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Why I Suck At Non Structured Job Interviews (and 3 Best Ways To Digest Feedback)

Let's talk about structured job interviews vs non structured ( or let's have a chat) job interviews.


I have never ever never managed to secure a job where an overall process was very informal, let's have a chat, non structured job interview. I have had a lot of interviews over the last 10 years and simply to this date I have never managed to crack the code as to how to do well at these let's have a chat job interviews. If you know how, please let me know. Help the confused person over here. Perhaps I should ask more questions than they ask me?!


Key reasons.

I never know what I am being assessed against, if I am saying the right or wrong things, if I can be myself, if I am going to be judged or not. I am aware that many of these 'let's have a chat' interviews can be super subjective and I am aware of what kind of conversations go behind the scenes to discuss candidates but there is something that fundamentally does not sit right with me.


I have always performed better at structured, formal job interview where I knew if I needed to pull together a presentation, prepare for a competency based interview, analyse and present business case as one way of assessment, I would research, prepare and apply reasonable assumptions. 99% I always get offered a role when I am invited to a structured job interview. I simply thrive better in a structured process where I know what is expected from me, what I will be assessed against (as in values, competencies/behaviours a hiring organisation expects their employees to demonstrate).


Current work situation. (2021)

I have given myself a target of 12. months to find a new role here in England. My manager is aware of it. I have been in my current role for job for just over 4 years and I would not like to stay any longer than 5 years in total in the same role and same organisation. I am very mindful of impact this can have on my career, learning, knowledge, networking and upskilling myself.


I am a person who likes to change jobs every 3-5 years, I would be happy to stay longer in one organisation if I had an opportunity to change roles and progress. This is often subject to so many factors when you are an internal candidates, for example, there has to be an opportunity you would like to apply for, you have to do well at a job interview if you get shortlisted, you have to like a hiring manager, and it has to be in line with your vision (at least for me, I need a vision, a plan, something that makes sense to me.)


LinkedIn and Failed Non Structured Interview (again!). Virtual interviews.

Informal approach. A few weeks ago I was approached on LinkedIn to discuss an opportunity with a large organisation. I did my research and I said I would be happy to engage in a conversation. I had a call with the recruiter. He explained how this would be a new role, it was just approved and that he is compiling a list of candidates for a hiring manager to review. Not too many candidates he said. I was happy to proceed and shared my general CV. No job spec was shared with me at any point.


First Interview. He then told me that the hiring manager was keen to speak me. She and I had a first interview, very laid back and informal. Let's have a chat type interview. When I reflect on it, I was myself. I took her through my CV, career journey, aspirations. She also explained what she was hoping to achieve by having this new role created, current gaps in the structure and help she would need. The interview lasted about 45mins.


Second Interview. I was then invited to attend another interview with her and another lady from the team. Again no structure, let's have a chat interview. It started very informal with a few lines around we wouldn't ask you competency based interview questions, we know you can do your job. I was informed that this was simply to assess if I could indeed be a great asset to the hiring manager and compliment her gaps and the rest of the team to give them what they need. However, I was asked some competency based interviews questions around - give us an example of when you had an opportunity to be creative, what are your career aspirations, do you see yourself as an HR director. I was again myself and honest. I must have done well, as I was invited to a third interview with a senior person.


Third interview. I was invited to a third interview. It was suggested it would be good for the final candidates to get a perspective from another senior person about the strategy and direction she sees the organisation going in as a HR Function, short conversation. The interview was booked for 30 mins. The interview turned into an overview of my CV again, tells us the reasons why you would like to work for us, and competency based questions - give me an example of how you manage a difficult person as an example. She mentioned how the organisation is quite relaxed, laid back, no political games, but very little about her vision about the HR function. She made it clear she only had 30 mins with me as she had another meeting and towards the end I only had a few mins left to ask a question. I asked one of the gold questions I often ask - fast forward 12 months ahead, if I am successful in obtaining this role, what will I have achieved and done for the team and organisation. She said briefly, I would expect you to understand the organisation, added value etc very brief.


This was it. 4 conversations.


A few days later I got an email saying I wasn't successful.


I then asked for feedback - could you please give me 3 things I need to work on to do better next time.


Response was following (copy/paste from the email):

  • Slow your pace a little and add pauses in – for example you asked questions sometimes in the interview but never paused for me to answer or comment.

  • Think about how you vary your style depending on the audience and how they are responding to you. I would try to convey in an interview your own self-awareness of your personal style and engagement strengths. Try to highlight more about how you know how to flex your style depending on those you are working with/for (i.e. what happens if you meet those less passionate about the topic, not as committed, or less comfortable with change and talk about what you can do to influence and use different levers to get the right outcome).


Digesting feedback.

1. Acknowledge. I do get quite energetic, engaging, and positive in my interviews, it is who I am. I find it difficult to change as a person when I am given this feedback. However, above feedback is noted and will be mindful of this behaviour I seem to have shown in this interview. Perhaps it was bit harder to read body language over a video call after all as I don't remember when I asked a question and didn't pause for them to answer. Again, simply confirms that I am not great at these let's have a chat job interviews. Had it been a formal interview, there would be a series of questions for me to answer over a 5-10 min where I know I am being assessed against my answers and I would normally ask questions towards the end. I am grateful to have received this feedback as many do not get any feedback and simply get ghosted.


2. Reflect. Regarding my style and self awareness, I wasn't asked any specific questions around how I learn about myself or build relationships. Had I been asked, I would have explained how I do this and contract with every person I work with where I learn about their style and adapt my style to ensure we have a successful working relationship. Someone told me long time ago that we can either accept feedback or reject feedback. It is up to us as to what we want to do with it rather than let it play on our mind. This feedback did play on my mind for a few mins as I was processing it.


3. Prepare. All in all, not bad for my first interview after 4 years. I have learnt a lot, it is nice to get feedback, I will take it on board and move on. I did have a few moments where I did feel disappointed as I genuinely thought I did well and the organisation was a great size and sector for me.


Let me know your questions and if you have any experience to share by sending an email on info@focusyourself.co.uk


Best wishes


Sanja






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