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Home » Applying » The Job Interview

Preparing yourself for the job interview

Congratulations! You are invited to a job interview or to the next round of the application procedure of the young talent programme that you applied for. You want to make a good impression. This section of our website provides you with two kinds of information to be well prepared for your job interview:
  • How recruiter tests if you will be the right person on the right place
  • How you can test if the young talent programme will meet your expectations

3.2.1 How recruiter tests if you will be the right person on the right place

Recruiters of young talent programmes are looking for future managers. Managemer is an interesting and diverse role with different responsibilities and challenges that need to be addressed. Future managers need a set of hard and soft skills:

Hard skills
  1. Result Focus
    As a manager you need to realise targets and objectives. Objective setting is not enough. Every action you take is one taken with the end result in the back of your mind. So think of examples and situations where you achieved your targets or the targets that were set for you by the outside world.
  2. Planning
    A competent manager has a vision and sets targets. In addition a manager works towards these targets by planning the available resources. As candidate of a young talent programme, explain when and how you realised a planning of resources, money and people. In addition, emphasize how your planning helped to realise the targets.
  3. Risk Management
    To avoid blind spots in the organisation of a company, the new leaders of the future must pay attention to emerging risks. The recent financial meltdown showed that risk can have a major impact on the operations of an organisation. Even though you probably have little experience in risk management if you do not have a broad working experience, you can maybe look at past situations and how you took control over concrete risks in your environment.
  4. Decision Making
    The competency of decision making allows a manager to make correct decisions based on evaluation of risks and returns of each possible option. In order to make intelligent decision, you must encourage input gathering from others when appropriate. Additionally a competent manager sticks to his decisions unless other events occur that changes the balance between the risks and returns of the chosen option. In preparation of the job interview, list the top 5 decision you had to make in the past and explain how these examples show your decision making competencies.
  5. Customer Service Focus
    As a future manager you will need to understand the needs and desires of both your external and internal clients. And in response to their needs you need to deliver the required quality and service with your team. Therefore, think of any situation where you had to deliver results, products or services to customers. Then indicate how you showed your customer service focus.

Soft and interpersonal skills
  1. Attentive listeners:
    Managers need to take into account the opinions of their colleagues as well as their customers. If you do not have the patience to listen and only pay attention to your own ideas and believes, you will not last long. If you are interviewed as a potential candidate of a young talent programme, you will be tested on these skills and you should show during the interview that you are a attentive listener.
  2. Good communication skills:
    Communication skills are another asset of successful managers. In order to convince others and in order to turn your vision into results, you have to be an effective communicator. You have to formulate in a brief but comprehensive way what you want others to hear. Be confident and clear in both in written and oral communication. The recruiters will test your communication skills during the interview but some application procedures involve a more profound way of testing these skills via cases, group work and presentation of results.
  3. Respect for diversity
    When like-minded people have to solve an issue, the result is from a lower quality in comparison to a solution proposed by a diverse group. Organisations are aware of this and strive for multi-disciplinary teams. Diverse backgrounds, characters and competences are positive if they are properly managed. Therefore, as a future manager, you have to show respect for diversity. Experience abroad is an important advantage but if you do not have this experience, try to think of situation where you had to obtain results as part of a mixed team.
  4. Team Development
    When you are put in the position of a manager, you are supposed to work with a team. A team must realise targets and objectives together. In this team people will leave and new ones arrive. In addition, teams have to cope increasingly with changing environments and this with a higher frequency. Therefore, a manager is more and more the glue that orients a team to a common goal. You have to deal with conflicts and manager expectations of your team members. Any situation where you proved to be a real team leader will be indicated as a plus by the recruiting team.
Next to these skills, recruiters might test you on your personal effectiveness. In an interesting book on personal change, Stephen R. Covey highlights "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". We list these habits underneath for information. It might be interesting to assess yourself on each of the habits.
  1. Habit 1: Be Proactive
    Taking initiative in life by realizing your decisions (and how they align with life's principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Highly effective people take responsibility for their choices and the subsequent consequences that follow.
  2. Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
    Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.
  3. Habit 3: Put First Things First
    Planning, prioritizing, and executing your week's tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluating if your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals, and enrich the roles and relationships elaborated in Habit 2. The next three have to do with Interdependence (i.e. working with others)
  4. Habit 4: Think Win-Win
    Highly effective people genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in their relationships. Valuing and respecting people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
  5. Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
    Using empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.
  6. Habit 6: Synergize
    Combining the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Effective people know how to yield the most prolific performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modelling inspirational and supportive leadership. The last habit relates to self-rejuvenation;
  7. Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
    Highly effective people balance and renew their resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable long-term effective lifestyle.
Source: Wikipedia - The Seven Habits of highly effective people, Stephen R. Covey.

How you can test if the young talent programme will meet your expectations

In order to check if the young talent programme will meet your expectations, we provide you with some global insights in the European market of young talent programmes.

Throughout our research, Become A Trainee revealed how some qualitative programmes outperform in the market of young talent programmes:

  1. The set up of a personal development plan

    They set up a personal development plan for each of the trainees. If you are young and ambitious, you all dream of a steep career path and all benefits linked to it. And if your career is an important part of your life, you better plan how to realise your professional objectives. A lack of proper career planning can lead to people stuck in one job for several years or competency development in a sector or a domain out of your interest. In the worst case, it can pull down the ambition you have and you end up in a vicious circle of disappointment about your career progression.

    That's why a personal development plan is a real added value when you start a career. Become A Trainee's research showed that a lot of young talent programmes do not use personal development plans to discuss the further career steps during and after the programme. The more qualitative young talent programmes in the market guide their talents in a professional way. So when you have a job interview for a young talent programme, ask whether your career steps will be monitored in a structured way via a personal development plan.

  2. A mentorship pool with senior level profiles as a personal coaches

    In order to learn fast and continuously, a lot of businessmen and women have a personal business mentor. A business mentor is someone who uses his own business experiences and his own life to support upcoming new talents. A good mentor is above all a good coach who spends time with you and is persistent to get the best out of you. It is someone who takes time to listen to you, understands your ambitions and needs, challenges your ideas and aspirations and teaches you how to reach your goals. Try to look for a mentor in the same business as you want to work in, a seasoned professional who worked in the same sectors, functions and geographic regions that you have in mind.

    With a mentor you will feel more comfortable to control all aspects of your job. You can reduce the time and become more efficient so that you can spend more time in getting familiar with your company, business, sector, ... Or use the time that you free to improve your project results or even to spend more time for your personal life.

    In a young talent programme you have to maintain a fast learning track to realise the expectations of your employer. However, as a young graduate everything is new: the working life, the business, the company, your colleagues, ... A mentor will provide support to deal with the new situation. Therefore, we believe that qualitative young talent programmes have a pool of senior professionals in their organisation that can take up the mentor role for the new hires of the young talent programme.

    The best-in-class young talent programmes identify such a pool and have mentorship programme for their young talents. They organise events to bring their young talents into contact with potential mentors. Afterwards, the HR-department follows up the mentor activities. So during your interview, you might check if the company has a structured mentorship approach. But remember, even if they have, the return of a mentorship programme is directly linked to what you put into it. Invest time to talk with senior people about their experiences and advice is a basic tactic of a successful manager.

  3. A clear and transparent link between performance, rewards and growth opportunities
    As young graduate it is important to have a clear link between your performance and the rewards. These rewards are not necessarily financial rewards. The effect of financial rewards is limited to about three weeks but salary increases and bonuses are needed to attain a normal level of satisfaction. Other examples of rewards are:
    • Being staffed on an interesting project
    • Being staffed in a position with significant growth opportunities
    • Being offered the opportunity to go abroad
    • Receiving recognition from top management
    • Being staffed in a team with other high potentials with challenging team objectives
    • Having the opportunity to participate in a special training course or other learning opportunities
    • Being offered an interesting position when you leave the young talent programme

    All these reward types must however be linked to your performance during the young talent programme. But Become A Trainee's research showed that a lot of companies fail to do so. A significant amount of programmes apply a conservative reward policy and keep all rewards equal over all participants during the entire period of the young talent programme. Most of the programmes take into account the performance during the programme in the job offerings after the programme.

    When applying for a young talent programme, check whether the company has a clear reward policy and if good performance is rewarded adequately. If you are ambitious you do not want to be treated equally to your young talent colleagues during the programme. Do not only ask if the financial rewards are linked to performance. If you start a career, financial benefits cannot be the main driver of performance. If you perform above average, the company can decide to invest in career opportunities, interesting learning opportunities, opportunities abroad or opportunities to work with senior high potentials.

    The best-in-class young talent programmes have a clear and motivating reward policy. The reward policy can be linked to your personal development plan. If this is the case, you can be confident that your career is monitored. Professional young talent programmes excel on these aspects.

  4. A broad number of projects with a clear indication of project's content, timing and expectations

    One of the negative results of the survey was the management of expectations when it comes to the projects assigned to participants of a young talent programme. The survey revealed that the communication of the project's content, timing and expectations is lacking or incorrect. If you do not have a clear view on the project's content, timing and expectations, the following can occur:

    • The project takes longer than foreseen because the business responsible did not have a clear deadline in mind. You are stuck to one project in one department for several months while you have no idea when you will be able to finish the project.
    • The objectives are not challenging at all and you have the impression to be an administrative support. Learning opportunities are limited and competency development is lacking.

    In an ideal situation, the project content will help you to develop your competences to reach the objectives of your personal development plan. Furthermore, the deadline of the project is predefined. The project deadline is often set by the business requestor, someone with a managerial role within the organisation. The project answers a certain need for the business requestor and he or she is committed to give you the tools and resources you need to reach the project objectives. The business requestor will validate important decisions and milestones and will be the most important stakeholder when you present the project results.

    During the application procedure, you can ask a set of simple questions to find out how structured the project management approach is within the young talent programme:

    • In the list of projects, is the project's content and timing clearly defined for each project?
    • Does the business requestor of the project indicate what he or she expects from the management trainee?
    • Do you have a project methodology?
    • Does HR indicate the core competences needed to turn a project into a success? Can I link these core competences to my personal development plan?
    • Who will track the progression of the project?
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