Stand out at the interview

Interviewing for a new job? Remember when you interviewed for your current position? Any way you slice it, job interviews will cause stress but they can also be a growth opportunity.

In recent weeks I have interviewed several candidates for three different positions. I am hiring a new executive assistant who will work closely with me as a partner for day to day tasks, so I can be more effective and efficient.  On a different level, I’m on the search committee for our University of Michigan Chief Information Security Officer – a critical leadership role at a time of increased security threats. I’ve also interviewed a candidate for a key director position in our IT department at the request of the executive director who is doing the hiring.

No matter the role, there are some common themes: the first impression you make, your engagement during the interview, your core skills, and your previous experience all come into play.

Group interviews are especially challenging. They can seem stilted and scripted as the interviewers take turns posing questions. Interviewers need to balance common questions/scenarios with each candidate for consistency while creating a lively discussion where they get to know the person. Candidates need to adequately cover each question without getting off track and still let them get a feel for the person.

There are introverts and extroverts. Some people are comfortable the minute they walk into a room of strangers. Not everyone interviews well, so make sure your resume and references are stand out. But for any position where interpersonal communication skills are critical the interview is a good sign of how you would interact once hired. So interviewers will be paying close attention to how you communicate.

I like to start with common questions such as, “why are you considering leaving your current position?” and “what is the ideal next position?” It gives me a good starting framework. Asking the candidate to describe their own strengths and weaknesses lets me see how self aware they are. I also am learning what areas will need development and support if hired. Understanding your short and long term career goals is important. Is this position a stepping stone to something else or what you want for the long term?  Granted, long term can be tough to define these days with so much change in technology, organizational structures, and health care overall.

My best advice to candidates is to prep well and be yourself. Do your homework. Get to know the organization and people you will be meeting – online resources can tell you a lot. Be ready to describe your career history and why this is the right next opportunity for you. Review your social media presence to make sure it communicates what you want to project. And then, relax and be yourself – if youre the right match of personality, style, skills, and experience, it will be evident.

Interviewing is a two way street. Remember, you are checking them out as much as they are checking you out. If its not the right position or organization, let them know sooner rather than later. No need to invest more time on either side.

And what if you dont get the job – remember, they are hiring only one person in the end. I will have some advice on how to move forward when you don’t get the job in a future post.

Good luck!

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12 thoughts on “Stand out at the interview

  1. Chandra Bondugula on said:

    Ms. Schade,
    This is a great post especially when many students are graduating and looking for a job. I like the way the introverts are recognized by the interviewers and also an opportunity for them to prove using standout resumes and the references. For students who are graduating or looking for internships, the interviewers would like to know about the course work and projects the students have done. Thanks for the post.

    Chandra

  2. M Hepner on said:

    Lately I’ve been thinking there are 3 (not 2) outcomes to every interview. Most people think it’s you get the job or you don’t get the job; I actually break out the second one and come up with: 1. You get the job, 2. You don’t get the job and it’s really not the right opportunity for you and/or for them, or 3. You didn’t get the job but you made a great impression and that hiring manager will figure out how to get you into their organization later down the line. Either way, it should be a win-win, you either got the job, or you exposed yourself for another (and probably better) opportunity and in the meantime you gained valuable experience for your “interviewee” skills and also might have learned a thing or two about your own skills and experience and the right kind of fit for you.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Myron, great points! Yes, many ways to look at not getting the job. Might incorporate some of your thoughts in future post on “what to do when you don’t get the job”. thanks!

  3. Mary Caire on said:

    I enjoyed this post! My favorite part was when you mentioned that interviews are a two way street- ABSOLUTELY! Whatever position you’re applying for, it’s important that they (the company/school interviewing you) fit your needs. Employment can be a intricate pathway. What I mean by that is that employment can benefit both the company and the individual. If the candidate is right for the company and the company is right for the candidate, it’s mutually beneficial. I think every person, no matter what they’re interviewing for, should understand the mutual relationship between self and the company/school. I think the most success in interviews and careers is when both the company and the individual benefit from one another.

    Great advice!

  4. Kevin Rhode on said:

    Outstanding advise – I recently had a phone group interview, it was very scripted and it completely threw me off my game. I went from 0 to panic in very little time during the interview. But I took great lessons away from the effort – that’s the key no matter the result, learn something from the experience.

      • Kevin Rhode on said:

        Thanks Sue – I didn’t recover enough for that interview. In my reflection afterward I took it as a valuable lesson to be prepared for these type of interviews as well. Gaining experience and growing from these efforts is important as well.

  5. Fadi Islim on said:

    Thank you for the advice, good to know.
    I would like to ask a question, what is your advice when they ask you in the interview about the salary? I’ve had interviews for jobs overseas and here, and I want to say 80% of the time, I’ve been asked what my expectation about the salary is. And honestly I don’t know how I managed to get out of the question, but what is the right answer?

    The other question is it okay if I bring this subject up, if they don’t mention anything about it? Or should I wait until they offer me the job and then ask about the salary?
    I always wanted to know what the right answer is.
    No one better than you to answer this question. Looking forward to hear from you.

    Thanks in advance

    Fadi Islim.

    • Sue Schade on said:

      Fadi, I’m glad you asked that question. Guessing many people wonder the same. I would say get it into the discussion as soon as possible. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs going all the way through the process if salary range is way off or out of the question. That’s key – salary range. Not specific salary but range you are currently in and what range you are willing to consider. Hope that helps.

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