If you remember nothing else, remember these two Do’s: 1) Be prepared and 2) Be present.
Do #2: Be Present
- Don’t give a play by play of your resume and don’t simply tell the interviewer what you think he or she wants to hear. Interviews are not auditions, they are honest, open exchanges to share your authentic self with potential new management and learn about the people, business and culture of a new role and, possibly, company. At its core, job interviews are about two parties (you and the interviewer(s)) figuring out if you are a good fit for the role, department and company. Said another way, a job interview is a partnership of discovery for fit. The interviewers are asking you questions to get insight into your knowledge, skills, problem-solving & decision-making, experience, personality, biases, aspirations, and behavioral traits. When answering such questions, answer them honestly with enough (but not too much) information to reveal whether or not you truly are a good fit. If you’re not a good fit, let it come out in the interview versus six months into the job when they let you go because you duped them during the interview.
- What questions should you ask the interviewers? Ones that will help you determine if this is a good fit! What do you care about? If it’s important you have a manager that supports and doesn’t micromanager you, then be sure to ask about the prospective new boss’ management style. If culture is important, than ask interviewees what adjectives they would use to describe the culture. If stability is important, than ask about turnover and succession planning. If a flexible work schedule is important, than ask about that. Concerned that they may see that as you being lazy and not hire you because you asked about a flexible work schedule? Well, that may be true, but if a flexible work schedule is truly important, would you rather discover this during the interview process or after you’ve uprooted your life and committed to this new role?
- Enjoy the process of discovery by being fully present and maintaining a clear mind. If you start to feel stuck in your head, focus on your breath. If you feel you messed up somewhere, don’t let it distract you further. Instead, give the interviewer the chance to ask you to expand on anything. In turn, ask for clarification where you need it. Remember, this is a partnership of discovery. Rather than holding on to something that was or wasn’t said 10 minutes earlier in the interview, go back to it.
- Let’s say you get to the end of
the interview and you find that you really want the job but are not sure where
the interviewer stands. Ask! It’s okay to say something like, “After
speaking with you today, I’m even more interested in exploring this further as
a possible next role for me. I really
like the direction the company is going and the opportunities for the person in
this role to help lead it. Based on what
you’ve heard thus far, where do you see or not see alignment? And, is there anything that we’ve spoken
about thus far that you still have questions about or want further
- One of my favorite questions to ask a prospective new manager is as follows: “Let’s imagine that at the end of this interview process we equally determine that I would be a good fit. And, after working here for 6 – 12 months, it’s performance review time and I’ve exceeded expectations. Off the cuff, what do you imagine that I would have done and not done to reach an exceeds level of performance?” Also, be prepared to share your 30, 60 & 90 day plan, especially if this is for an internal role for a current employer or a senior role at a new company. Qualify any plan you provide since there is a lot of ways to mess up – e.g., “I put together some initial thoughts on a 90-day plan based on what I know thus far and what I make up about what I don’t know. Obviously, I would update these thoughts after getting more insight and input from key stakeholders if I were to take on this position.”
- One final piece of advice on the two most important Do’s of Being Prepared and Being Present: Remain unattached to the outcome! Not only will this allow you to be more fully present during the interview(s), it will also help you re-commit to your current job (assuming you are currently working) if you do not get the role. Once we taste the excitement of a role for which we really want, our ability to tolerate the inevitable day-to-day frustrations of our current job diminishes. Be sure to re-engage and recommit to your current job if needed. You can start but stepping back and being grateful for having a job and bring to mind all the good things about your current job.
By the way, being prepared and being present are not only my favorite “Do’s” for a job interview, they are also the core elements of executive presence. Executive presence happens, in part because you are fully prepared for conversations and meetings (including predicting and being ready for opposing views) and then fully present for the discussion (versus being caught off guard, fumbling through your papers, or being distracted by your phone).