How to Approach the Job Interview Process during an Industry Downturn

By: Valerie Jones

Anyone who’s been in the oil and gas industry for any number of years understands its cyclical nature. While thousands across the globe have lost their jobs recently due to the sharp decline in oil prices – perhaps you included – there are available positions in the industry. After identifying the available jobs, it’s time to circulate those resumes and get those applications in. You may not get a response from the first, second or tenth company you apply to, especially during this industry slowdown. And guess what? Just because you land an interview, or two or 10, doesn’t mean you’ll get hired. That’s why it’s called an interview process. However, you may be wondering why you didn’t get the job. And that’s where it’s tricky. You have the skills. You have the necessary experience. You have the great references. You nailed the interview – or did you? Maybe you unknowingly committed a common job interview faux pas: ineffectively communicated your responses to the interviewer; appeared nervous and/or lacked confidence; or spoke negatively about past employers. Or maybe, for whatever reason, the employer decided not to hire you: you seemed overqualified, they decided to promote from within the company, your brother is the hiring manager’s cousin’s ex-husband and they had a messy divorce, etc. While these reasons may be something completely out of your control, it can certainly be frustrating and prompt some self-analysis. And that’s not bad; it’s actually quite helpful. It’s a great opportunity to learn from rejection, rather than wallow in it. Below I’ve offered seven tips on how to maximize your interview:

  1. Be on time, but not too on time. While arriving 10 or 15 minutes early to an interview is common and certainly good practice, I believe there is such a thing as arriving too early for an interview – that is, more than 30 minutes early. There’s a reason why interview times are scheduled ahead of time … they’re appointments. Those in charge of hiring will probably be conducting interviews with numerous candidates, often times scheduling several in one day, with only 15 or so minutes in between. Arriving too early can be a bit awkward. Of course, arriving late can be detrimental, so I suggest if you do arrive more than 30 minutes early to an interview, sit in your car and go over your notes before entering the building.
  2. Give fresh answers. Going on job interviews repeatedly, you’re likely to be asked some of the same questions (e.g. “tell me about yourself,” “identify one of your weaknesses,” “why are you the best candidate for the job?”), but don’t allow your answers to be cookie-cutter. Each interview will be different – whether it’s a different position or company – so make sure that you supply a fresh answer! Employers really dislike when a candidate seems disinterested, so it may be helpful to generate variations on responses for some common questions prior to the interview. Remember: they’re probably asking each candidate the same questions, so your answer will show how you’re unique.
  3. Stress your industry knowledge. Especially during this downturn when many candidates – highly skilled candidates – will be battling for the same positions, your knowledge of the industry will certainly be advantageous. Feel free to mention and/or discuss hot topics related to specific sectors. If you have several years of experience across different sectors or in different positions, that’s good to mention as well. It will translate to the interviewer that you have loyalty in the industry and are quite experienced.
  4. Stress your soft skills. While being tech-savvy and having a great amount of industry experience are definitely positives to potential employers, it’s very important to show an interviewer that you possess soft skills as well. Soft skills, such as leadership, self-management and communication, are becoming increasingly important to oil and gas employers. While some of these skills can be taught, if you already bring these to the table, it’s a bonus. This is especially beneficial for recent graduates or young professionals, who may lack the on-the-job experience, but exhibit desirable soft skills.
  5. Don’t become frazzled. This is an uncertain time for the industry, so it’s understandable to be concerned about finding a job to support yourself and/or your family. But try to maintain a level of comfort and ease when being interviewed. If a question shakes you, don’t feel obligated to answer right away. Take a second or two to really think about your response. There’s also a chance you’ll interview with several people at a time. While this can be overwhelming, keep your cool. Hiring managers are tasked with making big decisions. Choosing the wrong job candidate could result in great monetary loss for the company. Even if you are the most qualified candidate, the interview is your window of time to get that across to the employer.
  6. Steer clear of conversations about salary and benefits. This is one of those precarious topics that can prove unfavorable, if mishandled. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best not to mention pay or salary unless asked by the employer or if an offer is made at the culmination of the interview. Of course, there are exceptions. If the job puts a salary on the table that you feel is too low, it’s okay to ask if the pay is negotiable, if there’s room for advancement or opportunity for bonuses. Every company knows that a job candidate wants to get paid, so there’s really no need to bring it up on your own accord. The same rules apply to benefits, PTO and vacation. Reputable companies will have a capable HR team to go over these areas with you in detail, should you get offered a position.
  7. Adhere to directions in the job description. I get it. You’re anxious. It’s been a week and you haven’t heard anything from the company you interviewed with. But it clearly states in the job description, “no phone calls.” So just don’t do it. If you’d like to follow up with the employer, send a simply-crafted email thanking them for the interview and letting them know you’re still interested in the position. You can also ask if there’s anything else you can provide them with.

Though the interview process can be trying, don’t become discouraged, defeated or leave the industry altogether. The fact that you were given an interview is testament to your desired skillset. Interviewing is strategic, so there will be some nos before you get a yes. And oh, how glorious that yes will be.

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