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Six tips for interview: Pt 2

November 13, 2012

It’s (still) someone’s career

Building from last week’s blog this week looks at hints 4 to 6 of the original tweets list.

Generating questions

Wherever possible I will aim to shape the questions around my knowledge, skills and understanding, after all that’s why I’m on the panel.  This is relevant from the perspective of the candidates – they won’t know what I’m going to ask, but they should know in what general area I am going to focus my attention e.g. I am going to ask something around the clinical aspects of a post, or perhaps specific nursing knowledge.  Depending on the level of the post I will be expecting a varied degree of balance between strategic thinking, higher level clinical knowledge/skills and the underpinning values and belief of the candidate(s).  If the candidate has followed hints 2 and 3 from last week they will gain an insight into what make me, the interviewer, tick!

Preparing for the interview questions

Presumably if you are going for the post you think you can do the job, let’s be honest, if you don’t think you can do the job how do you think you will persuade the panel to believe you can do it.

I have advised numerous people over the years to write down the questions they think the panel might ask them – mission impossible?  Not really, not if you have done your pre interview prep properly, and not if you are actually appoint-able to the post – you should have a reasonable idea what the panel will want to know.

Lets assume, as suggested in part 1 last week, that you have gone to visit the area and spoken to the relevant people.  What were their areas of interest and/or expertise – how might that impact on the what they will want to ask you?

What will be your contribution to this team – as a leader, as a clinician, as a manager, as an administrator, or as a combination of each?

How many team (football. rugby etc) go into competition without having trained together and practiced – its only by doing so that they perfect/improve their performance.  There are times, at interview, that it is clearly obvious candidates have not practiced, when some elementary questions seem to startle them.  Writing down potential questions AND your answers or asking colleagues or family to ask you questions will help you focus on hitting the high impact aspects of an answer. That leads to hint 4:-


If you’ve prepared properly and you’ve practised your answers you will find it much easier answer the question you are being asked.  You will already have considered the general area of the question and know what it is you want to say.  In practical terms it will allow you to focus on the actual question being asked – break that question down on your head, “what is the panel actually asking me?”  I’ve never been on a panel that set out to trick candidates – simply focus on the question being asked, don’t look for hidden meaning and traps; if a panel is doing its job properly – there aren’t any hidden issues.

Consider – if the panel is intent on hidden traps and subterfuge to make them look clever, do you really want to work with people like that – I don’t!

STOP – think! Am I still answering the question I was asked?  If you’ve followed the hint above, the answer is probably yes, you will know where you want to take the panel in demonstrating your knowledge, skills and understanding.

As an aside at this point – when I am interviewing candidates, knowledge, skills and understanding are not enough on their own: in listening to your answer I’m looking for:

  • underpinning values (not buzz words)
  • the candidate beliefs
  • a sense of vision around their contribution to the profession or the post

Going back to hint 5 – most panels will score you in some way.  Heading off to answer a question you haven’t been asked is unlikely to score you points – in game show parlance – what do points make?

The questions aren’t pointless, the panel are looking for some specifics and some general themes – you must give these to the panel if you want the panel to give you the job.  Everyone has heard the saying ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ – it is equally true for interviews: practice: practice: practice.

There are times in interview when candidates, instead of answering the question, simply keep on talking.

On panels I’ve been on it has been necessary to ask candidate to be more succinct – sometimes this has the desired outcome and they realise they need to get to the point.  The panel aren’t being cruel or rude – they want to see if you can answer the question, it’s in their interest and yours to see of you can formulate the answer.  Failing to answer the question puts you, the candidate, at a disadvantage; however it also put the panel at a disadvantage – they might pick a candidate who can actually answer the question (but might not be as good as you in the long run).  Additionally of course the panel are likely to have other candidates waiting, out of respect to them the panel may have to cut you short before you’ve actually finished – lose:lose!

Appointable but not appointed

And finally – this may not be all you need to know, but you’ll be better prepared and perform better if you follow these hints.

Over the years I have gone for a number of jobs but not got them – however at post interview feedback for each of them I have been told that I was appoint-able to the post, simply on the day someone brought something additional to the table.  While I clearly leave the process disappointed I also know I gave it my best and, after all, on another day the outcome may have been different.

Wouldn’t you rather have that, than the panel breathing a collective sigh of relief when you leave?


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