in the school (iii) they wanted to see if you could help the students if they needed any guidance whether its bullying, friendship groups, homework etc.  I was honestly quite nervous which showed a bit during the interview. There were some questions I didn’t understand or expect, so I had to ask them if they could ask the question in a different way so I could understand it better. This ended up being a good thing, as they preferred someone who was honest to someone who made up an answer.

I’ve learned that I don’t do well under pressure and I stress about being interviewed, but I have to remember that I need to be true to myself and be more confident, as I feel that will lead me to better opportunities. Needles to say, I wasn’t given the position of Head Girl, but I did get the position of being a Student Prefect, and in hindsight I was more suited to that position.

I have given interviews myself when people want to start piano lessons with me. I always ask the student (i) if they’ve played the piano before, (ii) what kind of music they like to listen to, (iii) if they want to be classically trained, or just want to do it for fun, (iv) if they enjoy the instrument etc.  This helps put them at ease before I take them to the piano where the second half and most important part of the interview process happens for both potential student, and teacher.  I teach young beginner and lower grade piano students only, and they tend to be very anxious and nervous during the assessment process.  I see it as my responsibility to put them at ease.  After all I need to get as much out of them as possible in order to assess whether they are suitable music candidates, and at what level they are at if they have played the piano before.  It is very difficult to determine whether they have a real ear for music and desire to learn, or if this is just Mom’s bad idea!  What I usually do is I teach them a very simple version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  This gives them a sense of achievement when they leave the “interview“ as well as a sense of excitement about being able to learn something so quickly.  This quick piano study has another reason as well.  Some parents are not sure whether they want their children to take piano (and I as a potential teacher am also being indirectly interviewed).  So when they see their child leaving the assessment interview motivated and able to play something so quickly they are usually inclined to support their child’s wish to learn the piano, and select me as their child’s first piano teacher.  You see the assessment is not just about me seeing if the student has the potential to play the piano, but it is also an indirect interview on the side of the parents to see if they want me to teach their child!  But most importantly I get find out how quickly the student can pick up music through a fun exercise, and whether they have a genuine ear for learning music.  The process would be obviously very different for an older student, and I would expect them to do a more formal audition.

There is a lot of information available on the net to support and assist a first time job seeker through the interview process.  Don’t just rely on what is available online.  Speak to people in and outside of your industry who have experience sitting on both sides of the interview table. They will often have invaluable tips for you when heading out for that first interview.



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