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A Recruiter’s Perspective: How to stand out in Interviews

“Give me Six Hours to Chop Down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening my axe”

–Abraham Lincoln

The Most Frustrating thing of a recruiter

I have had the privilege of working in three different African Countries: Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. Throughout my past 10 years in Trade Development, specifically with Mobile Money, I have been tasked with the unenviable charge of recruiting and raising teams from scratch and leading these teams to exemplary performances.

It goes without saying that I have interviewed close to 1,000 individuals in the process. I can tell you that was one of the most frustrating things ever. I realize now what predicament different employers face when trying to head-hunt for the right people.

Organizations these days want to spend less time and resources developing people for their jobs. The training that they want to give is specifically for their products. It is the dream of an organization to land an individual who has the correct blend of skillset, prowess, attitude and drive in order to deliver. Many organizations are not looking for people to baby-sit. Unfortunately for you, this blend is not the focus of the school system to provide or equip you with!

Will the Interviewer Hug you?

So at times when we are interviewing people for jobs, and after going from one exasperation to another, if and when an individual that fits the profile of what you are looking for, you feel like getting out of your chair and hugging them…literally. You have just unearthed a gem…a rare one at that. One thing is for sure, two things that you can take to the bank: that degrees are as common as table salt these days, and appearances are a myth—you cannot judge a prospective employee by his/her CV.

Your Biggest Mistake

The biggest mistake that many people do when they are looking for jobs is what they do (read don’t do) between school and an interview. This is what I call the forgotten times. Yet these are the most critical moments of one’s life. It seems to me like all people do is to apply for jobs. They seldom work on themselves! We need to borrow a leaf from some of the movies/series that we watch. Do you remember the latest installment of the TV Series 24, when the Chief of Staff was ‘prepping’ the President just before his appearance at the British Parliament?

It was ruthless. It was pointed. It cut deep. There was a general concern that the President was losing is grasp of things, and that his health had deteriorated. So the Chief of Staff and the Communications Director put him to the test, using dummy questions, sometimes anticipated and hard hitting that the President would probably face.

Needless to say, this is what happens in many developed countries. The key word is PREPARATION. What are you doing between your graduation and sitting in an interview room? What are you doing between your current job and sitting in an interview for the next? What are you doing between this current position and your promotion?

Preparation is a conscious effort you put. It is an intentional thing. You have to plan for it. Some people wait for a chance before they can start preparing for it. Then when they show up for the interview, they appear like zombies. They have crammed several tactics from Google overnight. You think that a smile here and there, shaking my hands firmly and speaking audibly are the little tactics that will wow me to give you a job!

Think again. An employer is able to sniff through a pretense with so much ease and show you the door diplomatically sooner than you think.

Your preparation has to be intentional, sustained, planned and thorough. Remember this: You are not just preparing for an interview; you are preparing to make a difference in the earth! There is a major distinction between these two mindsets. Here are a few tips of how you can keep yourself sharp in order to pass an interview:

  1. Constantly Reading: Your greatest asset is not your Degree or Diploma. Your greatest asset is your mind. What have you been doing with it lately? As an Interviewer, I will be able to easily see a mind that is alert, independent and sharp. Such minds are what we need in boardrooms. We don’t need people waiting to tell us what to do. We need people pestering us on better ways of doing things in the organization. Such people are readers. They relentlessly research and read instructional and inspirational content. Many people stop reading after graduating. If your drive for reading is to pass an exam, my friend, you have not been preparing yourself to make a difference on earth; you have actually been preparing to pass an interview, and in my interview, you will fail.
  2. Physical Fitness: If you come to my interview sweating like you have been climbing a mountain, just about out of breathe, it tells me that you have been doing nothing with your body. Anyone who engages in daily physical fitness routines are actually again sharpening their minds. They are learning to push themselves, lead themselves and have victory over themselves. They are more alive, happy, and joyous and it easily shows the way they behave in the interview. It costs you nothing. Do it.
  3. Personal Goals: “Tell me about your next five years” is a common question. Mark my words. If an interviewer finds someone who eloquently, inspiringly and passionately shares their plans for the next year, they will stop all traffic to hire you…regardless of your qualifications. I kid you not. They would rather train you than lose you. Many people are not clear of where they are going in life. These three things in their order should help you with this: CBA. Clarity, Belief, Action. What are your goals, how much do you believe in them and what Action have you been taking about them lately. We are not looking for waiters. We are looking for men and women in motion.

In closing, remember that what you are doing on a daily basis counts a great deal towards how you will not only perform in life, but also pass an interview. My question to you today is: Have you done your very best to prepare so far?