The Morphing of Candidates into Cattle
Fellows and Associates' consultant Phillipa Field discusses the importance of letting your personality shine through at interview.
Unemployment is still a major topic in today’s economic
climate with the Office for National Statistics releasing that 2.63million individuals in the UK are still unemployed.
Granted, this has fallen by 46,000 in the first three months of the year but
nevertheless it is still a burning issue with so called professionals
practically falling over themselves to give advice on how to nail the interview
process. I am not disagreeing with any of the advice given, I am simply posing
the question of what would happen if this advice was not so heavily relied upon
and you simply were yourself? I appreciate that it would be ludicrous to think
your personality alone will win you the job, as your qualifications and
experience play a major role in the application process. But if you’re planning
on carving out a career with the company in question then maybe the real you should
make an appearance from under all the preparation and practise.
In the world of intellectual property it is more often than
not candidate driven and most applicants that are qualified and have relevant
experience will not have a great deal of trouble finding a role within the
industry. However, there are some occasions where recruitment is in the employer’s
favour, such as when they are taking on graduates in trainee roles (or at the
moment for attorneys with a biotechnology background).
The application process can be a long and drawn out affair
for interviewers with many struggling to differentiate from the long list of applicants
that they meet. Lauren Weber recognises this point and suggests that they
should be regarded as individuals rather than cattle in ‘The High Cost of
Treating Job Seekers like Cattle’. The problem with following the advice posted on various websites and reading
material is that the sheer volume of it makes it readily available to both the applicant
before and after you in the process. Therefore, it is imperative to let your
individuality shine through to ensure that the interviewer remembers you. Thus,
as Weber is also inclined to think, individuality provides a positive solution
for both the applicant, in the respect that they are offered a job, and the
company, as they are not left with a disgruntled potential customer who no
longer buys into their business and its products and values.
Many articles offer the advice that an answer to an
interviewer’s question should not last over sixty seconds but I am inclined to
think that in order to give an educated and informed response this rule may
need to be breached. Speaking from personal experience, I have been guilty of
speaking for longer than this in interview but I never saw it as a problem and concentrated
on conveying what I wanted to say rather than keeping one eye on the clock. I
believe that if an applicant is consciously keeping track of the length of
their answers they may leave out important facts in favour of being concise.
Body language can tell the interviewer an enormous amount
about an applicant’s behaviour and personality without them even being aware.
However, interview advice stresses the importance of noting your body language
and consciously trying to display it in a positive manner. If a candidate was
concentrating on how to portray themselves in a positive light through their
body language then it may come across as contrived, however, if the applicant
was simply themselves then the positive and relaxed body language should flow
naturally. The website Career Builder announces the importance of ‘The Ps’ which stand for Prepare, Practise, and
Perform. The term ‘perform’ seems to
strip away any individuality of the candidate and encourages them to take on
the role of the perfect employee in interview.
And finally a piece of advice that reflects the message I’m
trying to get across; the building of rapport. If rapport is gained in the
interview then it could be apparent that the applicant will fit in well with
the existing team. The question is how can the applicant build rapport when
they are busy concentrating on their positive body language and teeing up their
rehearsed answers to those dreaded killer questions?
Up until this point I have focussed on the pitfalls of
following advice literally and how it can mask your true personality in
interview but I have not delved too deeply into why this is an issue. I
introduce a point raised by David Roth in the article ‘Why an Army of Clones Can’t Win' and highlight one perspective of why it actually
is a benefit to show your true colours. He suggests that there are four core
personality types, outlined by the Effectiveness Institute, of which different personalities suit different job roles and
responsibilities. The types include, the Analyser, who is driven by results and
motivated to follow the rules, the Persuader, who is capable of fun in the
office but has their eye on the bigger picture, the Stabiliser, who thrives on
harmonious relationships and agreement within the team and the Controller who wants
the job done well and wants it done fast. Roth suggests that the employers need
to gain a “commitment to understanding” what it is that makes each individual
employee work efficiently and effectively, both individually and as part of a
larger team. So, in order for the company to gain maximum profitability it is
in their interests to consider the applicant’s individual personality in order
to match it to a specific role and what it entails and demands.
I am aware that this article may have taken a slightly
pejorative tone and I do want to stress that there is some advice that I agree
with but feel that it should be considered more as common sense. These include
being prepared, having a positive attitude and wearing the correct business
attire, all of which should be garishly apparent to any applicants attending an
interview and if it is not then these individuals will probably not be the best
applicants for the role. It seems to me
that it is in the best interests of both the applicant and the company to
understand the importance of personality in interview, as it can improve the
functionality of the company, as suggested by both Roth and Weber and they
don’t gain a shock when the applicant finally unleashes their true personality
in the workplace.
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