Adrin Shafil

Petrofac Drilling and Completions Manager
Last Updated: October 19, 2017
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Career Development
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After 531 unanswered applications, and 11 other interviews blundered, you are desperate for a job. Any job. Ambling down the hall to the recruiter's office, a sense of foreboding looms in your psyche, your sweaty palms betray your inner-torture. Your lungs wheeze when the HR manager comes into full view, your knees suddenly weak with an involuntary spasm. You croak your name, and offer a limp handshake. You mouth an insincere greeting, while your facial muscles try to scrunch a sorry attempt of a smile. The tension in the air stifles your attempt to lighten the mood; The interviewer's visible boredom forges an invisible force field between you, an unfortunate by-product of insomnia and routine. The dialogue forges ahead with a flurry of attacks on your credentials, and the lackadaisical rhythm of your rebuttals cause the conversation to spiral into a familiar abyss of failure. Your hope vanquished, your defeat imminent, you leave with your tail between your legs.

So what's next? Resign to the fact that you'll have to opt for minimum wage or join a circus? Let's not wallow in your sorrow. Drag yourself up, dust your depression off, and let's get working on your interviewing skills. What, you thought that interviews are just Q&A sessions and dumb luck? Fortunately for you, I'm here to point out the mistakes you've made, and give you some tips to correct those opportunity killers.

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You Wore Failure on Your Face

You are guilty of letting your previous failures get the best of you. Yes, in difficult times, you were downsized. Yes, nobody from your old life appears to even care. Yes, you feel dejected and embarrassed. And yes, you thought you would never have to apply for unemployment cheques.

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Fortunately for you, no recruiter knows about your burdens. They don't know you haven't eaten for three days, and you are minutes away from being evicted. What they do need to know is, that they need you more than you need them. Make them believe this fact. Your belief and confidence in yourself, will expunge their doubts. Your credentials, while it might not entirely fit the job description, may not the end all be all, because they made the first gesture by calling you into the room. So, exude the confidence of somebody in control. I wrote another article on gaining confidence, "Command the Room: 5 Incredible Tips to Influence with Confidence and Charisma", but you don't have time for reading yet another article. You seek immediate relief. I'm not going to give that to you. Read that article, practice, and go to the next tip.

You Never Framed Your Message

The key to getting through person(s) who have a different view than you, is to disrupt their frame. How do you do this? What are frames? Frames are context of how the information is presented. For example, the method I am writing this article right now, is in an unveiled condescending manner, designed to nudge your ego so that you will feel compelled to better yourself. The idea of changing the frame of a person is to manipulate the way information is presented, to increase the chances to influence, alter decision making and judgement about that information. For the same message, different people will have different frames, or context that is dependent on their belief and conditions. At the start of an interview, both the recruiter's and your frames, are different. Your job disrupt the interviewer's frame, to fit yours.

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In the movie Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith shows up at THE interview, the one that will make or break him, in an outfit akin to a homeless man, streaks of paint all over his face, jacket/body. He even reeked. The managers scoffed and asked him what would others in the company say if the managers even considered hiring somebody that didn't bother wearing a clean shirt to an interview.

"He must've had really nice pants", Will's character answered with a straight face

So how did Will use a joke to his advantage? The frame, or the context that the recruiters had of him upon seeing his disheveled appearance, was that he was not suitable for the position. And they clearly stated that his choice of clothing was a non-negotiable requirement for them; what would people say? However, Will managed to divert their attention to his quick wit, by delivering a well timed retort. This in effect, changed the context of the recruiters, to frame the conversation around Will's intellectual capability, and not his clothing. Of course it didn't hurt that the joke got a laugh or two in the room, as you know even in real life, it's hard to stay bored, mad, or sad with somebody who makes you laugh. Humor is a great frame disruptor. I don't advise you to go full on Bozo the Clown on a poor recruiter, but try to lighten the mood with an interesting comment, something that might tickle the person's funny bone.

If you read online on frame disruptors, there are many other techniques of influence, but for now, let's just be patient and get the recruiter smiling and ready to listen to you. I'd advise you to limit yourself to a joke or two max, and move on to the next tip.

You Were Always On the Receiving End

You got into the room, you sat down, and you waited to be asked. You wait for the moment the recruiter finds a folly in your experience, and you figuratively wait for a Spanish Inquisition. Why?

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What you should do is take charge of the situation. Shake the person's hand firmly. Smile and maintain eye contact. Acknowledge anybody else in the room, but focus on the decision maker. There's always a decision maker in the room. And ask that person a question.

"What, ask a question? That is absurd!", you say in disbelief. Why not? When I attend interviews, I often like to control the conversation, so I start with a question, that will lead the direction of the conversation the way I want it. For example, if I am interviewing for a General Manager's position in Uber, I would open with this question,

"So, how are you guys planning to retake market share from GrabCar in South East Asia? Seems to me they are eating your lunch."

It's a risky move, but a smart strategy. Not only have I disrupted the frames of the recruiter/managers, I have now made them be on the receiving end. If they are the people that I want to work with, they will come up with a quick intelligent answer, or they might just turn the question back to me, "We don't know, what do you think?"

And now I can elaborate on my well memorized answer, about my grand plans of trying to lower Uber Malaysia's overhead, tie-in with local partners, innovative ideas for marketing and be the first to market food delivery via UberEats, that Grab has not capitalized on. And if I've had my way, the total interview becomes my interview, where I ask the questions, and the recruiters are on the receiving end.

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Your success in an interview is always within your grasp. Do not concern yourself with the fact that there are hundreds of other applicants, that may or may not be exceedingly more qualified than you. Your battle is how you present yourself, how you frame your message and how you are able to control the conversation to your advantage. You can do wonders with the tools I just taught you, so please, do not despair and be ready for greater opportunities.

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Note about the author: Adrin Shafil is an engineer, currently working as a Drilling and Completions Manager in Malaysia. He finds that writing is a great stress relief tool and he finds joy in sharing his insights online and answering any questions from graduates, mid-career colleagues and even fellow managers. If you like his articles, please click 'like', share the article on your profile and connect or follow his feed for more great information and tips.

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