As someone who is looking for work, and who often has to assure employers that ‘I will not get bored and leave’ I am not sure that writing this piece is wholly sensible. Yet I will do it anyway as I truly believe that I am very good at what I do, and that whether I work as an employee or a contractor, whether the agreement is for one day, one year or on-going; I give the project my full focus, and attention.
I am still unsure if I am looking for a job job, or if I am looking to continue to freelance. Their are pros and cons to both options as I see it. Both from the employees point of view but also from the employers. I do believe that the employment market is changing, and I am pleased with the direction I think that we are moving in. As I see it we are moving toward a more contract to contract working environment, with people taking more responsibility for their careers and demonstrating capability and enthusiasm, while employers find ways to remunerate that aren’t wholly financial, but appeal to other key motivators too. This is something I have a gazillion opinions about, and recommend that everyone read ‘Maverick’ by Ricardo Semler.
Over the last year I have probably applied for over 104 jobs. Probably pitched for 20 projects. Amended my CV 65 times. Written as many cover letters. I have probably been on 65 interviews. I have gotten from over 200 applicants down to the last two on 20 occasions. I have learned a lot.
I am still doing the odd bit of Freelance work for some fantastic and incredible clients, but I am yet to find a job, project or contract that is remunerating me in a way that makes me happy. I am still looking for the right thing, and spend my days writing my novel (nearly finished draft one) looking for jobs, researching, applying, thinking, creating and going with the flow.
I’ve just been at Reasons to be Creative - a conference in Brighton, that really inspired me, reminded me that I am a creative person and got me really thinking. It got me thinking about all sorts of things – why don’t I paint any more? Where is the book of poems I wrote in my teens? Am I still an artist if I don’t use typical art tools? Am I getting across in interview how creative I am? Am I also getting across how pragmatic I am?
I really got to thinking about the interview process, and I have some thoughts I want to share:
It seems to me that the interview process is a two way thing, whilst yes the employer wants to make sure that the candidate has the right skills and qualifications to do the job, and they must also check whether this personality will fit into an already existing team, it is the job of the candidate to find out this information for themselves and to find out if the work environment, management style, resources, work hours and financial reward will be right for them. It is also their job to open the recruiters eyes to skills, experiences and new ways of thinking that they may not know they are looking for. In order to want to find out this information and then to discover it the candidate must have a reasonably high emotional intelligence, which in turn is a great skill for an employer to be given insight into at this stage. Emotional intelligence could also be called common sense. Which is not as common as described.
When I interview for a job there are several things I do to prepare myself and enable me to present myself as accurately as I can:
I make a list of what I would be looking for if I were interviewing candidates for this role. I put myself in the recruiters shoes. I answer honestly with anecdotes and examples of situations and experiences I have of situations that I think demonstrate that I have or understand the skills required. I hope that this comes out when I am talking to them, I often ask questions or allay concerns for them before they ask. I hope to demonstrate that I possess the ability to empathise; which I would say is particularly valuable for management positions.
I research the company, and the work that they have done, not to look like a suck up, and not because you should, but because I want to know what I will be doing if I work for them. I want to know the context of our meeting. Is this vacancy as a result of growth or maternity leave for example. Will I be replacing someone? Why are they leaving? How do the people they are leaving behind feel about this? How long have the Company been trading, who are their competitors? Why would I want to work for them over their competitors? What are their plans for the future? How will the person doing this role be involved in that? I make a list of questions I have and I keep them in my mind. I am a mental list maker, I don’t have a post it note obsession (anymore) and although I do carry a notebook everywhere I go, and I do email myself questions and reminders all day long, I mostly make mental lists. Even if I don’t remember every point, the process of doing so secures the important stuff in my mind.
I work out what to wear. This is a big deal for me. A uniform is a deal-breaker. I hate being told what to wear. I hated it at school and I hate it now. I am mature enough and smart enough to realise that what we look like alters peoples perceptions of us. I waited years before I had my first visible tattoo for fear of limiting myself. These days however I always have a small area of tattoos showing at interview. If I am going to be judged negatively I want to know, and this provides me with a chance to gauge the recruiters reaction. I am not a skirt or trouser suit wearing kinda gal. I am a creative person and I like to have that reflected in my outfit. I like to wear dresses (when appropriate, not so great for a get in or a de-rig.) Or Jeans and a T. I like to wear flipflops or my Converse. I am in no way saying I look like a tramp. I used to be a stylist, I really can put an outfit together. I am more than capable of dressing appropriate to circumstance, I have worked with HNW individual and dined at classy establishments but I see no need for heels and a full face of makeup for making phone calls and writing copy. I actively seek an employer who appreciates this. I tend to pick something that is comfortable and inoffensive. Not too much cleavage. Or leg. But not mimicking a nun either.
I do the practical stuff: work out where the meeting is and how to get there – if it is a face to face. Or, find a quiet, but not too quiet place, with good mobile signal, if it is a call and I will be out and about. I email or text to confirm the appointment, and I communicate if I will be late or if I can’t find them. All obvious, but I have been told all sorts of horror stories.
And then I just turn up.
In the interview, I imagine myself already working for them, I ask questions from that stand point, I am never nervous, because for me I am just meeting people and finding out about them, the work that they do, and how I could fit in. For me this is a great pass time. I genuinely like to be interviewed. Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? I am proud of the life I have lived thus far and enjoy telling my story. I ask questions, sometimes probably too many, I have been accused of interviewing my interviewer, but I am genuinely curious. People fascinate me. Stories Fascinate me.
I always end by asking if they have any concerns at this point that are stopping me from immediately being put through to the next stage, or given the job. If they have any I try to alleviate them.
And then I wait.
So far, the results have been very positive right down to the last two candidates on so very many occasions, and then I get an email saying that they have gone in a different direction.
I always ask for feedback, I think it is incredibly important to have feedback, to be able to analyse if you are coming across as you think you are, and to know where you can improve not only your presentation of yourself, but also your skills if necessary.
Recently all my feedback has been that the other person has more experience specific to the role / industry / event etc. And that whilst I have a great overview, and am clearly capable of learning and doing what is asked of me, they are going with the person that has done this before, in this environment, with these kinds of people and these kinds of resources.
I get it, I do. I would probably make the safe choice too. After all we are in a recession, taking risks is risky. That said, being bold is powerful. Actually, who am I kidding, I’d hire me, the risk, the anomaly, the creative thinker, who might just shake things up and produce things greater than I could imagine.
But I would say that.
I welcome your thoughts, and obviously if you want to interview of hire me, please do get in touch. You can email me, or tweet me…..