When people have devoted themselves to academic research – let’s not forget, they’ve been in education for a good 25 years – they have very little, or no experience at interview. It can be a horrible and undermining shock. Face-to-face communication in front of an interview panel calls for very different skills from writing articles, papers, these, reviews – even managing a team in the lab. And it can undermine confidence at a time when it’s most needed.
We’ve just completed delivering a highly successful “How To Win A Perfect Job!” Programme with doctoral students and post-doc engineers at Oxford University’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering. To English ears, that sounds pretty immodest. Well, listen here,
“Seeing myself during the interview was an eye opener. It really showed me what everyone was telling me before, yet in a way that I finally understood. Also, I loved the emphasis on first impression, body language, voice, and engaging. These are aspects, which I didn’t really understand having worked in a laboratory for the last decade of my life. Finally, I loved when you engaged and criticised us directly. Even hearing and watching the criticisms of the other students helped a lot. The phone call, the CV review, the filmed interview and all of the other engaging aspects were excellent.
A big mistake doctoral students make is to imagine that the only jobs they can go for are just lab-based. We are fantastically lucky here in Oxford. We form one apex of the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’ of Oxford, London and Cambridge where small and medium-sized biotech companies abound. We also have a thriving medical communications sector here that are hunting out highly educated medical writers. The opportunities are many and diverse.
My associate, Richard Goodier of High Growth is experienced in recruiting for senior management in engineering and supply chain companies. He showed everyone what the employer is looking for and how to supply it. I worked on their non-verbal and verbal communication skills as well as goal setting, performance, people reading and etiquette in phone and face-to-face interviews. We mentored and encouraged each individual closely.
There were some surprises. For instance, Richard told us his working hours are from 7am until midnight! He warned that a candidate can expect a phone interview at any time from 8am until 11pm. And it’s as much a test of the candidate’s quick thinking and confidence in taking control of the conversation as it is of their CV or resume.
Many had never given any thought as to how to engage their interviewer so the interview becomes a conversation. And most astonishingly, many had not thought that the interview is just as much for the candidate to interview the company as it is for the company to interview the candidate.
“This course was excellent. When I signed up for it, I was expecting a generic tutorial on what to expect at an interview, how to write a CV etc, but I was in for a surprise. Sarah and Richard did much more than that. They helped us identify our key strengths, they helped us form a more long-term career plan, they put us in contact with key people in the industry and every time, they dedicated a lot of their personal time before and after the course to help us and answer our questions. I could not be happier for deciding to take this course, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a job.”
“Very impressive combination of passionate, encouraging coaching and logical, critical thinking”