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Interviews: Remembering it’s a 2-way process

by Richard Boyd - 08/02/2017
"Interviewing Tips"
Round 1
Interviews: Remembering it’s a 2-way process

Many people new to the market see interviews only from their own point-of-view, e.g. they only prepare to answer questions, not to ask them. However, despite the pressure of the moment it is important to remember that it is a 2-way process.

They are interviewing you but do not forget you are also interviewing them.

Yes, you might want a job but do you really want this job? Is there a better opportunity somewhere else?

Do you really want to get this job and then spend time looking for something else, when if you had done your homework, properly in advance, you wouldn’t even have bothered to apply in the first place?

In addition, it is easy to have a good HR department who make everything sound wonderful, whilst all around is crumbling. So your interview questions to your potential employer are vital.

Don’t wing it, prepare them well in advance (if you can, memorize them) list and then priorities them. Work out your plan of attack, how do you want to come across hard-hitting, thoughtful... …Just like your C.V. if you haven’t written and rewritten them at least 20 times they probably are not as good as they could and should be.

Just remember not to be intimidated. Yes they might be older than you. Yes they might be more senior than you, so what?

There are a multitude of questions that you can source from the net, some of them very good. So, go seek.

Empowerment clues to a great job!

The key to any good job (let’s do the pay, location argument later) is empowerment. You need to know, if you are going to take that job, that once you have found your feet, you will have the necessary “muscle” to make a difference.

So work out some key questions to test whether or not they really will give you the budget you need, the support staff necessary… …find out if your line-manager really does make the decisions that s/he is meant to, or are they just puppets with someone higher up pulling the strings.

Ask your potential line-manager

“Who was the last employee you wrote a letter of commendation for?”

It is a massively overlooked gesture, it only takes 5 minutes, it flatters the hell out of the person concerned and produces a nice warm feeling all round.

What’s more, people remember that gesture for a lifetime!

Unlike that bottle of German wine (I like my wine, why do want to insult me with cr*p), the box of chocolates (I don’t even like milk chocolate) pay bonus (what $500 for all that work, what a joke), we’ve all had so many that I bet you can’t even remember how much the last one was!

Better still if they can tell you, you know that you are in the right place.

The people clues to a company!

People are the key to any organization. Your line-manager will be one of the biggest ingredients to your happiness or otherwise.

A good one and your on the way up, a waste of space and you will stay in the same position or worse, until you decide to leave. You need to find out if that person is organized or disorganized.

Organized = good and it means that that person is on-top-of-things, which means your working life will be proactive. It means that you will not spend your working life having to things at the 11th hour and waste valuable time fighting a rear guard action.

So make sure that you have a few “tactfully” worded questions to ascertain how organised that person is.

Do you team build?

An easy way to spot a company which has very little people management skills (don’t be fooled by that 9001 ISO fluff, in every organisation that I’ve worked in it hasn’t made any difference, whatsoever) and, therefore, is a cr*p company to work for, is to ask about their team building programme.

You are talking about away days, time spent on all aspects (you do not mean the usual meetings and other fluff) your talking business + team + fun + individual career building programmes – things that help to bring people together and keep a team happy. Happy employees = more productive employees = a great place to work.

So just because your interview time is up, that’s only round 1.

Round 2
Most machines break when you thrown a spanner in!

I like to throw some spanners into the works and see if the well-oiled machine grinds to a halt. One of my favourites is “I would love to talk to a few people in the company, is that ok? Do you mind if I wander around?".

If they are slick they will already have people lined-up… that’s OK, talk to them. But over the years I’ve found that it’s the people on the ground floor that hold the secrets to an organisation – I’m talking about cleaners, janitors, porters… (forget security they are breed apart).

If you smoke step outside and hang around, there will always be someone there (a comrade-in-arms), strike up a casual conversation, start of gently “nice day, weather… type stuff”.

Once the conversation is flowing lead up to “wow the last time I was here was x years ago and it looks like things have certainly changed, what’s this place like now?”

They will tell you in exactly what they think; they are the type of people who see everything in black & white. If they say things are on the slide, you know that they really are!

The next one I like is useful when the company does not operate PRP or overtime bonuses “how do you encourage & reward a member of staff who performs exceptionally?” Their reply to this one tells you the type of company you are about to start work for.

Lame answer = lame company… Just make sure that you can qualify exceptionally in whatever context you are in.

Visual clues to a company!

Get a guided tour of all the buildings (unless your applying to a large corporation) or walk around on your own (if security let you). What does the place feel like and look like? Scruffy and neglected, poorly equipped… = a bad job.

Check out the local area, what are the demographics? High social deprivation = low quality admin and support = bad job (for UK job applicants you can find these stats on every local authority web site).

Ask yourself


Do people look happy?

Do people look busy?

Do people look focused?

Do people look unduly stressed?…

All these clues tell you about that company.

Media clues to a company!

Depending upon the size of the company the media can hold an insight into that company.

For example if we assume a large F.E. (further education) institution number of employees 2000+ upsets its employees by imposing a wage freeze or is trying to downsize a department, one of the easiest ways for employees to hit back is via the media.

A quick letter pointing out mal-practise in an area, poor working conditions, failing to adhere to correct health and safety procedures… … can quickly be picked up by the local media. OK, none of previous will interest the nationals but it will get local exposure.

If the local rag does not publish on-line, a quick trip to the local library a scouring through the backlog of publications will soon unearth any potential info. Yes you will get a denial of some sorts from the company in question but if you keep spotting articles, well there is no smoke without a fire!…

Current trends are clues to a company!

If you know and understand your market you can also spot the clues to whether or not a company is on the up, treading water or worse on the slide. It’s easy. Are they implementing current (and more to the point, well thought out) trends, ideas, technology… ?

No, then are they about to, in the near future?

No, oh dear, even if you are desperate are you sure that you even want to go for that interview? Well OK let’s make this one a practise session, that is if you need the practise!

Qualifications are a clue to a company!

Having worked in the F.E. & H.E. sectors for 10 years, I know the value of qualifications. They fall into 2 categories from a good educational institution they are worth having from a bad one they are a waste of space.

The problem is how does an employer know which is which? Hell, I can tell you how to get various qualifications by just turning up!

There is a massive difference between “degree level applicant…” and “must have a degree in…”. The former is elitist whilst the later makes perfect sense.

Give me experience any day of the week! So if you have the experience but not the right qualifications, don’t beat yourself up about it, there are people out there who think like me, you just have to find them.

Alternatively if having the right qualification is the only way you can get to where you want to be, what are you doing reading this? Get on with it.

Clues to the big con!

Location, location, location. I was born in London, I used to like working in London, well I used to. Until I woke up to what has to be one of the biggest cons going. Working in London is crap, it’s dirty, smelly, takes forever to get anywhere and NO ONE PAYS ENOUGH!

If you want a comparable job done -- pay me a comparable wage! If housing costs 3 * the national average + insurance blah, blah, blah.

Then you need to pay me at least 3 * as much, or else forget it. I do not need you, you need me, because I am good, I am really good and I really make a difference. Don’t try to give me some proxy living allowance I don’t want it. I want the real deal!


OK I hope you understand the points I am trying to make. Don’t get suckered into the big is best philosophy make it work for you, not against you.

Think laterally at all times. Is it better to have a pay cut and potentially move sideways in order to have a better quality of life? Only you can answer that.

If nothing else, I hope that after reading this article you feel empowered and more positive about yourself.

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