By Manik Rege
Read: 25 mins.
New to the series? Catch up here!
- Make a Job-Search Strategy
- How to craft a Killer C.V
- Why attach a Cover Letter
- DIY your Portfolio
- Acing the Interview
- How to Resign gracefully
Imagine being out on your usual morning walk. Suddenly, someone shouts from the back, “Hands up! This is the police.” What will you instinctively do? My guess? You’ll freeze instantly. That’s because you’ve accepted what psychologists call a “power frame.”
Think of frames as the lenses we use to see the world. As rules of social interactions, these frames decide how we should think and behave with certain people in certain situations. To paraphrase Oren Klaff from ‘‘Pitch Anything” (2011), we use frames in social situations to express (or respond to) authority and information.
When two people with their own agendas meet, their frames collide. The dominant one absorbs the weaker. In the case I just mentioned, you’ve been taught that when the police commands, you follow … unless you want to get into trouble. So your “civilian” frame is eaten up by the cop’s frame. Ultimately, the decision-making power rests with them.
Uhmm okay … but how is this theory relevant to jobseekers? You see, an interview is a conversation, too. And just like any conversation, it involves two frames that interact with each other.
Our traditional mindset is that the recruiter holds all the cards, asking you questions and setting the direction, while you try your best to respond carefully and impress. The authority in the room is skewed, much to the candidate’s disadvantage. The interviewer has the “dominant frame.”
But being at the mercy of the boss’ mood is never a good idea, and I should know because I’ve worked under two dozen of them. Thankfully, there are some tricks you can use to flip the status quo, and gain command over the situation. In the context of our discussion, this is called the art of “breaking the frame,” which will be the focus of today’s discussion.
By learning this art, you’ll be able to gain more control over the hiring decision than you usually get as one of many candidates. With that promise, I welcome you to the fifth (and second-last) episode of our “On The Hunt” blog series: Acing your Job Interview.
To give you an outline of this article, we’ll be tackling 5 different stages:
- Settling Down
- Questions Matrix
- Your Turn
Let’s start with the first stage: research.
We’ve already established that frame-play is all about power. When it comes to interviews, power assumes two inter-related forms:
Basically, the person who (i) knows a lot about the company, and (ii) can clearly bring skills of importance to the table, is the one who will hold the dominant frame.
Starting with knowledge, you can’t really know more about the company than the recruiter themselves. But you can try to come as close as possible to being an insider, which will give you a fair chance of snatching the frame.
So before you go, try to collect the following data from the website, careers page, job description, blog, news articles or media features, LinkedIn, and other social media. As such, knowing the answers to these questions will help you feel more confident and comfortable in the new environment:
- When were they founded?
- What’s the business model?
- How is their market/industry doing?
- Who are their competitors?
- Who are the key players? (CEO, founders, BOD, VP, GM)
- Who is likely to be your boss? (team leads)
- Who might be your team members?
- Any recent milestones or noteworthy events in the company?
- What are likely to be their goals for this year?
- What do Glassdoor and employee reviews on other job sites say about their culture or working environment?
- What product, process, or communication issues/weaknesses can you spot?
- How would you suggest resolving those problems?
- Why are you needed here? What difference can you make?
- According to the job description, what will your responsibilities be?
- Can you provide an example to prove your ability to handle each responsibility (bullet point) in the job description?
- For the points you can’t tick off, how do you plan to learn and pick up those skills?
We’ve discussed knowledge; now let’s turn to value. Again, the recruiter has probably served in the company for years so they add a lot of value, while you’re not even a newbie, so you currently have no value in the situation.
But you can flip this around (and snatch the frame) by teasing or hinting at the kind of value you can bring to the table. After you’re done with the research, consider creating a 3-page strategy or pitch for the team you’re going to be working with – if your role permits it. This can be a simple list of new ideas or suggestions to improve the quality and efficiency of the company’s output.
Firstly, it shows that you’re a pro-active worker who understands their job and takes the effort to suggest new ideas. In fact, you might recall this tactic from our third episode on cover letters. Recruiters love problem solvers, so going in with a pitch boosts your credibility.
Secondly, it helps you put the ultimate question to bed: “So what will you do if you come on board?” Instead of the recruiter testing you for ideas, and you staring blankly at the wall trying to come up with a response, you’re now tackling the response head-on.
From personal experience, I can tell you that going in with something in your hands- no matter how raw or small it is- will almost always get a positive response. For my case in social media, I created a simple mock social media plan for the brand, which included:
- Overview of social channels & weaknesses (engagement, reach, design)
- Suggestions on how to resolve them
- 1 month’s content calendar (ideas for posting)
- Design & copywriting guidelines
Check out an example for the hostel-hunting brand “LiveIn” here. 👇
With that, our homework should be complete. Now, it’s time for the second step: the actual interview itself.
2. Settling Down
So you’ve done your homework, and you’re ready to roll. Knock at the door 25 minutes early. This gives you enough time to breathe, study the surroundings, and fill out any ad-hoc application forms.
They might ask you for the following copies, so keep them ready in a folder:
- C.V & cover letter
- Passport (front & back + visa page, if any)
- Last 3 payslips
- University marksheet
- Reference letters (if any)
- Certificates of any relevant courses you’ve done
Try not to start with the usual “How are you doing?” ice-breaker. The answer you’ll get is, “I’m good, thanks. And you?” To which you’ll respond in kind. It’s a wasteful formality.
Instead, ask an open-ended question that nudges them to open up, like “So what did you do this weekend?” or “What project has our team been up to this week?” This helps the conversation move ahead seamlessly.
3. Question Matrix
Once that’s done, the real questions will start pouring in, some of which we’ll tackle below. It’s okay to have rough mental answers ready so as to avoid glitching, stuttering, or going blank.
But conversely, it shouldn’t look like you’re reading memorized answers off a script- your tone should feel natural. So you should strike a balance between looking spontaneous and confident.
Here are some questions to watch out for:
- What can you tell me about yourself?
- What are your strengths & weaknesses?
- Can you elaborate on your experiences?
- What makes you unique & useful to us?
- What do you do outside of work?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why do you want to join us specifically?
- What feedback can you offer to the team?
- How do you plan to contribute to us?
- Why are you quitting your current job?
- What will you do if you fail in week 1?
- What will you do in this crisis scenario?
- How will you handle a team conflict?
- How would your boss describe you?
- How’s your relationship with your family?
- What are your core values/ethos?
- How do you deal with a conflict?
- What mistakes have you made this year?
- What are your goals this year + in life?
- Describe your ideal work environment
- How many crows are in this city right now?
- If you were an animal, which one & why?
- What would you do with $1000?
Now let’s discuss how to answer these questions. To avoid speaking too much or too little, follow the “B-STAR” guideline:
|1||B||Brief||Give a 3-line summary or synopsis first so that even if they stop you midway, you’ll have technically answered the question. You’re just elaborating.|
|2||S||Situation||Describe the context or challenge you faced. Lead with an example.|
|3||T||Task||What special role did you play in the overall project?|
|4||A||Action||What steps & strategy did you apply while executing?|
|5||R||Result||What were the outcomes of your work? Did you achieve KPIs?|
Here’s an example:
(Q.) So you worked at Fave? What did you do there?
Briefly speaking, my goal at Fave was to increase our engagement on Instagram through content campaigns. I was responsible for creating a community around the brand. For example, I once decided to harness our fanbase by launching a photo submission campaign for our app. It got 100+ submissions over 3 months, and 10,000+ impressions.
To elaborate on that, we saw that our competitor, Shopback, was using testimonials to increase its credibility. So our marketing team was tasked with the responsibility of creating a sense of trust around our brand.
As the social media lead, I decided one way to do that is tapping into our existing user base by offering them incentives to become our brand ambassador. The “Monthly #HappyFaver contest” would reward RM88 credits to a lucky winner who posts about their experiences while using our app in partner restaurants or spas.
We announced it on all our channels including SMS & email. We received 100+ submissions with our brand tagged and the official hashtag in the post. This led to 10,000+ views worth of market exposure for our brand since the posts were viewed by the submitters’ followers as well.
This is, to date, the official hashtag for our brand, even after I left 3 years ago.