Awkward interviews: knowing when to say no

University_of_liverpoolI had an enjoyable afternoon at the University of Liverpool this week, talking about job applications, CVs and interviews to ARA North West and the Archives students at LUCAS. As part of an annual careers event, my talk came between an overview of graduate recruitment trends from Alex Buchanan, and an interesting account of the work of a lone professional from Liz Sykes, Records, Archives & Information Officer at the Together Trust in Manchester.

At the risk of making a huge generalisation, of all the information professionals we encounter at Sue Hill Recruitment, archivists are often very good at writing CVs. I suspect this is because many of them are trained historians, and are used to presenting clearly written, condensed accounts of historical data. 

My audience had more questions, and more visible concern about what to expect and how to prepare when I came to talk about interview techniques. To get the discussion going, I asked what was the worst thing that anyone could remember happening in an interview. The first answer that came up was “Realising that I didn’t want the job that I was being interviewed for”.

This is an interesting one, and something that I’m sure has happened to many of us at some stage. I can remember re-reading a job description the night before an important job interview and realising that I really wasn’t interested in over half of it. The first thing to say about this is that there is nothing wrong with deciding that a job is not for you in the final stages of the recruitment process. An interview is as much an opportunity for you to get a feel for the job, the organisation and the people you might be working for, as it is for the people on the other side of the desk to decide whether or not you are the person they want on their team. 

What do you do in this situation? Should you say to the panel halfway through “Really sorry, I’ve changed my mind, I think I’ll go now” and make a dramatic / embarrassed exit?  Probably not. This will create a bad impression, and it could prejudice your chances later on if another, better job comes up at the same place. Just as bad, later in your career you might end up being interviewed by one of the same people working in a different organisation. Don't forget it's a small world and people have long memories.

Far better to grit your teeth, face up to the realisation that you have nothing to lose, and carry on with the interview. Reserve your polite rejection for later, should you actually be offered the job. If you do this, you are likely to be far more relaxed for the rest of the interview, and will have the benefit of some extra interview practice without the stress of waiting for the final decision.

Thanks to Jacquie Crosby, David Tilsley and Alex Buchanan for inviting me, and for  hosting a thoroughly well-organised event.

– Donald Lickley

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