What was the most recent stressful event during which you wanted to be seen at your very best? Perhaps for your final oral exam at Uni, for the very first meeting with your parents in law, or for a sports event in which you were competing? Do you remember how you prepared for it? Did you know roughly what to expect before?
Each year, recruiters meet a significant number of people who are in a similar situation and they wholeheartedly acknowledge the fact that going through a selection process can be a stressful experience, especially at the interview stage. That’s what we do at CERN, and we try to minimize this feeling by giving applicants information they would need to be best prepared for it.
Preparation is key, and the perfect applicant would have this in mind throughout the selection process which at CERN, as detailed in this post, involves recruiters and hiring managers in 3 different evaluation exercises: the online application, the video interview, and thefinal face to face selection board. From submitting tailored application documents focusing on relevant experiences and skills, to convincing panel members by giving a structured demonstration of their motivation for a specific post, the perfect applicants provide themselves with the means of standing out from the crowd.
Now, can you succeed in an exam only because you know everything about the process? Would you add make up to your application and try accumulating more knowledge that you would in fact only have used shortly before? Would you push your preparation to the extent of assuming you know what the panel members want to hear?
I remember spending hours preparing for an interview for a job I really wanted. I even designed an action plan on what to prepare the week before. Then, on the stressful occasion, the recruiter asked me to explain their organisation chart, with the names of departments heads, which I couldnt recall accurately. Was this question a subtle way of giving me advice on or an assessment of my preparation?
I didnt get the job, but like all experiences it taught me something: I realised that you cant know everything when you apply. That’s probably what I would answer if I’m asked a similar question in the future. I also realised that an interview remains a short formal evaluation exercise where recruiters are trying to get an estimate of how you would perform if offered the job. It can become a bit artificial when the discussion slides too much into have you prepared your lesson well before coming? or lets see if you are a CBI star?, instead of focusing on what you truly know and master, what youve really learned in and from your past experiences, and who you are. In a sense, the perfect applicant would give a good performance, but being good at the exercise doesnt necessarily make him or her a good professional for the job.
So here are the top tips for this months post: do put energy into preparing for each recruitment steps, but dont ever lie or exaggerate. Be yourself and dont add too much make up, dont pretend you know everything (employers will find you out at some point). Keep it as natural as possible. Be collaborative with the panel, follow the rule of the exercise, be authentic and remember that each interview is a valuable learning experience, whether or not you succeed!