You know you need to prepare for your interview by focusing on your skills and achievements.
What you might not know is that - whether they admit it or not - the majority of employers are most interested in what you don’t know.
With some notable exceptions, employers tend to be pretty conservative when it comes to hiring staff. This is especially true for businesses coming out of a recession; and it’s even more pronounced in New Zealand, where the repercussions of a bad hire are arguably felt more keenly than elsewhere.
Most of the time, the hiring manager will be trying to replace someone who is leaving; so by the time you meet with them, there’s usually already at least a two-week gap between one person leaving and the next starting. By this stage, they’re fretting about how they’ll cope with the gap in their team, and – most importantly -- how long it’s going to be before the new person gets up to speed.
For the smart candidate, this is a real opportunity. In my years of interviewing, the people who overwhelmingly get the job are those who have a realistic understanding of what their development areas are and what their plan would be to get up to speed in a new role. This becomes even more important as you get more senior, as you’ll be expected to manage a lot of this ‘on-boarding’ by yourself.
So aim to take the guesswork out of it for the interviewer. If you can walk out the door leaving them with a clear idea of exactly what they need to do to get you up to speed, and with the impression that they’re dealing with someone who not only recognises they’re not perfect, but has a plan for dealing with gaps in their experience; I can guarantee you’ll be streets ahead of your competition.
When you’re next preparing for an interview, as well as getting to grips with your skills and achievements, spend some time researching the things you haven’t done.
Here are the four steps you need to take:
- Look through the job description or advertisement and identify any responsibilities you haven’t had experience with, or skills you don’t have. If you’re working with a recruitment consultant, they should be able to give you extra insight beyond the job description.
- Do some research on the internet, and call former colleagues or other industry contacts to find out as much as you can about the gaps in your experience. Work out if you’ve done something similar, and get to grips with what you need to do to get up to speed.
- Prepare a plan of attack for addressing these gaps in the interview. For example; “I haven’t used SAP before, however I’ve had to learn other large ERP systems quickly in the past. For example, when I started in my current role, I didn’t have any experience using Oracle. I did some reading online before I started, and booked in half a day with their super-user on my second day. I was up and running within a week.”
- Develop a plan for what you expect to achieve - and how - within the first 90 days. It’s a great way of planning for your interview, plus it demonstrates to that you’re structured in your approach to starting new roles.
Don’t get me wrong: focusing on your achievements in an interview is important. But if you just gloss over the gaps in your experience, you’re missing the chance to tell your interviewer what they really want to know.