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Master the art of interviewing with Lorraine Murphy

In our blog “A Few Things To Consider When Searching For Your Next Aviation Role”, we promised we would try and address the topic of interviewing. For this Insight, we have decided to seek the help of an expert. Lorraine Murphy is the former Chief People Officer of Air New Zealand and more recently the Chief People Officer of National Australia Bank. We hope her valuable advice and tips will help you with your interview style and techniques.

At Air New Zealand, you were part of the senior team that built a company culture revered throughout the airline industry. How did you do this?

I was appointed by the new CEO – Christopher Luxon – who assembled his new executive team. Christopher had formed his views on what was needed to reinvent the airline and was ready to go. His previous career at Unilever gave him high expectations of world-class People strategies. I was given a mandate to completely revamp the People and Culture of Air New Zealand to help make it a world-class airline – what an amazing opportunity! In HR it is rare to be given a blank sheet of paper. Air New Zealand’s People approach was the sum of past practices and pet projects and historical baggage. It was clear we had to build a framework of both operational and strategic plays to honour the past but build a more modern future. Every part of the People strategy had to align and support the other parts – pay and benefits directly impact talent and capability which influence culture and performance. It all had to make sense together and deliver on the new aggressive performance and customer goals that had been set in the airline’s plan.

When you were interviewing prospective candidates to join the company (Head Office/Management roles), what were you looking for?

  • Good fit: when I am interviewing for office-based roles, I am looking for both technical skills and behavioural fit. Even if they don’t have an exact fit technically, do I feel they can grow into the job? You can’t flex on behavioural fit. I have only worked in collaborative cultures so I am looking for someone who can work across the organisation. Candidates with “knives out” cultures don’t tend to make the jump to collaboration easily.

  • Interest: are they interested in the company/industry and what evidence do they give? Have they done their research on the company, where it is going and what is important?

  • Motivation: why do they want the job and are you okay with the reason? (more money, promotion, location, internal relationships within the company, getting away from a bad current environment…)

  • Band width: can they continue to grow and develop, even if their career future does not involve upward mobility? Are they still curious and learning?

  • Behaviour and Leadership: what is their leadership style even if they don’t lead a team? Can they play well with others? Are they good at working in teams?

  • Gut feel: the most controversial – every time I have made a poor hiring decision there was always a signal and I ignored it. I have learned to trust my instincts: after a career of making hiring decisions, my spider senses are pretty well tuned.

What tips can you share that might help candidates prepare for interviews?

  • Prepare – I am amazed that people turn up to interview unprepared. They should have researched the company and the role thoroughly through whatever source is available. It shows respect for the company and your interest in the role.

  • Get your script ready and make sure you get your main points across – a mental script or bring in notes. Interviews can be stressful so prepare in advance and practice if possible, it helps you be calmer and more relaxed in the interview. I like to write down all the possible things the interviewer is likely ask me and prepare an answer for all of them including examples. Preparing for curve balls is good practice.

  • Interviews often have “what would you do” questions. This is hard as you are not in the company or have the information available, but you need to be prepared to give your opinion.

  • Prepare your own questions for them and ask about culture, leader style, what success would look like, what they are looking for, future career prospects – show you are interested and serious about the role and imagining yourself in it. I have had a few "lazy interviewers" who didn’t ask any questions and handed it over to me to lead the interview. This is very scary if you are unprepared. The more prepared you are the more relaxed you will be and the better your performance.

Do you have any tips for virtual interviews?

Virtual interviews offer a unique challenge of building rapport across a screen. You need to work harder on maintaining eye contact, portraying your personality, leaning in to stay engaged with the interviewer and staying relaxed. No leaning back in your chair and staring off into space. Also make sure you are in a quiet space with as few interruptions as possible so you can focus and relax and give the interview your full attention. There is nothing like face to-face-to judge “fit” so you have to work hard to get the interviewer to see who you are and why you would be great for the role and company.

What things should candidates definitely do and not do in their interviews?

Do

  • Prepare and have enough to say for the time you have allotted. Even if you don’t get to say all the things on your list, you will be more comfortable to have overprepared than underprepared.

  • Be interested and enthusiastic. I want to get a good feeling about you right from the start. We need to build rapport quickly and you are as equally responsible for that as I am.

  • Ask for the job – candidates often forget to say “I really want this role and this is why”, but it can be a great wrap up statement


Don’t

  • Overtalk. Preparation will help with this. Watch the cues if the interviewer is drifting off and say “sorry I probably went in to too much detail on that explanation” to get things back on track.

  • Lie about your experience as you will get caught out if you talk your way into a role you can’t do.

Do you have any favourite questions you like to ask?

  • What haven’t I asked that I should have?

  • Why do you want this role? Why do you want to work with us?

  • What would be your unique contribution to this role/this company that other candidates would not have?

  • What do you want to know about us?

Clearly you’ve made a successful career in Human Resources. If you weren’t in corporate Human Resources what do you think you would be doing?

I studied psychology and would have been a psychologist. People fascinate me!