Moving into the Workplace

Moving into the Workplace

Change of any sort brings both excitement and anticipation but also sometimes a sense of fear. Change is a time of leaving the place that “you know” and entering a strange place where “you do not know”. This is never truer than when you first move from education into the workplace and you are faced with the search for employment.

To someone like me, a 50 something, it is hard to imagine what it would be like for someone going into the wider world today, taking on a different society to that which I entered when I finished my education. It would be easy to think that what is required to succeed in this vastly different world would be fundamentally different to that which I required when I finished my education back in 1976. But this is only partly true as, while the skills required to achieve in today's workplace are different and will constantly need to be updated, the personal attributes required are the same as ever. Against this background I thought it would be good to note these attributes, in short the qualities which I look for in a job candidate.


Most interviewees are apprehensive, this is to be expected. Ironically the doubts which assail most candidates are not limited to age or experience as almost all interviewees have some concerns around the job they are applying for and what their responsibilities will be; the truth is those fears are also shared in equal measure by the employer too!

The easiest way to demonstrate that, as a candidate, you have both maturity and stability is by listening and demonstrating the fact that you are paying attention. Active listening is hard, it takes practice especially during a job interview, however the rewards are great if it is performed correctly. Simple steps, such as taking written notes, clearly shows that a job candidate is engaged in the interview process and it also helps their own understanding and recall concerning the potential role.

Waiting for the opportunity to speak takes patience but if the 80/20 listening/talking rule is adhered to when questions may be asked, hopefully in an enthusiastic manner, they will be relevant and should therefore challenge and engage the interviewer. Challenge the interviewer? Yes you did read that correctly. Despite most candidates steadfastly waiting until the conclusion of the interview to ask their questions, the fact is that those who engage and question during the process can turn an interview into a discussion and in the process a candidate into an individual.

During an interview I look for simple indications, in particular honesty and sincerity in the candidates answers, to start to make a judgement of character. A good example is an appropriate sense of humour which usually indicates someone who will integrate well with their colleagues. Questions around the expectations of the role can show a level of diligence and reliability, especially of these are relevant and show a level of understanding of the business concerned. Above all, loyalty is compelling - either to their school or previous employer. Moaning or complaining based on previous experience should be avoided at all costs.

Many candidates like to fall back to their comfort areas and talk about their exam results.  Although these show the ability to learn they should not be relied on, after all your CV should cover this information and it is likely to have been the key that unlocked the first step of the interview process.

Ultimately though, it is preparation and personality that will secure employment.

And preparation is all. While it seems obvious, researching your potential employer's business and products is a must, and yet so many candidates do not take this step. Although seen as ‘old fashioned’ by many, personal grooming and dress, along with clean shoes and a neat appearance are hugely reassuring to the interviewer, as is punctuality. Nothing will sink an interview faster than a candidate turning up late for their appointment. No matter the excuse being late for an interview always underlines an inability to plan ahead, indeed sometimes unfairly, but nevertheless once the impression is given it is hard to overcome.

Finally at the end of the interview remember to take the opportunity to talk about anything that you feel has not been covered. It’s fine to mention your hobbies and personal interests as long as they are relevant to the role; team sports and marathons are good indicators of those that can work with others or apply themselves to a single task – think about the role and highlight your experiences that most apply to it. Above all, as the interview concludes make sure that there is a next step - a simple question such as: “I know you have other interviews but is there any reason you would not consider me for the role” often will open a new dialogue and give the interviewer chance to express doubts, and the interviewee the opportunity to assuage them.

In conclusion I would like to leave you with a favourite quote of mine from Dale Carnagie the man who wrote a book called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, he said: “a journalist who interviewed hundreds of celebrities, declared that many people fail to make a favourable impression because they don’t listen attentively.” My advice is to go out to impress at your interview by first listening and then applying the best of your achievements.                 


Mark Squires is Communications Director for Lumia Devices at Microsoft UK and writes for our Thought Leadership Blog. Read Mark's full career profile.