Putting It All Together


On the Day of the Interview

Bring your notes! Look back to what you did in “preparing for any interview”. Tailor your lists for this specific job. Use keywords and shorten the language. You want a clean sheet that you can glance at quickly to find a new example. Practice with the sheet by pretending to answer some generic questions. Don’t hesitate to refer back to your notes during the interview. A good interviewer wants a good answer, even if you need a little cheat sheet to help.

Tell stories. As you practice, remember that you are telling a story. You want to give enough information to answer their question but not so much that they lose interest. You want them to remember the story and be able to retell it when they are talking to others about you. If your story is more than 3-5 minutes, it’s too long. If it doesn’t have a beginning, a middle, and an end, it’s not a story.

Focus on the questions they’re asking. Too many candidates look for a place to throw in a story and don’t actually answer the questions they’re asked. If you can’t answer the question I’ve asked, I don’t believe that you’ll listen to anyone else. That will remove you quickly from all consideration.

Show your experience. Give concise answers that show you understand their question and that you’ve done something in your past that directly relates to the topic. Make sure you explain what the situation was, what you did (you – not “we”, not the team), and what results you achieved. If they aren’t nodding as you wrap up your answer, try “did I answer your question?”. That’s a key listening skill that shows you will work well in a team environment.

Do I Really Want To Work For You?

Don’t forget that at least one of these interviewers is potentially your future boss. Look back to “types of interviewers” and think about what it might be like to actually work for this person. Don’t be afraid to ask questions like “can you share with me the person who’s worked for you that’s been the most successful”. Make sure you can see yourself working like that on a daily basis.

  1. “I’ve got this” interviewers are more likely to be focused on you, making sure you succeed. They are effective listeners and leaders. You will probably learn and grow working for this person.
  2. “It’s all about me” interviewers are just as selfish outside the interview. If you can work completely on your own with little praise or direction, you can be successful under this person. Be very careful to make yourself known to others in the organization. These are the managers most likely to take credit for your ideas and successes.
  3. “I just do what HR tells me”. You either have a green manager or a policy-follower. If you are green or compliant yourself, this could be a match made in heaven. If you think of yourself as a bit of a rule-breaker or maverick, you’ll likely be fighting an uphill battle.
  4. “Why don’t you run the interview” people are usually so busy running from thing to thing that you won’t get much attention from them outside the interview either, at least not without initiating it yourself. It is possible that you really caught them on a bad day and this isn’t their normal behavior. If they show great listening skills during the interview and you connect with them, they’re likely going to be good to work with if you are comfortable asking for help and doing a bit of managing up. But, if they continue to be distracted during the interview or you feel like you are wasting their time, they will likely be more focused on their own success and have little patience for you outside the interview.

Look for the replacement manager too. If the person currently interviewing for this position leaves, is the likely replacement or next level manager on the interview team? If you can’t see yourself working for your new boss’s boss, you are not only risking stability if the boss leaves but you are also limiting your potential to move up. Your next promotion starts with this interview.

What Questions Do You Have For Me?

Please don’t use the Internet to generate generic questions to ask at the end of the interview. Every candidate asks “where do you see the company over the next 3-5 years”, or “what are the most important things this role needs to accomplish over the next year”. The last thing you want to leave the interviewer with is the idea that you are boring or uninterested. Instead, find things in the interview that show you are really listening and interested in this specific person’s viewpoint.

  • Things they seemed concerned about – “You asked a lot of questions about this skill, which is something I’m particularly strong in. Is that a skill you think is missing from the organization today?”
  • Things they really liked about your background – “You seemed very interested that I’d done this particular thing before. Is that something the department is struggling with today?”
  • Things they mentioned in their description of the job that really interested you. Especially impactful if you can match it with other conversations or the prework you did on the company. “You mentioned that the company was trying to accomplish this particular thing. I read about that in the annual report too. Can you tell me more about how that’s going and why it’s so important?”

Asking a particularly insightful and well-crafted question at the end leaves the interviewer wanting more, a sure way to get a call back.

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