Prince Harry returned from Afghanistan last week and we were given a unique view into the lives of the Prince and the service men and women on the front line in a montage of interviews carried out at Camp Bastion.  During these relaxed and candid  interviews, Prince Harry admits that he has killed enemy fighters in Afghanistan and then in another that “It’s a joy for me because I’m one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox, so with my thumbs I like to think I’m probably quite useful.” 

Put together these two comments have caused a media frenzy with headlines including “Xbox helped Prince Harry kill Taliban fighters” and “Prince Harry compares killing Afghan fighters to Xbox fun”.  I wonder is this reaction right? Should we take it in the manner it was meant; a throw away comment from a person in a job subject to immense emotional and physical stress, or should the Prince, a prominent figure in the public eye be more careful about what he says?  For the past few years we have seen a ‘new look’ royal family emerge in Prince William and Harry but is this a step too far?  Right or wrong you have to be so careful of what you say in general.

Taking answers out of context is not just reserved for the media. We see it happen a lot in job interviews. You have such a small finite period of time in which to get across all your relevant experience as well as prove you have the personality, motivation and approach to fit into the organisation.  Every company has a slightly different way of working and every interviewer has their own view of what the right candidates looks like for them, so it is very easy to make a comment that you later regret or is not taken in the manner it was meant.

So as a job seeker, how do you get around this?  Unfortunately there are no simple answers; however the right preparation can make all the difference.  Researching the company is a given, but what about the person you are meeting – what’s their background and position in the company compared to the role you are interviewing for? Is there anyone in your network who may know them or who have previously worked there? The internet and social media can be a great tool to really help you understand the culture of the environment before you even attend an interview.  It is also important to accurately read the interviewer’s verbal and non-verbal communication.  Knowing when to be serious or when you can be more light hearted can make a huge difference in being taken out of context or not.  Both of these will enable you to tailor your answers and approach to the individual interviewer.

Kristina Fowler is a Consultant in the London office at Macmillan Davies Hodes focusing on mid to senior level Interim HR assignments.


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