It’s a highly searched for topic and one that will return millions of Google results; how to pitch yourself during an interview.
We’ve never followed the crowd at Peakon, and that remains true of our interview processes too. I want to share with you my top tips and tricks you should learn for interviews, whether it’s with us or someone else, that you won’t find listed in many other help guides!
Reinventing the interview
Interviews have, in many ways, become a complicated and messy process. For some reason, honesty and transparency aren’t key aspects of an interview, and so an unnecessary system has been created where interviewers try and make candidates sweat, and the same candidates exaggerate their experience in order to secure a job.
I’ve hosted hundreds of interviews throughout the years, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something wrong with interview processes. Many simply follow the same overused templates and formulas, and the meeting process has almost become fake and superficial.
With that in mind, our interviews at Peakon are completely different to what you’ll find elsewhere. It’s still a dance where both parties have to show why they are the right fit for the other, but it’s carried out based on what I call an “honesty policy”. This means that we lay all of our cards on the table from the get-go, and we want our candidates to do the same.
No lies. No fluffed up answers. No generic, researched soundbites that you’ve found on the internet. We just want people to turn up, show us who they are and what they’re about, and in return, you’ll see Peakon for what it really is too.
It means that there are no grey areas, and there aren’t any unwelcome surprises if you get the job and join us. This is important, as a survey by Glassdoor found that a huge 61% of employees said that their new job realities were different to the expectations set during the interview.
How to pitch yourself
So, how would I recommend pitching yourself?
There are some fundamentals that remain true for any interview, regardless of what the position is. You must first think about what you truly want. Why do you want to work there? Is it the marketspace? Is it because of the senior leadership team? Or do you just want a career change?
Once you know the answer to the why, it will give help you to display the natural level of passion and commitment that interviewers want to see. Sure, you could fake this at any interview, but how long will you last in a job by trying to fake passion?
Alongside commitment, there are three key traits you should be displaying, what I call LAT: Loyalty, Attitude and Tenacity. You need to display an insatiable hunger for the industry, the product, and the team. You simply can’t coach LAT traits to someone, and without these, there’s no point a company hiring that person.
Loyalty – Demonstrate why you want a particular position at a particular company
Attitude – Show your passion for the position you’re applying for and the industry you’ll be working in
Tenacity – How determined are you to succeed? Has there been a time that you’ve failed, and how has this determination helped you bounce back?
For me, underpinning these traits is my “honesty policy”. I want true and genuine answers at all times, not fabricated stories or fluffed up experience. Is there an area you struggle in? Don’t try and flip your weakness into a positive, just be upfront with me. The aim is to build a collaborative relationship here, and I want to help my candidates excel in the areas where they feel strongest, as well as helping them to develop in the areas in which they feel less confident.
I’m not expecting to be wowed, I’m expecting you to turn up as the best version of you. But an interview isn’t a one-way dance, it’s a two-sided conversation, and the company must also display the best version of themselves too.
With that in mind, you have to get personal. If someone offers you a job, you’ll be working under that person for a long time, why would you not want to know key things about them before starting? A study from CIPD found that only 31% of employees trust their managers, so make it a habit to ask the questions that other candidates don’t, and build this trust from the start.
Ask about targets and what needs to be done to achieve them, ask about the product and the industry, and, something many candidates miss, ask about the employees that are currently doing the job. Are they hitting the targets? How are they being achieved? You need to know what success looks like for a role before you take it.
This brings me nicely to some of my pet-hates. Never ask a question unless you genuinely want to know the answer. I’ve caught candidates out before who have asked questions simply because the internet has told them to do so, not because they genuinely want the answer. Easiest way to avoid this? Simply bring a pen and paper with you and take notes.
And then there’s the basics. It seems obvious to state these things, but I’m amazed at how often candidates miss these. Don’t be late. Think you’ll struggle to make an interview time? Be honest, and you can rearrange with the interviewer. Speaking of the interviewer, be sure to get their contact details beforehand. Not only will it allow you to do your own research on them before your interview, but you should know who to ask for when you arrive.
The research that you do should extend to the company too. Who are the senior management team? What clients do they work with? What does Glassdoor say about the company? Do they offer a free trial of their product or service? You should never ask an interviewer a question that you could have found the answer to yourself.
Finally, and as I’ve touched on previously in this article, stay away from internet-based cliché answers. The interviewer wants to hire you for who you are, and this is especially important in companies who place a high importance on culture; pretending to be someone you’re not, as will be costly to both parties. Quite simply, people that get the right result out of an interview are those that prepare, and are comfortable in their own skin.
Why I believe in my interview process
Some companies will continue with the same old, stale processes, but if you’re reading this piece, I’m going to assume that this isn’t what you want from a company.
I don’t claim that my interview process is the best in the world, but I don’t need it to be. I’m always adapting and evolving it. I’m not trying to be clever or deeply psychological in my approach. I just want to know who a candidate is, where their passions lie, and if we will work well together.
And, on the final day of a new candidate’s first month, when we go for a drink to celebrate, I don’t want to hear about stats or numbers. I just want my new team member to say to me “I’m so happy that I chose Peakon.” If they do, then I know that our first meeting at that interview was where it all started.