Jonathan Burston is the founder of Interview Expert Academy. He helps individuals stand out at interviews to get the job they really want. He has spent the last 20 years in senior, sales, marketing and operation roles in organisations from small to large. He’s been interviewed many times and interviewed well over a thousand candidates. He has recently been out in the job market trialling the advice he writes about at http://www.interviewexpertacademy.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ieasuccess and visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/interviewexpertacademy.
Jonathan Burston: Interview with a Job Interview Expert
Karin Schroeck-Singh: “Tell me about yourself” as we know, is a very popular question during job interviews. How would you answer this question?
Jonathan Burston: I am an interview coach. I help people build, develop and improve their interview skills so that they are confident, prepared and ready to give a great performance at interviews to achieve success. Over the last 20 years I have studied and practiced interviewing both as a candidate and as a recruiter to develop my skills to help others achieve success.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Who are your main clients and what is the problem that they are struggling with the most before attending a job interview?
Jonathan Burston: I have a real mix of clients, from graduates looking for their first jobs, to mid and senior managers. What Is perhaps the most surprising element is that the problems they face are the same. Here are the three key ones:
- Creating a resume or CV that stands out in the first place to get them an interview. The important part to remember here is that candidates, whatever level they are at, need to tailor their resume or CV to each and every role. Too many create it once and never alter it again.
- Understanding who they are – making sure that a candidate is fully prepared. This includes knowing their strengths, weaknesses, skills and experience with detailed examples to provide depth.
- Preparing for interview questions – most interviewers ask the same questions, so it’s relatively easy to create great answers to these questions.
The first point is about getting the interview. The second two are about helping you be the best prepared you can before entering the interview. That way a candidate will improve their confidence and reduce the chances of nerves kicking in and affecting their performance.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the positive aspects that you enjoy the most about your job as a job interview coach?
Jonathan Burston: When I set up Interview Expert Academy my sole purpose was to help candidates improve their chances of interview success with advice that they can immediately put into action.
And I love getting feedback from candidates about what they think about the advice I provide and how they are using it. Knowing that you are helping people across the world improve their chances of interview success is extremely gratifying.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What are the negative aspects of being a job interview coach?
Jonathan Burston: The positives considerably outweigh the negatives. What I didn’t take into account when I started the business were the trolls that you come across from time to time on social media. It’s important to try and keep a perspective and not get drawn into a long dialogue with these individuals. They are entitled to their opinions as I am, and if my advice doesn’t work for them, I don’t mind.
The other negative aspect is the emails I receive wanting me to do free coaching, free CV reviews etc. You just have to reply and explain how you operate and direct them to my website that provides all my free content.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Interviews nowadays are taking place in very different formats, such as the traditional face to face interview, phone interview, video interview, panel interview, lunch interview or assessment centres. Do you provide advice for all these different scenarios and what have your experiences been so far when coaching your clients?
Jonathan Burston: You’re right the formats of interviewing are evolving. I’m currently doing some research on the history of interviewing and how it has evolved over the years. It’s fascinating to see how interviewing has become an industry in its own right. It’s come a long way since Thomas Edison (who has been recognised as the creator of the interview) created a written test to evaluate job candidates knowledge in 1921.
Yes I do coach on all these aspects, as whilst they are different, they are just a variation on a theme. From my personal experience of them or my coaching clients experience of them, the core elements of interviewing remain the same. Whether it’s in person or using technology, you can still follow the same rules – get your mindset ready, prepare, perform and be yourself.
Most coaching clients are not keen on panel interviews as it’s much harder to build up a rapport with each individual member, but there are techniques that you can use such as addressing your answers to each panel member, regardless of who asks the question, to engage your audience.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is the average earning potential for a job interview coach in the UK compared to the USA?
Jonathan Burston: This is a tricky question Karin. I honestly don’t know the differences between the UK and the USA. All I can say is that my client base is global. I have clients in the US, UK, Canada, South Africa, India, Spain amongst others.
The main challenge is not having enough time available to coach everyone who would like it. It’s a nice problem to have, however, I took the decision when I started the business to make sure that I didn’t coach too many clients at any one time, so that I could ensure that those I did coach got my full attention.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How long does it usually take you to prepare a candidate for an interview?
Jonathan Burston: This is a bit like, ‘how long is a piece of string?’ But it’s a good question. I would say that on average candidates need three or four sessions to be fully prepared. Some candidates may need a little less and some a little more.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: How much do you charge for your services and which of your services is the most sought after?
Jonathan Burston: Well this varies depending on the engagement with a client. They range from £200 per hour upwards. Why do I charge this rate? Well, I want to make sure that those clients that want to work with me are bought into improving their interviewing skills. If you invest in coaching with me, then I will make sure you get a return from it. So whilst I charge an hourly rate, more work goes on from my perspective outside of that in terms of how else I can help a client get the job they really want. If you’re working with me, you also get my personal mobile number and can call me or email me when you need to.
In terms of the sought after services the most popular is my full interview coaching programme which takes a client through a process that includes:
- Building a job hunting blueprint
- Getting the mindset ready
- Building their story
- How to job hunt effectively
- Preparing for an interview
- Performing at their best
This process has been tried and tested by myself, so I know what works and what doesn’t.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: What is the percentage rate of candidates who land their job after your 1-1 coaching?
Jonathan Burston: It’s really important for me that a coaching client lands a job, so I’m a little different from a lot of coaches. Whilst I stated earlier that most clients need three or four sessions, that doesn’t mean that the relationship ends with them at that moment in time. If within a certain timeframe after our coaching has come to an end they haven’t got a job, then I will invest more time with them until they succeed. There is no additional cost for them. It’s just important for me that they achieve their goal. If they achieve theirs, I achieve mine. So far 100% have landed a job.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: You gained 20 years of work experience in this specific field, what are the 10 most important lessons you learnt in your career as a job interview expert so far?
Jonathan Burston: What a great question! Here’s my list:
- Listen – actively listen to what a client or potential client is saying to you.
- Ask questions – to gain more information or get clarification.
- Challenge – how they see things through their lens.
- Positivity – remain positive no matter what happens.
- There is always the right job out there for you.
- Be specific. Too many times we are ‘too woolly’ in what we say and write. So be specific (I know I’ve done it).
- Keep learning – never give up on learning. One can never know it all. There is always something to learn and try out.
- Be honest – give people honest feedback. So few do and without feedback how can each of us improve?
- Never give up – as the phrase goes, ‘it’s not how many times you get knocked down that matters, it’s how many times you get back up that does.’ This is so true.
- There are always doubters. There are always those that say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. What they mean is that they ‘can’t’. It’s important to do it for yourself and not worry about what others think.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: This is some really great advice, Jonathan. In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake that job candidates make when they go for job interviews?
Jonathan Burston: Karin, these are great questions. The biggest mistake I’ve seen time and again is lack of preparation. A lack of preparation in my opinion shows a lack of interest in wanting the job they are being interviewed for.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: I fully agree on that. Preparation and research is key, not just about the company, but also about the interviewer, the team members, the job, the corporate culture and competitors.
I love reading and every time I go to local libraries and bookstores to check out the books in the career section, I’m amazed at the number of books that I find covering the same topics over and over again: How to write cover letters and CVs, how to prepare for a job interview, how to answer tough interview questions, etc.
People definitely need guidance on how to land their jobs, but I’m surprised to still see career experts coming up with books that cover the same old topics. I feel that those kind of resources are already available in abundance (online for free or for a price). I would welcome the idea to see more books that help candidates to stand out in specific niches and for new types of interview forms. We all know that the corporate world is becoming more and more competitive and demanding. I recently published the eBook “44 Tips for a successful VIDEO interview” (https://payhip.com/b/5nAs) which focuses on the video/digital interview preparation only. More and more companies want to save time and money and thus, choose that kind of approach before meeting someone in person. Now, let’s say YOU would have to write a book in this particular field, what topic would you write about and why?
Jonathan Burston: One particular area that I’m currently developing for a book and course is ‘How to Create your Job Hunting Blueprint’. Why?
You’re right there are so many books on the market about interview questions, creating CVs etc, but the one area we don’t look at is before we even get to this stage. This became evident when I was in the job market after a number of years at the same company and thought, ‘what do I do now?’
This book would focus on creating your own blueprint for job hunting and interview success. It would help people who are looking for their next job create a detailed blueprint of what they want and get their mindset ready before they even start thinking about creating or updating their CV.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: That sounds interesting! Hope you will forward me a copy once it’s ready, I’m a master in writing book reviews on career , business and personal development topics. Now let’s change topic. Is there any specific episode that you remember in particular from all these years in coaching a jobseeker? Something funny, scary or original?
Jonathan Burston: I was coaching a client a number of years ago. This client was a blond haired lady wearing a short sleeved blouse (and obviously a skirt) and glasses. She sat across from me in a practice interview. We were going through the interview process with me asking questions and her replying with her prepared answers.
I wasn’t expecting what happened next. She took off her glasses to clean them. Nothing unusual in that, but she then put her hands down inside her bra to retrieve a tissue to clean her glasses with. I was mesmerised at this point and nearly laughed. She then cleaned her glasses and put the tissue back in her bra.
After the interview I mentioned it to her. She said she always kept a tissue there when wearing a short sleeved blouse. I suggested that perhaps she refrain from doing it in future as it wasn’t the best way to stand out.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Sounds like a very memorable episode, Jonathan. Thanks for sharing. You have experienced the job interview scenario from all perspectives: as a jobseeker, as an interviewer and as a job interview coach. Who was the candidate who impressed you the most and why? It would be great if you could share a further personal episode.
Jonathan Burston: I’ve interviewed over a thousand candidates over the years, but the really good candidates stand out head and shoulders above others.
One such candidate was Andy. I was interviewing Andy for a sales role in my team. What made him stand out?
- He was polite to everyone he met and easily built up rapport with them and with me.
- He was specific in his answers, giving just the right about of information.
- It felt much more of a two-way conversation rather than an interview, which is always a sign that you’ve got a good candidate in front of you if they can do that.
- He had prepared well. He knew about the role and the division within which we operated.
- His questions were well structured and appropriate and he got me talking about myself.
- He left me feeling that I wanted to see him again – and that’s always a good sign for someone in sales.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Sounds impressive, I particularly liked the idea of turning the interview into a conversation. That’s the same approach that I take when giving an engaging speech.
Let’s say you would have to hire another professional to offer your services to prospective jobseekers, what interview questions would you ask that candidate in order to find out if he/she is the perfect fit for your business?
Jonathan Burston: Here are the key questions I would ask:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me about your experience in your chosen field.
- What has gone well? What hasn’t gone well?
- What do you enjoy about what you do?
- What don’t you enjoy about what you do?
- When was the last time you updated your skills or were in the market trialling what you offer?
- What do you like to do when you’re not doing your current role?
Karin Schroeck-Singh: “Virtual reality” seems to be the next big thing in the future and might also make its mark in the recruitment world. Are you looking forward to that scenario?
Jonathan Burston: I’m always fascinated to see how technology is adapting our world and our usual practices. So absolutely. I’m looking forward to how this may impact the world of recruitment.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: We are both living in the UK, are you watching the TV Series “The Job Interview” that is broadcasted each Tuesday on Channel 4? What do you think about it? To what extent does it reflect the real job world?
Jonathan Burston: Unfortunately I’ve not had the chance to watch this series yet. I’ve saved it to watch when I have some spare time.
Karin Schroeck-Singh: Would really love to hear your feedback on that later on. I really enjoyed watching it and found it very useful for the less experienced job applicants.
Thank you very much Jonathan for taking the time to answer all my questions. Your expertise and your insights are highly appreciated. I’m really delighted to feature professionals like you in my magazine.
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Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh
Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at www.Careerheads.com. She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” (http://careerheads.com/product/ebook-44-tips-for-a-successful-video-interview/). She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.