The Interview

Sometimes, during an interview you might suddenly realise that this is the role for you. It fits your values, your expectations and your criteria for your next role.  If this if you, maybe you should then ask for the job.

It sounds crazy, right? I used to think so. That was until I had a conversation with my mentor about a job that I really, really wanted.

I had been asked to come for an interview with the English Civil Service, and the more I learnt about the job the more I realised that it was the one. I was already nervous as I’d messed up almost every single interview that I had been for. Plus, I knew it was to be a panel interview. Not one person asking me questions, but three!

I was explaining to my mentor how much I really wanted the job, when he told me that if I still felt the same during the interview then I should ask if I had the job.

“I can’t do that, it’s just not done!” I responded.

“Yes, it is,” he countered, “but not often. However, when people do ask, they usually get the job.”

So, we practiced for the interview. As I got used to talking about myself, I started to relax. Then came the crunch question. I pretended to ask him for the job. “Well,” came the feedback, “that sounded as if you were asking for a second slice of cake. Let’s have another go.”

So, we kept practicing it, refining it right down to get the phrasing exactly right. The more I practiced, the easier it became, so that the words slid off my tongue without stammering or losing my newly acquired self-assured voice.

The big day came. There I sat at a big table facing the panel of three people. Directly opposite me sat a woman who chaired the interview panel. She looked kind but I suspected that she would also be very firm. She was flanked by two male colleagues. The interview all went as we had planned. I told my leaving and joining stories. I answered a few technical questions concerning scenarios I might encounter on the job. I even got through a very challenging question designed to explore my decision-making process.

Towards the end of the interview, the Chair asked me if there was anything I wanted to add. This was it, the big moment.

I breathed out and asked THE question. “I would like to ask if I have got the job.” SILENCE.  ‘Oh no’, I thought, ‘that’s it, the answer’s no. The Chair looked me square in the eye and told me that at Civil Service panel interviews it was not normal practice to tell candidates the outcome of the interview. Nearly three decades on, I still see the exact expression as she said those words.

I held her gaze and replied, “You all made your minds up within the first five minutes of the interview, so you must be able to give me some indication.”

With a glint in her eye and gentle creases forming around the edge of her mouth as she fought to keep a smile under control, she replied, “I think that in your case I can say that we will be putting your name forward with a positive recommendation.” Which in Civil Service speak means ‘yes’. Two months later a letter arrived offering me the job.

My message to you is, that if find yourself in an interview for a role that you really want, and it is in alignment with your values and criteria, then ask for it. One of the best ways to make sure you get it is to ask.

- Rosemary Johnson

Rosemary is the founder of My Future Career Academy and passionate about assisting people to successfully navigate the future of work, particularly women. She balances navigating a portfolio career, which includes a commitment to lifelong learning, coaching and mentoring with her artistic side.