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15. Job interview coaching: Why Shirley failed reapplying for her job

During my job interview coaching I meet many varied and interesting people, many of whom have failed to get their previous job interview, even though they are sure they know how to answer questions during an interview. Shirley was one of these.

Let me tell you what had happened to Shirley before I met her for job interview coaching.

She was in her early 40s and enthusiastic and determined to get the job she wanted. In fact, it was her own public sector job she was after.

She had to reapply for it owing to an organisational restructure and the arrival of a new CEO.

She had some anxiety because she didn't want to face losing her job and being unemployed. Searching for work can be daunting at the best of times but even more so in midlife and when the economy is down. Shirley was feeling under financial pressure and had a mortgage to pay.

Shirley was fairly confident and not too anxious, so she didn't come for job interview coaching. She was sure that she knew how to answer questions during an interview, after all, it was her own job.

What happened on the day of Shirley's job interview?

On the day of her job interview everything had gone smoothly, although she didn't have much to say to the panel.

She had faced a panel of three people, one of whom was her existing manager. She had worked with him for over eight years and they'd got on well. He'd been involved in many projects with her and had known what she was doing and how competent she was. It made it easier for her to decide how to answer questions during the interview, after all he knew all about her.

If only she'd come for job interview coaching first she would have realised the fundamental mistake she was making.

Next to her manager on the panel was another person that she also knew. It was the HR manager who had originally employed her. She had a good solid relationship with her and they had recently worked together on an employee engagement project for the Executive. They'd greeted each other warmly.

The other person on the job interview panel was from outside the organisation and someone she didn't know well, but she did know of her. This person didn't ask many interview questions and mainly listened throughout.

If only Shirley had received job interview coaching before meeting this panel she might have better understand the role of this outsider and dealt with this situation differently, but alas she hadn't.

She'd felt very comfortable in front of the panel and hadn't realised anything was missing.

The days after the job interview

After Shirley left the job interview she met friends for lunch. Previously they had tried to persuade her to go for job interview coaching as they knew how important the job interview was for her. She had ignored them.

She told them the interview had gone well and how lucky she was that both her boss and her HR manager were at the interview, as she knew they'd put in a good word for her. She reassured her friends that she knew how to answer questions during the interview and was sure that she would retain her job.

The job interview results arrive

Three weeks later she received the results. She was not the preferred candidate and someone else had been offered her position.

She felt shattered.

"Now what will I do?" she asked her friends, desperately wanting answers.

Job interview skills are also needed

Fortunately, Shirley realised her friends were right: she needed some job interview coaching. She came to me to find out what had gone wrong. How could they have overlooked her like that? She was still bitter about the results and thought it was completely unfair.

As we talked it dawned on her what had happened. She realised she hadn't said enough and why. Having her boss there had not been a good thing after all. She had presumed his prior knowledge would work in her favour and it hadn't. It was up to her to sell herself, he could not do it for her.

She also came to understand through the discussions we had that she didn't really know how to answers questions in an interview when it was her own job she was reapplying for. She realised she didn't know how to talk about her work in a way that made it sound significant, nor how to convince the panel in her interview answers that there was more great work left in her.

She was relieved to understand how she'd held herself back. With sound professional job interview coaching, she went on to learn the skills she needed. 

Could you be "a Shirley" at your next job interview?

  1. Do you know the best way to sell yourself at a job interview?
  2. Do you know whether you will say enough?
  3. Do you know how to answer questions during an interview when reapplying for your own job?
  4. Can you give the panel what they need?
  5. Can you avoid the blunders Shirley made on seeing her boss and HR manager?
  6. Can you talk about your work so it sounds significant?

What happened after her job interview coaching?

Shirley was lucky a couple of months later her public sector agency advertised another position she could also apply for. This time she did know how to answer questions during an interview and was far better at selling herself.

  • She was able to explain her continuing value to the public sector agency in the future. Knowing how to answer questions in an interview about the organisation she had already worked for was much easier in this second interview.
  • She had a solid understanding of the rigours of public sector work, policies and procedures, and demonstrated this convincingly to the panel.  
  • She was able to provide strong behavioural examples to prove that she had the required experience and the skills that the panel were looking for in the future.
  • She showed that she could be relied upon to follow the public sector standards to a very high degree.
  • She was able to demonstrate that she met all the essential criteria that this public sector agency required of her. This was something we had rehearsed during her job interview coaching.
  • And finally, she was able to ignore the fact that there was somebody else on this panel who knew her and she talked convincingly about herself without being embarrassed or influenced by his presence. 

What happened to Shirley?

Shirley proved she really did know how to answer questions during an interview and her answers got her to the second round of interviews. And then finally she got the job. She was so relieved she didn't have to risk losing her house. Not everyone is as fortunate. Do you need job interview coaching?