The four things that will get you hired

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When you are applying for a new role, there are four aspects of you that are going to be assessed by your prospective employer or project leader. And only four. These are:

1. Do you ‘know your stuff’?
No one is going to hire you unless you can demonstrate that you understand the technical subject matter, sector, jargon and current practises of the role; in other words that you have an accurate map of the ‘territory’ and know where to go and what to do.

This means it is really not a good idea to wing it too much on your previous unrelated experience, unless you are sure you can show that it is an ‘analogue’ of the role. For example if you know TV production you could work in radio production.

Naturally your qualifications and relevant experience count here. Are you a SQEP (Suitably Qualified and Experienced Person)? Knowing your stuff is a fundamental requirement to getting you hired.

2. Are you good value for money?
If you are going for a defined role with a defined salary and conditions package, this may not be so relevant, since it is assumed if you want the role you are happy with the package on offer.

Where value for money kicks in is where there is an element of a beauty parade – perhaps you are one of a number of consultants being considered for a role; each of you may have been shortlisted based on CVs that suggest you all know your stuff, so now it’s down to horse-trading on price. Consultants I hope won’t mind me quoting the saying ‘We’ve established what you are; now we’re haggling over the price.’ (although this referred to a subtly different profession!)

So if you don’t know how the job will be paid, it would be wise to have pre-considered options for your fee – fixed price for fixed scope, day rate, paid on deliverables etc. Don’t under-sell yourself since if you do, you will regret it every day and this might de-motivate you. Equally, knowing what your competitors charge gives you an advantage of course.

3. Do you have the right energy levels?
This cannot be underestimated, and is often completely misunderstood by recruitment consultants. Your prospective employer wants to know that you bring an appropriate level of personal energy to the team. I stress the word appropriate: this does not mean you have to be a whirlwind or someone who ‘kicks ass’ at all times – this may just demotivate, annoy or wear out any team you join, if they are steady performers; on the other hand the employer may indeed be looking for someone to inject some much needed pizzazz into a lacklustre team. 

You will have to assess this on the fly, which you can do by asking the interviewer early on to tell you a bit about the team– this can often have the effect of opening up areas of concern or gaps in the team that they are trying to fill, and crucially it may give you a huge amount of information that lets you get your pitch right.

Team members are individuals and naturally have differing levels of energy; if you demonstrate at interview that you understand this and have strategies for dealing with introverts, extroverts, steady plodders and whirlwinds alike, this will give you an edge. If you appear too gung-ho, as in ‘I work ‘till 8 every night and I expect my team to as well’ this will ring alarm bells – these days employers have to be aware of stress levels, flexible working and carers’ arrangements etc. Conversely, if you work best in a steadier and considered way, and they are looking for a superhero on steroids then it’s probably not a role for you.

Thus it is important to impress the interviewer that you have an appropriate level of personal energy and can rise to meet the challenge, yet are sensitive to the energy levels of others, and crucially how to get the best out of them.

4. Can they work with you?
This is probably the most important of the four criteria, and the most overlooked. In assessing this, the interviewer will be looking for points of similarity and difference that gives them an impression of what you are like to work with as a person. Do they trust you? Do you have experience that accords with theirs? Are you passionate about what you do, and how do you show it? (tip: you will probably speak louder, faster and have more bodily movements when you are)

This criterion of ‘fitting-in-edness’ may be something that the interviewer is not even aware of in their own consciousness as it is essentially an emotional response. This does not devalue it in any way, since most decision making involves an emotion at some point in the process.

The interviewer may be imagining you working with the team, responding to instructions, dealing with difficult issues and trying to imagine how you will behave in those situations. They might ask you, and your response will be critical (some psychometric tests try to put you into a stress-response frame to assess your likely behaviour).

Having satisfied your interrogators with the other three qualities, your ability to demonstrate rapport, intelligent response and a high level of humanity is likely be the clincher.

Find out more about starting / developing a career in project management

Tim Lyons

Posted by Tim Lyons on 19th Aug 2015

About the Author

Tim Lyons is a programme and project manager, currently working on the Crossrail/Elizabeth Line programme. His project experience has been gained over a number of years and he serves as a member of the APM People SIG committeee. Tim holds national and international qualifications as a coach. An ex-broadcaster, he studied language and communication and writes about subjects where projects, coaching and communication intersect.

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