Leadership Blog

Posted By: Eva Grabner | on July 7 2015

Drinking with U2: How my interview initiative paid off

This blog title is probably a bit of a no-brainer to 99% of us, but in my line of work the amount of times I speak with a candidate after they have had a job interview and hear how they missed an opportunity to stand out from the others just amazes me.

Speaking recently to a younger candidate got me thinking back to when I had my first ‘proper’ job interview. This interview was with a five star hotel on the outskirts of Dublin city in a very wealthy area. The boys from U2, Chris DeBurgh and Def Leppard all lived locally and frequented the hotel. I really wanted this job. It was as ‘Secretary to the General Manager’ (yes, back then we were ‘Secretaries and not PA’s)

Needless to say I was a very nervous 18 year old and wore my best red suit. On arrival I was met by the Personnel Manager who interviewed me. We had a general chat about my experience (very little) and my career aspirations (vague), then finished off with a typing test. Now this was done on a state of the art (wait for it ….) electric typewriter!!! Yes, we didn’t have computers back then either.
So, here I am, sitting at the table typing away to my heart’s content when the Personnel Manager ‘is called away’. I finished the piece she had shown me and looked underneath the paper. There was another assignment there. I waited a minute, she didn’t return, so I decided to just do it.

She returned a few minutes later whereupon I proudly showed her my work. She seemed a little surprised that I had also completed the second stage of the typing test but didn’t say anything. Off I went to await the outcome.
A few days later I received a call to offer me the job. I was so excited. I ended up staying there for two years. I loved that job and still have friends from those days.

Eventually I found out that there was another applicant for the job. She was also very good. I was told that my point of difference was that when I saw another test, I used my initiative and completed it without being asked.

Now, I’m not asking you to just pick up the interviewer’s pages and start reading or typing them, but to prepare yourself well before an interview. What is your point of difference? Have one, find one, make one. It could be that small piece of extra preparation that differentiates you from the other applicants.