Career Tip of the Day – The World-Class Interview
Let’s being by getting one thing straight:
A world-class interview is not about you.
Human beings are hard-wired to be able to think about something other than themselves for about 15-seconds.
For most hiring managers, this means they will not be that interested in your story, resume, bio, and wonderful qualities. Ultimately, they are looking for one outcome:
Most hiring managers have received little education on how to conduct a good interview.
Many will begin with a request:
“Tell me about yourself.”
In many cases, this is where the interview goes into the weeds. When we open our mouths without any clarity in what that manager wants to cover with the available time, success is a bit light shooting at targets wearing a blind-fold.
Great interviews are collaborative, connective, insightful, and comforting.
Here is a possibly better response.
“I’m happy to tell you about myself. However, I have a lengthy and rather dense work history. If I could ask you a few questions before we get started, I will be able able to share the parts of my story that are most relevant and be more respectful of your time.
What do you want to accomplish during our conversation? In other words, what are the two most important insights you need to hear from me?”
“How much time do we have to discuss that?”
The question might seem trivial, but it isn’t at all. How many times have we been in a conversation where we assumed we had an hour only to discover, it was 15 minutes?
Always go into an interview with questions that will help you learn more about what the manager and the organization are looking for. Give them room to ask plenty of questions as well. Listen intently. Ask clarifying questions to deepen the conversation. But, never, ever ask close-ended (yes or no) questions, which essentially stop the discussion. The only time we use a close-ended question in a sales meeting or interview is when the manager is wasting time with a lengthy and sometimes irrelevant story.
An example, “You sound disappointed and upset about what happened. Is that the case?”
Before you set foot in that interview, learn everything you can about the manager and the organization. One of the most common questions I ask a candidate is, “What do you know about us?” If someone hasn’t taken the time to gain as much insight as possible before the interview, I don’t have much interest to continue. Today, we have access to the kinds of information that can allow us to ask the questions that demonstrate just how much we have learned about the organization and the manager sitting across the table.
Learn or teach yourself how to gather relevant information from LinkedIn, Facebook, Glassdoor, Indeed, Google, and the local Business Journal. The more informed you become, the more prepared you are to have a brilliant interview. Here is just one question, that provides an example:
You point to the award.
“You are the only person outside of academia to have earned that award. How did that change your life?”
Write a set of questions for every interview you have. The more that you know, the more you increase the probability of success.
Here are a few examples:
- How do you feel about the current state of our industry?
- In the months ahead, what kinds of challenges would you want me to resolve?
- How would you describe the most important characteristics of your culture?
- This team that I would manage, how in sync are they with the expected culture?
- It is my understanding that my predecessor was a rock star. With her departure, what would I need to do in order to establish even greater enthusiasm?
- We are having lunch two years into the future. After sitting down, you tell me that my being here led to a series of unexpected breakthroughs. What are those breakthroughs?
Does preparing great questions help? Absolutely. One of the biggest payoffs from asking great questions is it is more comfortable for everyone. Socratic (question-based) sales calls are far more comfortable because it is no longer about us, we are there to find out with as much detail as possible, in how we can best help them.
Last week, three of my individual clients received job offers with great organizations.
Two of them turned down these world-class job offers.
All of them have the capacity to fluidly and graciously connect with others. They have become robust active learners. Each one has engaged in the kind of self-inquiry that leads to clarity about what they want and the courage to turn down roles that are close, but not enough. Most of all, they have a brand of confidence that comes out of practice, self-awareness, and establishing clear personal standards.
An enormous portion needed to change before the pandemic. They probably had the notion that time was still on their side. Now, it is not only important to change one’s mindset about work, most of us need to learn how to better connect with others. Remember that the number one people fail today is isolation.
When we are uncomfortable with sales, interviews, connecting with others, and asking for help, we usually put-off learning these skills. As change continues to accelerate, sustainable careers require that we develop connectivity, a skill set that allows us to fluidly and graciously connect with others.
A huge portion of our country’s talent continues to deal with connectivity when they are in trouble. While learning how to build a community, sell our value, and inspire others to help us might be a stretch, this is the time to stop thinking about it and to develop these skills. The good news is that technology is making the entire mindset easier. Even the shyest people have access to technology that makes connecting with others far less hair-raising.
Now, the most important investment of all ought to be focused on becoming far more informed about the opportunities ahead, the changes we simply must orchestrate within our selves, and the awareness when we have made the investment to become informed and aware of how we meet the needs and expectations of the new workplace.
The work of the future is already here. There has never been a more important time to raise our standards about work and to define what we most want to accomplish. As we remove task-work from the workplace, ambivalence about our work is no longer enough.
Think of someone that you love with all of your heart.
You would do anything for him or her. Right?
Now, think of the work that you love with all of your heart.
You would do anything to make the relationship you have with your work successful. Right?
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