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The best candidate doesn’t always win the job offer… The candidate who interviews the best does (1)

This observation is SO TRUE. I remember once, as marketing and sales director, interviewing a young lady for the position of marketing specialist. I liked her: she was dressed beautifully, obviously intelligent, asked great questions and knew how to succinctly answer questions by giving specific examples of her work career and not just spouting clichés. I was basically hooked. After the interview she said, “I have a favour to ask you. I’d like to come in tomorrow and just observe this company . . . see how it does things. I won’t get in the way, I’ll just come in for awhile and then leave.”


You know what? She got the job; she beat all the candidates hands down. She came to the company the next day, dressed just casually enough, and glided her way through the various departments. By the end of her hour-long stay, other departmental directors were urging me to hire her. Which I did. And which was one of the best choices I had ever made during my stint of marketing and sales director.


What did she do that was so great? She showed me that she wanted to observe the company—its culture, its employees, how supervisors interacted with their staff. She asked me specific questions and didn’t just consider the interview to be a platform upon which she could give an “It’s-All-About-Me!” speech.


In the last blog, I discussed how observing and listening are crucial skills for anyone aspiring to become a leader. These skills are just as important for your acing a job interview.  Here are some tips involving your listening and observational skills. If you do these in an interview, you WILL stand out.


  1. DON’T JUST GIVE CANNED, PRE-FABRICATED ANSWERS. Really listen CAREFULLY to a question. Certainly, prepare what you want to highlight about yourself days before the interview; know the points you wish to emphasize. But don’t be so eager to talk about your accomplishments that you end up giving the interviewer lots of verbiage that doesn’t even answer the question.
  2. PAY ATTENTION TO BODY LANGUAGE. Note what the interviewer is doing. Is she leaning towards you? This is a good sign. Does she have her arms crossed? Not so good. Recent psychological research has shown that mirroring someone’s body language and / or facial expressions is a way to bond with another individual, to let them know, “I am like you, and I also LIKE you.”2 Just as storytelling can actual bind the neurons of the storyteller’s brains with those of the listeners, this body-language mirroring also results in almost subconscious empathy. Of course, during a job interview, you are in a subordinate position, so don’t necessarily put your feet up on the desk if the interviewer does that! (I don’t see this as ever happening . . . but you get what I mean.)
  3. RESEARCH THE COMPANY BEFORE THE INTERVIEW. Yes, yes, doubtless you’ve heard this before, but this is crucial to your interview success. Don’t just find out the basics: what the company does, who is its CEO, CFO, etc., where its branches are located. Find out about its strengths. Weaknesses. The more you can find out about where a company is headed, the more you can persuaded the interviewer that you share the company’s goals and can contribute to its vision.
  4. ASK KICK-ASS QUESTIONS. Here’s where your research can pay off. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a position within a publishing company and you’ve read that digitization of books is impacting hard-copy books worldwide. Ask about that during the interview! For example, an observation followed with a question as the following will make the interviewer sit up and take notice:“I understand that digitization is negatively impacting sales on books in this country. Is this a concern for you; and, if so, how will you be integrating digitization within your one-year and five-year plans?”Ka-POW. You have just demonstrated your knowledge of a challenge facing this company, and you have shown a real interest in hearing how it plans to deal with it. Also, you have couched the question in a non-threatening manner. You have made the statement theoretical and general; you’re not assuming that this company’s sales have faltered (though they probably have). How could an employer not be interested in you? It’d be even better if you have read about some interesting measures that other companies have taken, and manage to bring that up in the interview.

I have met many incredibly gifted young people here in Melbourne who are struggling to find a job. Firstly, many people want to move there, as Melbourne is often voted the #1 most liveable city in the world. The result? SCADS of candidates are lining up for each job being offered. You may not like it, but just having the needed skills for a position isn’t enough to get you hired. You have to make the interviewers notice you. And how do you do this?

By showing the interviewer that YOU are noticing THEM.


Feel free to email me at arashap@eloquentenglish.com with questions or comments.

My website is http://www.eloquentenglish.com

Technical Skills Can Land You a Good Job, but it Won’t Help You Climb the Job Ladder

According to a recent article in Business Insider, “Australian businesses are making do with mediocre senior executives because they can’t find enough with the right skills to motivate and get the best from staff.”1

 Everyone knows that Australia is hungry for people with IT, engineering, and meta-data skills. Everyone knows that these skills can (eventually) land you that first job.

But those skills won’t hoist you up the job ladder. For real advancement, you need to have seriously good people skills. It’s those soft skills that are needed to become a leader; as this Business Insider article states:

“Critical soft skills are missing or under-developed: empathy, problem solving and creativity, and fostering collaboration and innovation.”

The article cites a LinkedIn study that observed that 69% of human resources decision-makers in Australia and New Zealand say that it’s difficult to fill leadership positions.

That’s over two-thirds! And it’s not for want of available person-power: organisations receive hundreds of CVs daily from people stuffed with astonishing technical credentials.

Leaders are those who, through example, can inspire creativity and innovation. The militaristic leader who could bellow “Just do it!” is becoming a thing of the past. Indeed, many studies have also shown that active listening is a skill needed by all leaders; Forbes published an article entitled “Six Ways Effective Listening Can Make you a Better Leader.”2

The Virgin Group founder Richard Branson agrees: “If you want to stand out as a leader, a good place to begin is by listening,” he said.“Great listeners are often terrific at uncovering and putting in place strategies and plans that have a big impact.”3

Problem is, people are so busy checking out stuff on their cells phones that the crucial skill of INTERPERSONAL OBSERVATION is beginning to become a bit . . . obsolete. It’s hard to pay attention to your fellow humans when Pokemon beckons.

Don’t let this happen! If you can start honing your observational skills early, the better a colleague you’ll be. The better a leader you’ll be. And those skills can be used right at the beginning: at your job interview.