We question Smiljka, Head of HR for IGT about her experience for an insight into her approach and expectations for interviews & interviewees. IGT are an end-to-end gaming company with over 13,000 employees worldwide. Smiljka has been part of the company for 20 years and is responsible for HR and hiring in the UK (London) and Serbia offices.

Interview Insight: Q&A

How many people are at the London IGT office?

There are currently 129 in the London office, made up of 39 different nationalities!

Do most of your candidates have a background in gaming?

Although this isn’t a prerequisite for working at IGT, around 75-80% of our applicants come from a gaming background – that’s the nature of the industry.

In general, how many candidates do you invite for a first interview?

We interview a minimum of four candidates for each role, however depending on the quality of the applicants, we have been known to interview up to 15 just for one role!

How many interviews have you taken part in?

Hundreds, maybe thousands!

What is the most interesting interview you’ve had?

I interviewed a man for a role who was blind. After the interview, he actually gave me feedback on how I coped with his disability – i didn’t treat him differently to anyone else, which is exactly what he wanted, but doesn’t get too often! However, most interestingly, he could make inferences from my tone – he could tell how well the interview was going, how I was sitting and could even detect some Australian accent in my voice – I was born there, but no one has ever picked it up in my voice before!

How do you prepare for an interview?

I re-familiarise myself with the candidate’s CV. I know a lot of the Hiring Managers delve further into the interviewees – checking LinkedIn, Facebook etc, however I prefer to form an opinion solely from meeting the person and not have any preconceptions.

What do you enjoy most about an interview?

Meeting exceptional candidates and seeing the bigger picture – what that person would bring to IGT and how we as a company could help them gain experience and develop.

Do you have a set interview ‘approach’?

This varies from candidate to candidate and role to role, but my basic approach is to make the candidate feel comfortable. Interviews are nerve-wracking and I’d rather see what the person is really like, I try to make the atmosphere more like we’re having a coffee rather than conducting a stressful interview.

What is your favourite question to ask at an interview?

‘If you arrived tomorrow, with no induction, how would you start?’ I don’t expect a detailed plan for an answer, but demonstrating the ability to think on your feet is very important to me.

Do you ask personal as well as professional questions?

Yes, that’s a really important part of the interview. As well as asking ‘tell me about yourself’, I like to have a bit of fun by asking questions like; ‘Which cartoon character best depicts who you are? and ‘If you were to write a book about your life, what would it be called?’. Although these questions may sound silly, the answers from these can really help bring out the personality of the interviewee – which is what I want to see!

Is it important for a candidate to research the company?

They should have at least researched the basics. We always tell the interviewee about the role and company when they’re here, but we start by ascertaining what they know already.

Have you ever stopped an interview?

Yes, and it’s happened more than you might think! Sometimes it’s clear that the candidate just isn’t right or at the right level for the role. In this case, rather than waste their time, I tell them honestly that this role isn’t the right fit for them. I can then spend the remaining interview time giving them advice on further training/experience they need to apply for similar roles in the future. This way, the candidate has no false hope and the interview ends on a positive note – they have invaluable advice to take away.

Do you and the Hiring Manager ever disagree on which candidate to hire?

After each round of interviews, I write down the strongest three candidates, 95% of the time this matches what the Hiring Manager also thinks.

What are the most important qualities to you in a candidate?

At IGT, we always look for someone who will fit the role and the respective team – so desirable qualities vary from job to job.

However there are two that I look for as standard; someone who is a grafter, who enjoys working hard and is proud of their work. The other is their drive to improve – someone should want to learn, grow and develop within the role and company.

Can anyone be over-qualified for a role?

No! I strongly believe that even if someone appears to have more experience/qualifications than required, but they are passionate about the role, then that extra experience can only benefit the company and allow the candidate to hit the ground running.

Are you ever stuck between two strong candidates? How do you ultimately decide?

This has happened a few times actually! And there is no set decision-making process in these circumstances, we tend to look at three routes;

  1. We see if both candidates can fit within the organisation – sometimes there are opportunities for this.
  2. Invite the candidates back for a third interview and ask different employees to interview them to get a fresh perspective.
  3. If we can’t do step 1 and we’re still stuck after step 2, then step 3 is to go with your gut!

When does the interview start?

As soon as you enter the building! A little bit of advice to all – make sure you make a good impression on the receptionist (and ask them questions if there’s time!) as I always check with our front-of-house to see what they thought of the candidate and how they interacted.

How important are first impressions?

For me, not so important. I reserve my judgement until I can see the candidate has become comfortable.

Is the ‘interview outfit’ important?

I wouldn’t get carried away with worrying about an interview outfit, the important thing is to show you’ve made an effort to look smart, and that you’re clean! You could wear a Prada or a Primark suit – it doesn’t matter to me.

Any advice for combatting nerves?

Some people, introverts for example are naturally more nervous than others. I always do my best to put people at ease, get them a tea or coffee and create a more relaxed atmosphere. The interviewers are human as well, and they want to get the best out of you!

What is a big ‘no-no’ for an interview?

Being late – this is my pet-hate. I do understand that sometimes it’s out of the candidate’s control (especially in London!) but it’s fairly easy to tell genuine reasons from made-up excuses. If the candidate does well in the interview, it’s easy to forgive their lateness, if they do badly in the interview, it’s not so easy.

And finally, if you were to give one piece of advice to help candidates do their best in the interview, what would that be?

To see the interview for what it is – it’s not a punishment or a test, it’s an opportunity.

 

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