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. And 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 healthcare 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 you’re 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 it’s not the right position or organization, let them know sooner rather than later. No need to invest more time on either side.
And if you don’t 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.