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Submitted by Peter.westley on


I though I'd post this, partly in response to Mark's blog [url=]More WSJ Support On Interviews[/url] and maybe to stimulate some discussion...

[b]Follow all the steps[/b]
I had an interview yesterday. It just goes to show how important a checklist or step by step approach can be. And I await eagerly M-T's guidance on this whole thing. I had actually prepared quite well for this one. I had gone through the job spec and matched up achievements (PARS) of mine to each requirement, and committed (most of) them to memory. I had questions for me to ask to the company, I was dressed appropriately (remembered to take out my earring) and got there in plenty of time for a pre-inteview restroom stop after a 1 hour non-rush-hour drive (it'll be some commute!).

[b]OK on balance[/b]
I'll preface the next bit with a note that I felt the overall the interview went very well. I came out feeling it was tough but that I had done a job with wich I was pleased in terms of questions and answers. That's the focus on the positive side but this story is about the mishaps...

[b]Trying too hard?[/b]
SO, I must have been concentrating or trying a bit too hard: I was met in the foyer by someone who wasn't the gentleman I had asked for or was expecting to be interviewed by. I completely stuffed up the handshake (a finger grab - doh! - It happens to the best of us Mark!). Then things were ok while we walked to the meeting room and I was greeted by two others - it turns out I was to be interviewed by not one but three hiring managers; Gasp! A panel! Not one to be easily put off, I followed their que in making some light of it when they apologised for the large contingent - which also helped to relax me a little.

[b]Popular boy today![/b]
It turns out there is more than one similar role to be filled and the three managers were looking at all incoming resumes and turning up to interviews of those they were interested in. I guess that was a bit of a nice thing - all three had seen worth in interviewing me. I must also point out that they were very professional and used good behavioural questioning in the interview. Probably put together by their HR support but pretty much as expected for a large multinational technology firm. It was well organised and some planning had obviously gone into it.

[b]Faux Pas[/b]
Again, things are fine for a while until ... horror, my cell phone rings. Bugger. Thinking too hard about PARs and forgot the basic stuff. Never mind, quick and sincere apology and turned off the phone. My phone [i][b]never[/b][/i] rings.... except, it would seem , at the most in-opportune time. I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake!

[b]All's well that ends...[/b]
Anyway, interview went for 1 huor and a half and I managed really nice handshakes at the end. Depending on how I feel about it (and how I go), I hope to continue this story in a later post...

bflynn's picture

[quote="Peter.Westley"][b]Faux Pas[/b]
Again, things are fine for a while until ... horror, my cell phone rings. Bugger. Thinking too hard about PARs and forgot the basic stuff. Never mind, quick and sincere apology and turned off the phone. My phone [i][b]never[/b][/i] rings.... except, it would seem , at the most in-opportune time. I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake![/quote]

I can't say that it happens to everyone - but it can happen even to good people. I will point out that you recovered correctly: DO NOT ANSWER IT, turn it off, sincerely apologize and then move on. Just more proof that interviewing needs practice.


wendii's picture
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Hi Peter,

I've been in interviews where the interviewer's phone has rung. Believe me, we're just as embarrased. I agree with Brian, I think you handled it as well as you could, and not getting flustered is a plus in itself!

Good luck


Peter.westley's picture
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Yeah thanks Wendii, I actually have quite a lot of interviewing experience myself and I'm reasonably sure it didn't cause too much of a black mark (or should that be Dark Mark(tm)?) against my name.

Being interviewed is another story. Talking about learning lessons, it's shown me there's really no substitute for real-life practise in these things! I'm sure that for the forseable future I'll make doubly sure my phone is switched off before going into an interview!

I was with the one company for 15 years from graduation, and really never had to interview in that time. Job promotions or changes within the company were usually based on a wink and hand shake.

Thanks for your moral support!


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[b]Quick update[/b]
I just got a call from the recruiter - I have been asked in for a second round interview. I guess I can't have stuffed up the first one too badly then ;-)

Probably next week. This will be with HR and probably include a psych test.

Stay tuned!


Mark's picture
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This is fun!

Great job Peter. No worries on the phone... simply say, "I am SO sorry", flip it off and put it away. FINE.

Panel interview... KEY POINT: start eye contact with he who asks the question, make eye contact with everyone else during the longer answers, and finish with he who asked the question. Assume no one who didn't ask the question heard your answer, and yet never imply that they did not... meaning, you may have to repeat yourself but that's fine. (Though don't use the same example ten times.)

Before your second, Peter, send me an email and I'll send you some helpful thoughts.

Oh, and something didn't go as they suggested? My God, you'd think you weren't... ummmm... flexible. ;-)

Thanks for sharing... and remember: until you have something, you have NOTHING. All bets are off now, you are NOT "in the lead" no matter what they say, and you have to fight all over again for what you want.

I will take 10% more attitude for 90% less ability (even for you tech guys) every day of the WEEK.

Please tell me you washed your hands in the lavatory after your pit stop, if it was on the company's premises. ;-)

Best wishes, and CLOSE! (If you don't know what that means, send mail.)


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Thanks Mark and I am having fun too. I just thought writing about it in this forum might provide some interest and perhaps a talking point or two.

I laughed out loud when I read your comment about washing my hands! As it happened, I found a local shopping centre restroom so I didn't have to use the company's one. Again, it's one of those little things but I'd prefer to check myself in the mirror away from the eyes (and ears!) of potential selectors! I'll usually make a point of finding somewhere other than the company but close enough to be sure of arriving at the reception desk at 5 minutes to the appointed hour.

I will take you up on your offer of additional thoughts before the 2nd round. I [i]think[/i] I know what CLOSING is but if I only [i]think[/i] I know, then there's probably a lot more... At the end of the first interview I closed by asking what's next, who will do it and by when will they do it (not in those words of course). I suspect the real close includes something about asking for the job?

And yes thanks for the reminder that I have NOTHING. I have two other possibilities on the go (at about the same stage) and while they all could amount to nothing I think three times zero is better than one times zero in this case!

I'll mail you.


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[b]Next Step[/b]
Things continue to move - I have the second interview tomorrow (Aug 9) and the psych testing on Thursday (Aug 10). Tomorrow's interview is with the business HR rep.

The psych test is three parts - an online personality profile, cognitive assessment (verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning and numerical reasoning), and a role play on coaching. These guys are serious!

Today they sent me the URL for the online personality test that asked forced answer questions: From four statements, choose the one that's most like me and another that's least like me. An example of a set of questions were (not an actual sample):

[list]I tend to take control in meetings
I get bored doing repetitive work
I am very talkative
I make decisions quickly

And as forced choice questionaires are want to be, some were quite difficult.

FYI, The company doing the assessment is [url=]CompAssess[/url]

[b]The Interview[/b]
I have boned up on some additional suggestions that MarkH gave me on interviewing (thanks Mark!) and while it's made me realise how far I have to go in becoming a seasoned interview-ee, I also realise that I'm ahead of where I was!

[b]Role Play in Coaching[/b]
The role play is that of a business meeting where they're assessing my coaching skills! I can't help thinking that coaching is something you do with someone you know, through 1:1s for example and the role play will be very un-real in the literal sense. I've never run or been part of such an assessment so if anyone has thoughts on what it might be, how it might be run or pointers otherwise, I'd be very appreciative!

Mark's picture
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Not sure what you're describing on the coaching deal...


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[b]Second Interview[/b]
This afternoon I had my second round interview for this job. It was 1 hour with the HR business partner and one other second level manager.

I felt like it went well. This time round, I give myself [b]9/10 for handshakes[/b] - only 'cos I think it's conceited to give oneself 10/10 for something :-)

[b]Be Prepared[/b]
The corridor-en-route-to-interview-room chitchat threw me a bit. [b]I had all sorts of things in mind to be able to talk about[/b] - the weather, today's news on the telecoms industry etc etc - but all he said was: "Busy?". That floored me a little and a stumbled a bit through something about always busy, always things to be done. Fortunately, it was a short walk to his office (where the interview was to be held).

Again, a number of questions relating to managing people (which is good, because that's why I'm looking at this job!) And again, [b]thanks to having achievements prepared and rehearsed[/b], I had pretty solid answers to them.

They also asked what would my last boss say about my strengths and weaknesses. I believe this isn't [i][b]exactly[/b][/i] the same as the "what are your strengths and weaknesses?" question. There's always the possibility that the ex boss might end up being a reference and so some adjustment is called for. As is standard though, a statement about the strength which relates to the job spec at hand and then a weakness that's carefully mitigated in the same breath was called for - [b]and yes I had one prepared[/b].

Then my turn for questions, got in a couple ([b]again, prepared[/b]) about why are others successful in similar roles in this company, and, specifically for the HR guy on how his role supports the job being interviewed for (I already had a pretty clear idea of the answer but wanted to show some breadth of thinking about the role.)

Then the interview is over! I had been vacillating about trying a formal interview "close" [b]and had rehearsed one[/b] so I gave it a go. Closing an interview is akin to closing a sale. But you don't demand or even ask for a job, you simply say that you want an offer and why.

It was brief (the interview ended abruptly), but I think it really paid off; after I had made the statement, one of the interviewers (The 2nd level manager) quite emphatically said "that's really good to know" and shook my hand as I left the room.

In all the above, I felt tremendously prepared and a good part of that was due to what I've learned from Manager-Tools - thanks guys!

Tomorrow I have competency assessments and part of that is a role play in coaching (Mark, this is what I was talking about in the earlier post - apologies for not being clear). The assessment is being done by a third party. The HR guy today insisted that is was for assessing areas of strength and gaps, in order to better work with the individual once they're on board. He insisted that it was only a very minor part of the selection process per se.

This sounded good to me on two fronts: Firstly, that he implied it was something they do for people they actually hire, and second, that it [i]wasn't[/i] being used as part of the selection process.

I'll believe both when the fat lady sings :-)

One last comment, They have three positions open (in different sections but for pretty much the same job) and they are interviewing three people in the second round ;-)

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Well done on being so prepared!! And it's great the way it's paid off.

As a recruiter, I'd believe them about the personality questionaire. It would be very very bad practice to make hire/not hire decision based on a questionnaire.

Good luck for tommorrow - though, there's a saying about luck being for the unprepared, so I'm sure you don't need it.


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I'm with Wendii - WELL DONE on being so prepared!

I think a lot of folks aren't prepared because they think they will sound rehearsed or fake, but I see that so rarely I have discounted it completely. The risks of being unprepared - in the interest of being "natural" - are so great that I always wish that road on OTHER candidates.

Also... IT AINT OVER YET, and it sounds like you get that.

Have you written your thank you notes? It DOES NOT matter when they will arrive.


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Thanks for all the moral support Wendii and Mark - it really helps!

Now I've also had the psych assessment. Pretty much as expected and how I did just 'is' - mainly a test of my "IQ" I guess. I hope they get what they need from it!

[b]Role play[/b]
The other part of the assessment was the role play on coaching. Mark, your surmise was correct and in line with what I had guessed too: It revolved around providing some feedback for a previously top performing individual whose behaviour had changed for the worse over the last couple of months - rather than coaching per se.

The role play task was to deal with the performance drop, tell them that an opportunity was being denied as a result and get commitment for improvement and to do some development work.

I delivered the initial feedback (using the M-T model of course), then advised (her) that the temporary promotion opportunity was being denied, then gave her more (this time positive) feedback about her taking the feedback and bad news so well and finished up by getting her commitment to do some training (specifically asked for in the role play requirements). I outlined the coaching process model for good measure!

Again, I don't like to boast but the feedback model made it feel so easy it wasn't funny. Of course there's still the chance I just totally didn't get it...

I was at least expecting an emotional outburst from the girl acting in the role play but nothing. She was positive, smiling all through and thanked me for the feedback. They taped the audio of the session (no video, which I thought was a little weird, how can they really assess all aspects of the behaviour with just audio?)

Anyway, again, time to wait and see...

[b]Thank you notes[/b]
As for notes back to the interviewers, here's the situation. I only know the full names of two of the interviewers. I failed somewhat here because I didn't get all the details I should have. Do I send only to those I have the names for or is it better to not send at all?

Also, I know it's somewhere but when I went to review it, I couldn't find the material on the post-interview note! Where is it?

jpb's picture

thanks for sharing, this is really great learning material for me.
pulling for you,

Mark's picture
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I'm sorry this has taken me so long.

Yes, you blew it by not getting everyone's names. I would call the HR contact and get them Monday, while also writing notes to the ones you have.

I don't know where you might have seen our guidance on thank you notes(though maybe it was a blog question?), but here's the abbreviated version: handwritten, three paragraphs: Thank you, specific point noted from interview, and re-close.

Again, keep us posted!


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[b]The story continues...[/b]
It's been a while but things have moved.

This story has been about application to one particular company, I've spared you the details of the others I've been working on. The upshot is that I did finally get an offer from the company I've been talking about. [b]Yay![/b]

But, the old adage comes to mind - [i][b]"beware of what you ask for, you just might get it"[/b][/i] I had two other offers in front of me - for a total of three. Never thought in a million years I'd been in this wonderful but scary position.

[b]Your network counts...[/b]
Two of the three offers had come via contacts I have made over the years and people I had stayed in touch with. I had felt that I hadn't done nearly as a good a job of maintaining my network as the M-T teaches but I guess it can't have been that bad. The interesting thing is that the job I accepted was one I found on ( equivalent).

[b]It's not the money[/b]
The other interesting thing is that I accepted the offer with the lowest salary of the three! The key ingredient being the quality of the opportunity in terms of the job itself. Of course there were many other factors that made the decision very hard but the role played the biggest part in the decision.

I start this Wednesday at a large telecommunications equipment manufacturer in a role with about 15 direct reports and couldn't be more excited :D

So thanks so much to everyone for your help and support - the story continues!

[b]The first 5, 15, 45, 90 days[/b]
My next post will be musings about what the key activities need to be in the first days. I am working on consolidating some of the great posts that have already been made on the forum and of course the podcasts.

itilimp's picture
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Congrats on getting the post you were after. I'll be particularly interested to read your experiences as you get to know your new team. :)

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Congratulations! Glad it worked out. Looking forward to future posts.


jpb's picture

way to go Peter! you rock! I'm looking forward to reading your posts.

Nik's picture

Great work!

This is a wonderful endorsement of how far some preparation and diligence can take you. (And, just as importantly, how not doing it PERFECTLY won't completely scuttle you -- some prep/success is better than none!)

Thanks for posting it. It was inspiring and fun to watch your progress!