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Helpful Interview Insights for Recent Graduates From An Employer

Christopher Cunningham

Christopher Cunningham

Agile & Digital Transformation Coach, Lean-Startup Facilitator, Design Thinker and Moderator at The World Economic Forum. Focused on unlocking existing organisational value and delivering lasting positive change.
Shhh, keep our interview process a secret would you. The interview process is a weird one, the all-star candidate has an hour to show themselves off as a person and tell you how truly great they are!

The stereotypical candidate tells you of the time they found their true self-self through mindfulness in Peru, speaks regularly with the Dali Lama, design and build Jet Engines and study Rocket Science (Yes, I actually did this one, thanks to Uni. of Bristol Engineering Dept). They do all this in their spare time whilst all the while reading War and Peace Cover to cover every single night before they log into Bloomberg.

this is all bulls**t – to make the process worse as an interviewer Don’t forget to ask some really technically demanding questions of them on a topic they clearly say nothing about on their CV – but let’s see how much the candidate can be made to sweat. Wrong wrong wrong!


The interview process is all about getting to know each other, much like a marriage and we have to show some level of biased because organisations and people are all slightly different. Hiring is all about the relationship between the hiring manager, team and the candidate. Nothing else really matters, most things can be taught anyway. So what you need to do as Manager, Prospective Team Member or Candidate is: bring your true self to interview.

What I look for is someone that can lay it bare, warts and all. You should want to know what makes them tick, why they are here, what their true motivation is. What excites them as a person – and what you all want to see is that ultimately you all get along. It is almost like a friendship test, could you and the candidate be friends had you met in a bar or on the street. The best teams I have ever worked with are the ones in which bonds develop, where the team smooths other each other’s collective weaknesses with each collective strengths. That team still face trouble and challenges, but they also know how to overcome these pitfalls, they are like Teflon when troubled times hit.


We all have a story to tell, none of us just woke up and found ourselves sitting here – you may have had to fight through poverty to get your education, alcoholism, physical and mental abuse, violence, addictions – we are not all robots and do not have a Disney fairy tale past. Disney…. well actually now think longer, isn’t every Disney a story is full of poverty, abuse, torment, violence. The ordinary downtrodden person ends up triumphing. The key character always manager to overcome it all, to bounce back and succeed IN SPITE not INSTEAD of facing this adversity. Survival is a quality, one of the most valuable. Here are some of the other qualities I really am biased towards.


I’ll take intelligence over experience any day of the week. Job descriptions alone can intimidate a lot of people – particularly younger people, who often feel that they lack the experience that the job description suggests they will need. That’s because I’ve found that most of the time intelligence trumps experience. An intelligent candidate can quickly learn a job and frequently ends up doing it better than someone (less intelligent) who has been doing a similar job elsewhere. Experience is certainly valuable, but brains are the horsepower that drives the business.


“Run the mile you are in.” This is a distance-running mantra from Runner’s World Editor-in-Chief David Willey that I think applies to many aspects of our personal and professional lives. No matter your current job or where you are in your career, are you focused and engaged and do you take ownership? Do you have pride in what you are doing? Do you have pride in your colleagues and your company? “Run the mile you are in” applies not only to distance running; it applies to life, and it applies to how you will succeed – or not – as a teammate in business.


What we are doing – redefining the private equity investing model, building a bank of the future or just bringing fresh capital to consumer goods startups – requires both SMART and HARD work. We achieved strong growth, our first full year in because our team works very hard. It’s more than that, really. It’s teamwork that The valued employee is not only the one willing to work hard; she is the employee who searches out ways to contribute most. She should have a work history of having demonstrated not only a willingness to but a desire to lead, come up with ideas on her own and to grasp fully the feeling of pride in his or her accomplishments.


This is an attribute that is not always easy to flesh out. But it is too important to gloss over in the interview process. I try to gauge integrity by asking interviewees for examples of difficult decisions they have had to make or ethical dilemmas they’ve faced. I’m looking for candid responses as to how they handled these situations. What was their decision-making process?


This is my version of the ‘no jerks’ rule. So much of what we do involves collaboration that we must have team players across our business. It is good for business results and our corporate culture. I’ve met nice people who just weren’t effective teammates, but I haven’t met a lot of great team players who were jerks.

Christopher Cunningham

Christopher Cunningham

Agile & Digital Transformation Coach, Lean-Startup Facilitator, Design Thinker and Moderator at The World Economic Forum. Focused on unlocking existing organisational value and delivering lasting positive change.