Razzle Dazzle Them

Wow – it’s been a while, hasn’t it?  I guess my “I’m going to post at least once every two weeks” goal is out the window.  But, in the spirit of self-compassion, I’m going to move on and get to this week’s post.

I’ve been promising this post and I think this is a good time to get to the topic of interviews, not just because it fits where we are in the narrative of my hiring, but also because I’m currently hiring a few positions and so my thoughts on the subject are pretty fresh.

The first interview for my current position was with the senior management team, which consisted of three other people at the time, all men who are well established in their careers.  It was daunting to say the least, however, not as scary as it could have been and if you’ll permit a small (read: large) tangent, I will tell you why.

If you’ll remember WAY back to my first post where I wrote so beautifully and eloquently about how I came upon this job that you were moved to tears, or at least kept reading, you’ll recall that I interviewed for another position in the organization and was directed to this one.  The individual that interviewed me then and thought of me for my current job just happened to be on the senior management team.  I didn’t know that at the time.  What I did know was that he was relatively high up in the organization and that we had some things in common in terms of management styles (e.g. Agile – look it up if you want to geek out on IT management).  I wanted to keep him in my network regardless of how it worked out with the position because I identified in him a kindred spirit in terms of how we thought about organizational strategy, process improvement, etc, and because I found him easy to talk to and a good person with which to brainstorm.  So, I arranged to have coffee with him a few times to pick his brain about a project I was doing in my then and also to ask about this new position.

Now, I know what the more cynical among you might say; “This sounds like you were using this person to get what you wanted”.  And you would be correct.  He was also using me to get what he wanted, a certain type of person in the organization that thinks the way he does and that he thought would be good for the organization.   This mutual and beneficial exchange is how networking often works and I can’t emphasize this enough: DO NOT BE AFRAID TO DO THIS.  DO NOT BE AFRAID TO NETWORK, TO USE CONNECTIONS, TO ASK PEOPLE FOR A FAVOR. It can feel sneaky, it can feel machiavellian, and it also doesn’t have to be bad.  In this particular instance we both got what we wanted and so far it is working out just fine.  I think women in particular have trouble with this.  We feel that the merit of our work alone should mean we advance or get the job, the trouble is that if no one notices that merit, it’s not going to happen.  So, you have to make people notice so get out there and do it.

And that my friends is how you turn a post about interviewing into a post about networking.  Tada!

Back to interviewing:  making that connection with one of the senior management team I was interviewing with and having already had discussions with him about what the organization was looking for, made the interview so much easier.  I knew I already had one person in the room who was in my cheering section, so to speak.

From my perspective, being ready with good interview questions is another important step for high-level interviews (or any interview really).  Now what do I mean by “good” interview questions.  These are questions that show that you’ve done research into the organization and that you are interested in knowing more.  Some of my favorites include:

  1. Where do you see the organization (or team/department/unit) in 5 years? (I like to know what a leader’s vision is because I need to believe in the vision to work for a person).  This was also a good question in my case because others in the room were curious about the answer as well.
  2. What is the biggest challenge facing the organization?
  3. what is the biggest opportunity the organization and what would keep you from grabbing it?
  4. What does success look like in this position?

There are also many good examples of questions online and, as always, asking friends and colleagues is a great way to collect questions.

Fundamentally though, if it comes down to you and another qualified candidate, it’s about impressions. Here are some things to consider when creating an impression:

  1. I personally am a firm believer in being overdressed is better than being under-dressed.  However, doing some research on the company in this regard is a good idea.  You don’t want to necessarily show up in a suit if the company prides itself in it’s “T-shirt and jeans culture” as you might be seen as someone who wouldn’t fit in.
  2. Try and keep your answers to-the-point and succinct.  It’s better for the interviewers to ask follow-on questions than for you to ramble around an answer.  As you can tell, I’m a huge rambler so this is a particular challenge for me.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification to a question as a way to pause while you formulate an answer, or simply say, “let me think about that for a second”.
  4. Again we come back to the motif of being clear on what you offer to the organization, especially in terms of perceived gaps in the organization. I’m going to keep talking about this because I think its critical.

For me, the number 1 thing to remember is that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.  Just keeping this one fact in mind goes along way to help the perceived power differential in the room.

Next time in this space – interviewing people you are going to be managing.



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