Interview tips beyond the usual

  • Stephanie Clark

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Use all your senses at an interview

Posted by Stephanie on July 4, 2011

The other evening I stepped out for my daily walk, and headed, as usual, towards an undeveloped area a block from home. I love heading there, as the field is undeveloped and there is an adjacent forest … it is peaceful.

After a hot day, the field was fragrant with a mix of scents – that green scent that is indescribable, and that dry grass fragrance that is likely sweet grass (with a hint of tarragon). The “critters” were active – birds chirped and cawed, thrummed and twittered; frogs or toads called out to mates, and unknown insects flew by. The sun and breeze played tag as one warmed my arms, and the other cooled them. It was delightful.

It struck me (my mind is forever finding parallels with career-related topics!) that when one goes into an interview, one should apply all senses, as well as the sixth sense, to gain a better “feel” for the company and its culture.

For example, if you see few visual sharings of accomplishments (awards, plaques, volunteering), of status-sharing graphs or tables, no photos, newspaper clippings, binders of staff activities – if it is bereft of character, it could be that the entire place is similar. In this case, ask a few questions of your own in the interview to get a real sense of what’s what.

If, for instance, you smell perfume, cologne, air spray and other questionable odours, there may be a lack of respect for the need for policies that keep the workplace healthy and safe. Again, ask your own questions in the interview to determine the corporate position.

During the interview, pay attention to the team dynamics. In one interview that I attended the tension was palpable. The two interviewers barely looked at one another and didn’t crack a smile. It was very unpleasant!

At another interview, the company’s president came in for the last 15 minutes or so. He asked me to share not one, but five faults (I am as human as you, but I cannot come up with five just like that … unless enjoying chocolate and laughing at my own jokes are faults?). I shared one major one, got hired, and lasted less than a week. My first impressions of the “Pres” were right and the fit was all wrong. The one major fault I shared, he immediately tested me on in a most unfair manner. (He sent me a long email of apology, but by that time I had lost faith in this employ working to my benefit.)

Use your senses, pay attention, ask questions, and save yourself from jumping from the frying pan into the proverbial fire.


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