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I do a crap interview - how to sell myself?

(14 Posts)
AlpinePony Tue 05-Jul-11 13:07:25

I've been with the same company for around 11 years. During that time obviously I've moved up the career "ladder" and am now working in a different role.

I get extremely positive feedback from my CV - both internally and externally - and there is always the comment "why on earth are you in this role when you can do x, y and z?".

However, it seems to me that I'm "missed" out internally when an opportunity comes along and when I've been to interviews, I totally fluff them*.

How can I improve my presentation and interview skills so that I deliver the type of presentation which my CV and experience would suggest I posess?

I don't bullshit, I've always been a bit more "I don't know the answer to that, but I know I could learn/find out within 24 hours" type thing. Something is going wrong though and I'm unable to translate my "brilliance" wink and of course this is knocking my confidence.

*Worst ever interviews (of which there are legion) due to nerves:
i) Had a "wee dram to calm my nerves" - i.e., rolled in pissed at 10am. This was 18 years ago mind. blush
ii) Got so flustered actually said to the bloke (yes, for real!) "oooh I love this (random thing on his desk), can I keep it?".

Needless to say I got neither job.

MissusL Wed 06-Jul-11 07:41:47

I'm bumping this, because it sounds like me! I am being made redundant in August, whole place is closing, and I've been there 8 years. I never thought I would need to go for another interview as I love my job so much thought I would be there forever! So going to interviews is a whole new concept to me. I got to the final two for a job recently, and one of the reasons they gave for me not getting the job was that I was too passionate and caring about what I currently do! So interview tips would be good - how not to be too passionate about my current job?!

MovingAndScared Thu 07-Jul-11 09:45:39

oh me - had quite a few interviews recently and know it my weak point - I get really nervou, forget vital thinkgs

I think for me I need to do some more practice ie think up possible questions and get someone to ask me!
and maybe take some notes for remind me things to mention

MissusL - I think its just coming over how sad you are about your current role ending which might cause them to doubt how commited you will be to the new role

Muser Thu 07-Jul-11 10:05:15

When you say you're "missed out intenally" Alps, what do you mean? Are you being put forward but fluffing an internal interview, or not just being put forward at all?

If the latter, you need to embark on some profile raising. I did this recently after being passed over for promotion on the say so of someone who didn't know my work at all. I realised I needed to make a bit of noise. Now, I should have done this by going to some of the friendly senior people I work with and asking what I needed to do and improve for next time. I actually got drunk with one of them and ranted and he did that for me, but I wouldn't recommend it as an approach. grin

The end result was I had some mentors at work who could advise me and dump stuff on me to get me the experience and, more importantly, the exposure and support I needed. Which meant next time I didn't get passed over as I had people to speak to my case. You have to play the politics internally, doesn't matter how good you are if you don't have someone who is in the room when the decision is made willing to speak up for you.

On interviews/presentations. Practice is the thing. I study for interviews, whether internal or external. Internal I actually study harder as you really can't bullshit your way through them. If you have someone who can mock interview you, get some pretend interview practice in. If you have to do a presentation, practice it in the shower, in front of your baby, the horse, whoever happens to be around. I was also advised on a course once to do it in front of a mirror. This does make you feel like a prat, but it gives you an idea of what you actually look like presenting and can be very helpful. Made me realise I could be an arm waving loon so I try to tone that down now.

My worst problem is waffling - I get through this by trying to anticipate what the key questions will be and having some examples of this. So, for example, in my last interview I was changing field. It was obvious I would get questions along the lines of "and what makes you think you can do X when you've only done Y before". I had my answers down, I tested them out on friends, and I avoided waffling through my answer.

Give examples, if someone asks "how would you herd cats" don't say "well I'd try and lure them with chicken". Say "I'd try and lure them with chicken. This is something I did in my last job as Champion Cat Herder and found it worked very well. I bought some free range chicken, poached it in cream, and dangled it on fishing line in front of the cats. I managed to herd 32 cats into a small pen and increased our cat herding quota by 12%."

There are also some tricks you can do. My favourite is at the "do you have any questions" stage. I like to ask something along the lines of "if I'm successful in this job what would my key challenge in the first 3 months be" or "what would I be expected to achieve in my first 3 months/what would my first 3 months look like". This makes the interviewer picture you in the role and helps them see how amazing you would be. Plus you can then, if needed, drop in some more examples of how brilliant you'd be at those things.

My final bit of advice, is there any way you could do some interviewing yourself on the other side of the panel? It's a brilliant way for picking up tips and seeing what you do wrong yourself.

Piccadilly Thu 07-Jul-11 10:06:43

Alpine Pony,
I'm no professional on this but fwiw, these are my thoughts:
Don't think about your bad interviews and talk yourself into believing you can't do interviews. Obviously you're a very competent person otherwise you would not have been able to build up such a good CV.
I think there's a difference between your presentation of yourself when it comes to internal opportunities and interviews with other companies.
Regarding internal opportunities, it's difficult to say a lot without knowing your workplace, but the keys seem to be: making friends - and making sure those people know what you do and what you are capable of; then getting the message out loud and clear that you're ambitious and want new opportunities. I think the best possible thing is to have some kind of mentor higher up the ladder who can advise you and "lobby" for you. Maybe trying to talk openly with your line manager about your ambitions and how they can support you in achieving them - to make sure as well that they REALISE that you are actively wanting to get to wherever you are wanting to go. Maybe put together a plan as to how you want to reach position x and what you think you need to do to get there and discuss this with your line manager. I think having clear goals (quite ambitious ones) help superiors to see what you are trying to achieve and to see that you are the kind of person who should be considered for promotion - not just "content".
Regarding external interviews, I think a main point - which MissusL's experience highlights - is stop thinking the interview is about you. It isn't, it is about filling THEIR position. Show them that you're very interested in them and that you know the gap they are trying to fill. That takes the pressure off YOU - you are not under the spotlight, you have expertise which you could use to help them. Maybe even imagine you are a sort of trouble-shooter talking to a client about what they need and explaining to them how you will come in and deliver the goods. Having a sort of "service-provider - client" atmosphere in an interview can bring it onto a more professional footing so that you are not grovelling for a job but you are addressing the issue at hand: how is this job going to get done. Perhaps that was also a bit of the issue when you asked the guy if you could keep something on his desk - it sounds like you had a sort of parent-child sort of power-distribution thing in your head - but you are a professional who could do work which they need. Make sure you research hard so you know well exactly what they are looking for and then go in and explain to them how you would address THEIR needs.

Muser Thu 07-Jul-11 10:08:24

Ooh, one more thing. If you get a question you can't answer immediately, do the "Hmmm, that's an interesting question" routine. It gives you a bit of space to think up an answer rather than sit there doing goldfish impressions. Although it may just be me who does the goldfish thing.

flowery Thu 07-Jul-11 10:26:55

Yes. Arriving at the interview three sheets to the wind or pinching desk adornments probably not the way to go.... grin

Examples examples examples, as Muser says. Go through the job description and person spec. The interview is to find out whether you would be good at that job so it's a safe bet that there will be questions to ascertain to what extent you meet each criteria on the person spec. Prepare a good example for each criteria of when you've done that thing before, why it was successful and potentially what you would do differently if faced with the same thing again.

However they phrase the questions (they may not ask for examples), you will be fully armed with a fantastic example of how brilliant you are.

Remember they wouldn't be bothering to interview you if they didn't already think you could do the job.

AlpinePony Thu 07-Jul-11 11:19:55

muser You absolutely hit the nail on the head with the passed over due to "lack of noise". I have been told before by sr mgt to "raise my profile" but I've never really known how. There are those who do it via shouting & upsetting others and those who do it by being fecking useless. I hope I'm neither! wink We don't have a socialising/drinking culture here - thank the lord - I'm unable to stop at one and find myself "hilarious". But seriously, how do I raise my profile? The top nobs all know who I am and how do I make the lower rungs aware of me without "running for help". I kind of get on with my job and do it well - this doesn't draw attention to oneself!

I really like your "3 months" question and will definitely apply that - it's also, as flowery said, a really good way for me to really find out what they're looking for.

I think I need to work on expanding my answers without waffling. e.g., the cat-herding, I'd probably just say "yes, I herded all the cats in to the pen" and if seriously pressed as to how I'd end up prattling on about "fluffy coats" and the like. I too easily assume that my meaning is implicit and that A-C is "obvious" without explaining B. I need to look at this!

I am currently being mentored by someone very senior and I have an appraisal on Monday where I can raise some of my concerns and get it more concrete. I did find a couple of mentors in Texas as I couldn't find anyone locally (my mgr was really pleased with this) - but for various reasons it didn't work out.

Muser Thu 07-Jul-11 18:34:39

I think the first step to raising your profile would be bringing it up in your appraisal. Tell the person doing it what your ambitions are and ask how you get there. Do you set personal objectives at your work place? Setting some good objectives can be the first step. It's hard to give advice without knowing much about the way your workplace works and the opportunities you have to raise your profile. If there's internal developments you can get involved in that can help. I started getting involved in training events, speaking at staff meetings, etc to get myself noticed. If you do something fabulous and could help other people learn from it you could try pitching some sort of presentation thing so people know about it.

I also tried to get involved in developing new business areas, not sure if that's an option at your workplace.

I think the thing to do is work out where you want to get to, find out who the people are who are important in that area, and then work out how you can get yourself noticed by them. It can be as blatant as going to someone and saying "I am really interested in this, can I get involved?" It might mean doing a bit of dogsbody work, I have certainly done more than my fair share of dull internet research that a secretary could have done, but it's a way in.

Muser Thu 07-Jul-11 18:41:05

The, "I'm really interested in this, can I get involved" does work by the way. It is how I managed to go from receptionist to quite senior role in one organisation in the space of 3 years. I started by offering services as a proof reader and worked my way in from there. It was mind numbingly boring at times, but it got my career going.

cazinge Thu 07-Jul-11 23:24:57

I have recently been through half a dozen interviews (both internal and external) as my current job is being deleted (their words!).
My top tips would be, imagine you're explaining to someone in a lift who knows nothing about your job/company/field, etc everytime you use an example - ensures you are thorough.
I always try and group potential questions into subjects (a university exam tip!) as its highly unlikely you will guess the specific question but if you are going for a job in admin (for example) it is likely they will ask about organisation, use of computers, etc - you can get the subjects by looking at the person spec. Then for each subject I try to have 3 different examples to draw on, then if you use one for another question you always have spares!

With regards to profile-raising I always try and phone people in other depts, etc and going to see them when I know them a bit better rather than emailing them - it makes you more memorable rather than a name on an email! It helps built relationships across your organisation quickly (and isn't too difficult!)
Also, apply/express interest in internal appts even if they are not exactly what you want to do - if you do it for 6 months you can gain exposure to so many people and get yourself known and even if you don't get it, if you have interviewed well then the interviewers will remember you for next time wink

Good Luck!

AlpinePony Sun 10-Jul-11 08:11:35

muser Yes, I have a formal "development plan" and god knows I've "tried" to raise my profile. My company employs 300,000 people and my country director knows me by name, I'm on speaking terms with the EMEA director, I've been responsible for training for my entire country and been part of an EMEA initiative. My name is out there - I'm starting to think it's just the "cunts" at my account. sad hmm

I also have no qualms about doing "work beneath me" and have told my manager that I'd rather do a bit of "admin/secretarial" work than sit staring at the walls.

cazinge I'm pretty good about that - and I hate emailing someone who's face I don't know, so I often will head out on foot to do a "meet & greet" rather than just email. Of course being an international business this is not always physically possible.

Anyway, I've got my appraisal tomorrow and I'm taking on board all of your comments, particularly the "getting in to other departments" thing because I do not want to remain in my current "stream" forever, that's not been the goal for some time. I've seen a job advertised on our internal website for a shift in direction which isn't 100% where I want to go, however it would be "out" of here and it is of course more invaluable experience. I've stalked searched out the hiring manager and I see that one of his reports is actually someone who reports to me too on occasion and I know he's a useless sod so I know this guy will hire the inept! wink Must, must, MUST stop talking down about myself! After the appraisal I think I will have a better idea of what my manager thinks of me, my previous two managers have done nothing but sing my praises - but then jumped ship leaving nobody to wax lyrical about me. So I've got to get a bloody shift on before this guy goes back to work in his own country, or I'm on maternity leave again (am pregnant) - the upshot is, once I know what his thoughts are I'm going to go in quite heavy with applying for other internal posts even if they're not a "perfect fit", to get this relevant experience and to widen my contacts.

AlpinePony Mon 18-Jul-11 14:09:16

Just a quick update on this.

I applied for the position I spoke of above and have an interview on Friday in Amsterdam! grin

cantfindamnnickname Mon 18-Jul-11 14:38:09

Good luck with your interview

I got few books from the library - great interviewing techniques etc and found them really helpful.

I agree with advice up thread as well about not being desperate for job - you are considering the job as much as they are considering you. Think of it as a fact finding exercise.

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