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Career Advice

Have you got the X Factor?

Like it or not, reality TV is here to stay and the TV talent show format in particular is likely to be with us for a long time to come. It is easy for us to sit there in our comfortable living rooms, watching as ambitious, driven and often foolish wannabees give their all to a so-called expert judging panel. We cheer and applaud some whilst we laugh and cringe at others.
But they all have the same goal in mind , they want to be voted the best and to ultimately win the show. The judges (and the public) decide who the best is, based entirely on their performances.
It struck me at the weekend when watching X Factor ( yes, I admit it – I watched it! ), that the entire process is very much like getting a job – the audition and boot camp stages very much like the application form and shortlisting whilst the bit that really matters – the  getting in front of the judges at the end is like the interview.
And like all TV shows, X Factor has evolved its’ own set of catchphrases and clichés – usually spouted by the judges. Whilst these may often seem like stock responses and may be seemingly delivered with fake sentiment at times, they do actually have relevance for anyone in an interview situation. Here are a few of our favourite X Factor clichés and how they apply :

“You made that your own.”
Whilst for a singer, it normally means interpreting a song in their own unique fashion, for an interviewee, it can mean making sure that you stand out  – hopefully for the right reasons. The rise of competency interviews has meant that it is very easy to prepare stock responses – to tell the interviewer what you feel they want to hear. Text book responses are all well and good  ; but be imaginative – within reason. If asked for an example, use an example that truly happened to you – that you can speak about with passion and enthusiasm. From my experience of being an interviewer,if you are undertaking a full day of interviews, after a while certain answers can all blend into one. An interviewee who maybe gives an unusual example or who answers a question well but in a non-predictable way usually stands out. And after all at an interview, that is exactly what you are aiming to do.

“ You upped your game / You stepped it up tonight.”
Just as the contestants realise that the live performance is their final opportunity to show their best, the same applies for the interview. At that point, it is all up to you. Your performance at interview is what will stand between you getting the job or not. You won’t get a second chance. Therefore you need to pull out all the stops to make sure that you perform at your very best. Extensive practicing for a contestant equates to extensive preparation for an interviewee. Proper preparation will serve you well – from researching the company to preparing answers; it will prove to the interviewers that you truly are giving your all.

“You have to connect with the audience.”
The cheers and boos by the studio audience usually dictate how well a contestant has done just that.
In an interview, it is essential that from the off, you build up a rapport with your interviewer. Basic manners, shaking hands, waiting to be told to be seated, having good eye contact, seeming genuinely interested when they speak,- all are ways that you can ensure that you do that. If you are facing an interview panel, make sure that no matter which one asks the question, that you answer and make eye contact with all of them. This can be disconcerting at times, if it is a large panel or if one panelist appears to be constantly heads down, taking notes ; however it really is essential. As soon as you leave that interview room, each one of those panelists will be discussing you and comparing notes. Make sure you have made an effort to connect with every one of them.

“ You have the likeability factor.”
This usually refers to a contestant, who may not necessarily be the most talented, but who has a certain appeal that the audience seem to like. The interviewer will be trying to determine your likeability and how well you are likely to fit into their team and company culture. If you appear to be too arrogant and cocky, to an interviewer it may appear that you will cause disruption in their existing teams. If you reply to a question with a sarcastic response, again it does not bode well. If, when asked about previous employers, you launch into an endless tirade of negativity about former colleagues and managers ; no matter how true this may be; in an interview it will appear that you are the one with the issue and alarm bells will ring. Do your best to find out about the company culture and values before the interview and you will more adequately see how your own personality would fit in.

“ You need to show us how much you want this..”
Of course, contestants will claim that their entire life until this point has been worthless ; that they want nothing more than this and through tear filled eyes exclaim that it is everything to them. Whilst nobody would expect you in an interview to behave exactly like this- no matter how much you really want the job – it is still important to prove you really want the job. Be alert during the interview ; show enthusiasm when your interviewer is discussing the company and the role; appear genuinely interested when they are speaking and when you are answering their questions. Do not sit there, apathetic , with a couldn’t care less attitude.
Proving you have researched the company and having questions to ask them at the end are all ways you can prove too that you have taken time to prepare and that you want this opportunity.

Take some of these into consideration when you are next preparing for your interview and you are well on your way to ensuring that you hear the magical response – “ It’s a Yes from me…”

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