Trawling relentlessly through online job posts and slaving over multiple applications with no word of an interview or even a response, I was starting to give up hope. I’d sent countless CV’s, altered numerous cover letters and had networked for weeks but nothing materialized, so when replies started popping up in my inbox, inevitably I was ecstatic. But when I realized they were all phone interviews I started to panic. I’d only ever done one telephone interview before, and to be brief it was disastrous. Fair enough I wouldn't have to worry about an appropriate outfit, or make sure I turned up on time and I could even print out bullet point answers to jog my memory during the call. None of these things eased my concerns. Instead I envisaged myself coming across a stuttering wreck, not a confident professional.
O ye of little faith. The telephone interviews seemed to go well (albeit gruelling) but luck may have played a huge part because thankfully, all the interviewers seemed soft spoken and understanding. It all depends on the company, the recruiter and the responsibilities of the role you’re applying for. Generally speaking, fierce competition, high salary, and excellent job perks result in more pressure for you to prove your worth.
But whether it’s a phone interview or a face-to-face meeting, if there’s anything I’ve learnt it’s this: Never lie. You can embellish the truth, throw in some shameless self-promotion, and even go as far to say that you dabble in a bit of voluntary work helping the grannies because let’s face it, everyone likes a humanitarian. You may do all this, but never commit the cardinal sin of telling a lie you can’t sustain.
At this point I wish to clarify that I have never told an outright lie in my CV; nothing that I can’t back up. I’d like to think that I’m not that idiotic. But for some people it seems quite the norm and no doubt most interviewers have seen it all before; the lies, the begging, the arrogance and the tears.
Earlier this week I went for dinner with my cousin who'd just finished what he could only describe as 'the most rigorous interview he’d been to in his life' "The problem wasn't the one-on-one interview” he said. “It was the group session and role play."
He'd turned up at the company headquarters for a full day of cross-examination along with nine others who'd been selected as the final applicants to fill a vacant role for a trading position. The employer had sat them all in a circle and told them to stand up and introduce themselves as if they were in an AA meeting.
"Why should I pick you over the others?" he asked each of them in turn with a poker face that did not flinch, frown or smile.
The first guy stood up and professed that he could speak five languages: Arabic, Japanese, Farsi, English and Swiss. Impressive until you realise that Swiss isn’t even a language. Lies. But the interviewer decided to expose him in another way. He simply started speaking Arabic which was followed by silence. And more silence. "Cat got your tongue? Sit down." Rule One. Do not lie.
The second interviewee quickly rose to his feet; eager to capitalise on the first guys lost opportunity and brazenly clasped his hands together as if in prayer, begging "You should pick me because I'll do anything you want, absolutely anything." The interviewer drew a sharp intake of breath and seemed to revel in his desperation. "Bad move. Un-tuck your shirt and do a handstand for 10 seconds. Do not squirm." To his credit the guy followed through, got down on all fours and attempted the challenge. Rule Two. Do not lower yourself to such levels.
The last applicant tentatively got up, anxious about what was coming next.
"Tell me something interesting about yourself" the interviewer said.
"Um, well, I like drawing" the man responded.
"Dull. Not good enough. You're applying for a trading role not an art class" the boss sighed with rolling eyes and an exasperated look.
"Um, well, I like drawing naked women." He murmured, blushing at his own audacity.
The interviewer softened his expression and chuckled. "Good save! I’m sure you'd fit in well at our company. Me and the boys like to go visit the strip clubs after work. I like you. Sit down."
Rule Three. If in trouble crack an appropriate joke. Preferably one that will have you remembered.
You can never be too prepared for an interview; after all it's an opportunity to succeed in gaining something that you want. But along with your extensive research it's always good to expect the unexpected: the curveball question, the stern interviewer, an awkward silence. Just make sure you know your worth. You can be good enough without the lies if you distinguish yourself from your competition.