Interviewing Insights by Jim Johnson

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Whether you are coaching a star employee who is preparing for an interview for their next career step or whether you are preparing for your own next step, here are some basic interview musts:

1.  Understand the job you’re interviewing for.  

Too many folks don’t do the research necessary for the job they think they want.  This is especially true for employees seeking an internal promotion or even a lateral move within their company.  

How do you do the research?  If it’s for a position outside of your company, hit the internet.  There will be a plethora of information about the company you wish to work for.  Study their website.  Hit sites such as Glassdoor to read reviews current and former employees write about the company (remember that some folks become bitter so take these reviews in with a grain of salt). If you know someone who works for this company, interview them:  ask about the culture, expectations, goals, benefits, etc.  

If the position is within your company, talk with coworkers in that department.  Ask them about their supervisor – the person who would be your new boss.  Get a clear picture of life working for and with them.  Learn all you can about the job duties and then work on ideas where you can provide value beyond the basic expectations.

2.  Rehearse your story.  

I just sat through an interview this week where the interviewee had a very difficult time providing any meaningful, real-life examples of how they have performed under different circumstances.  This employee has worked for our company for nearly 4 years.  In contrast, the first interview we conducted was with an employee who has been on the job for 1 month.  She provided great examples of her work, her experience, and how she has applied her learning everyday.  She came prepared.

If you have interviewed for a job at least twice in your life, you should know by now that you will be asked something along the lines of “tell me about a time when you…”  If you sit there hemming and hawing, you’re broadcasting that (a) you were not prepared for that question (b) you are just “punching the clock” and can’t connect the dots of your work value to the company’s values.

3.  Calendars mean little in the larger scheme of things.  

I’ve had too many people point to a calendar (figuratively) to try to convince me that because they “did the time”, they are next in line for this promotion.  Time alone doesn’t make a person an effective leader or your next star employee.  If it did, the US Congress would have higher approval numbers.

4.  Know your value proposition.

When you know what the job is…when you know what the company is all about…when you know your story…finally add the value proposition.  This is what your new boss can expect when he/she hires you.  Yes, you can do the job.  But they will get more from you.  You are known as a collaborative king.  You create ideas that lead to innovation and/or revenue generation.  You are a mentor.  You represent the company very well outside the office walls.  What is your value proposition?

5.  Ask questions.

An interview isn’t a one-way street.  Come with serious, thoughtful questions.  No, “do I get the job?” is not one of these questions.  Try to think like your potential new manager.  Ask:

* “What are your team’s biggest hurdles right now?  What are you looking for in this position I’m interviewing for?”  If they tell you, share a real-life example of a time when you did something similar.  

* “What does performance look like on your team?  How does a team member get an exceeds expectation from you?”

* “As a leader here in the company, what frustrates you?”

* “If you hire me, how can I help you succeed as a leader?”

6.  Practice.

Think about the questions you expect will be asked.  Verbally respond in front of a mirror or in your vehicle on your way to the interview.  If what comes out sounds “stupid”, better to sound that way in “rehearsal” than during the performance.  Listen to yourself.  Do you sound confident?  Do you sound nervous?  Are you talking too quickly?  Are you speaking clearly? Be bold and honest with yourself.  Practice often and then the actual interview will be more familiar, allowing you to speak and present yourself far more professionally.  

Interviews are exciting times.  If you prepare well and think, you can set yourself up in the best possible way.

I’ve been told “no” several times in my career.  I’ve learned to take “no” as a “not yet” and worked on my areas of opportunity.  Learn something from every interview.

And one more thing, go in so prepared that you will make it difficult for the hiring manager to say “no”.  You can do it.

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