"The harder I try, the luckier I get ..."

"Hi Lily, can you talk? I've got a Group Marketing Executive position at a local company and I think it's right up your street. I'm confident you'll get short-listed, if you apply."

It was two weeks ago when I took that call from a consultant I knew at a local recruitment agency. After a quick scan of the job description on my lunch break, I knew I had an interesting opportunity on my hands. I gave the agency the nod and they moved me straight onto the company's radar - the joy of working with a recruitment agency!

Only a few hours passed and I received a call asking if I could attend an interview in the next day or two. No messing about on this one!

I carried out my interview prep in the same way as always: a search for background company info; a website check; the listing of additional marketing-based competency questions and the rehearsing of my answers. I felt good to go.

I like to think I can hold my own in interview situations. I’ve become used to being put on the spot during university life and at work; so much so that I eventually learnt to swim rather than sink. There's that survival instinct in all of us and, at the end of the day, I figure if I make a fool of myself, I'll never have to see any of those people ever again … a win-win!

Check, check and check again.

Stage 1 …

After a day at work, I was ready to attend the last interview slot of the day. This first-stage interview was very practical and assessment-centre like.

Task 1 was to proof-read 900 words of copy from a PR interview with the Business Director and amend any mistakes.

Next, I had to write an internal PR piece, 2 pages max, introducing myself to the business. I had 20 minutes. 20 MINUTES?! I can’t dry my hair in 20 minutes! Bye bye potential new job …

The following part of my 1st stage interview involved two competency tests: numeracy and literacy.

So, how did it go?

I left the interview to a call from my mam asking how It'd gone. I told her that I'd done my best but, in truth, I feared the worst.

I'd taken the spare time to go back and double check the 900 word PR piece. I'd been convinced that I'd missed some glaring errors in the document that the marketing manager had said was ‘littered’ with errors. I knew the source of my worries and paranoia.

A year earlier, my course leader at university had told me, "Your grammar is appalling… but you went to a state school so there's nothing we can do about that now." That's always stuck with me and has made me doubt my capability, despite never having had complaints from employers about my copy-writing abilities.

The next day I was therefore surprised, but thrilled, to hear the recruitment agent say that the company wanted to see me again for a final stage interview.

Round 2 …

Upon arriving at their headquarters it was brilliant to hear feedback from the marketing manager. She'd been very impressed with my attitude AND my writing style PLUS my excellent eye for detail in proof-reading. (Take that Mr. Course Leader!). That gave me a brilliant boost for the start of the interview, and the rest went swimmingly too.

When I left, I felt very optimistic about my chances.

I knew there were only two of us left in the running so waiting for that call became the most daunting part. When Friday and Monday had been and gone, I knew I hadn’t got the position.

I came into the office Tuesday morning to an email from my recruitment agent letting me know I hadn’t been offered the position and that feedback would be sent when she was back in the office.

Heavy sigh. Back to square one.

Or was it? Ten minutes later, I received a message from the marketing manager who'd conducted my interview:

‘I'm really glad you connected on LinkedIn. I don't know what feedback you got from the agency, but the decision not to offer you the role was excruciatingly difficult.

I hope it's of some comfort to you that we were extremely impressed by your interview and the only reason we didn't offer it to you is that I saw so many similarities between you and I. I felt you would approach things in the same way as me, would be strong in the areas where I'm strong and that we would get on like a house on fire.

I felt you would do an excellent job, but it pays to have balance in a department and so I chose the candidate who was very different to me. I'm sure you won't have any difficulty finding a role and wish you every success. It's rare I am so impressed and thank you for surprising me!

If you would like any more detailed feedback on the interview, feel free to email me."

Time for a takeaway …

That's the second interview I've attended where I missed out through something that was beyond my control. The feedback was valued, but hard to take. Throughout my education and working life, I've taken feedback on board from family, friends, teachers, lecturers, work colleagues, recruitment agents and potential employers. I've always tried to act on it, but what was I to do here?

On the one hand, I couldn’t see what I could work on to improve myself or my chances for next time. There was no obvious new skill or additional sector knowledge I could focus on. I seemed to be at the mercy of luck.

But, on the other hand, the marketing manager's feedback did give me great comfort. It told me that, if nothing else, I was obviously in the frame for the type of work I'm targeting. If I keep going, I'll get there! As a result, I'm treating it as an ‘It was meant to be’ situation.

And so my hunt goes on….

Lily Johnson

Determined Job-hunter

The journey of a job-hunter - Blog 2

Keywords: job search, job-hunt, career, marketing, interview, recruitment agency, competency, feedback