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Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher knew it, ed she knew that in order to get to the highest echelons of any organisation you may have to change. In her case she changed her voice, she took elocution lessons. As did the Duchess of Cambridge. The people who have changed their looks to enhance their career are legion with very famous examples of Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe) and Carmen Cansino (Rita Hayworth). In recent news they are discussing the makeover of Mr and Mrs Ed Milliband, new clothes, new ideas and confidence to appear like a leader.


But what has this to do with interviews?

When I sit in interviews I sometimes wonder if people realise that what got them there will not get them there. In other words the level of skill in being interviewed that got you, say, a team manager role or an assistant director role won’t necessarily get you a higher level role. What I say is based on my years of interviewing where I have met so many competent people who have bumbled their way through an interview because they think they know what to do. After all, if you have a job then you have succeeded in one  interview!  so you know what to do? Well not necessarily.

The more senior the role you are applying for the more sophisticated the interviewer will expect your answers to be. You can’t expect to achieve a promotion without some thought about the new activities that you will be responsible for and the different behaviours or skills that might need. The questions might be the same ones that you have met before but  it is the answers that need to be different.

Many of the questions you will be faced with will ask you about what you have done and many others will ask you ‘how would you……’. at that point you need to be able to talk about how, if you were in that more senior job you would accomplish the objectives you are being asked about. And then give a good example of something similar that you have done or delivering a part of that process. You need to have insights about really works or what makes a difference.

You need to make sure that you have thought about those parts of the job that will be new to you, you need to consider what the world looks like from that higher perspective. You need, if going to a new organisation, to know what issues and challenges you will face in that job, in that culture.

This can be challenging to do on your own. You will find it easier to develop these techniques of giving sophisticated answers if you prepare thoroughly and practice. This is part of what  career coaches do, they put you through your paces, ensure you understand how to answer those challenging questions and how best to convince the interviewers that you are capable of working at that higher level.


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