Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding your best practices Plan B when your job search isn’t working – part 11, rethinking the interview, part 1

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on May 6, 2010

A lot of what I have been doing in this series on developing a Plan B job search has focused on:

• Rethinking basic practices and processes, and in
• Testing and validating how we job search and how to do this better with specific exercises (see entries 56 through 65 in my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development).

This posting continues that trend and with a focus on interviewing, and I stress the importance of polishing and improving interviewing skills for several reasons.

• Informational interviews constitute one of the most valuable resources you have available for finding the job opportunities that will work for you, and for developing networking leads into those businesses. This is a tool you can use to learn to be an insider and to learn how to best present yourself as the answer to a hiring manager’s problems that would bring them to go through the hiring process in the first place.
• Hiring decisions are virtually always made in interviews, and the actual decision to hire is usually made fairly early in that process. The balance of that interview is used to build validation and justification for decisions already made. And this holds where an initial decision is to go with the candidate being interviewed and it applies equally well when an initial decision is that this is not the right candidate too.
• If you are to interview effectively, you want to be sure that your understanding of this process and your approach to dealing with it from your side of that table mesh with those of the hiring manager.
• If you view this and conduct yourself as from their side of the table, you also increase your chances at successfully prompting them to reconsider if their initial impression/decision is not to hire you. Interviewing effectively and from a real understanding of the hiring manager’s needs and perspectives can help you turn around an interview that has to be brought into a more successful focus.

I initially wrote about the importance of knowing the hiring manager’s perspective and of interviewing as the answer to their problems and issues in Taking a Consultant’s Approach in a Job Search last October. I recommend that you read that as I am not simply retracing ground already covered there. If you have been looking long term and without success, and you have been getting interviews but not follow-up meetings or offers, you really need to reconsider how you interview. That may be where you most need to move to an effective job search Plan B. This entire series is about finding and understanding any chokepoints in your search and in finding ways to specifically do them better so as to bring your search to a successful conclusion. Interviewing may be your point in this process where you could be more effective.

• If you have been searching long term and without success, you probably feel a great deal of pressure to validate and explain your skills, experience, drive and worth and that is good.
• But you have to focus all of that energy and enthusiasm into how you can and will help the hiring manager and their business meet their needs, priorities and issues, and as an effective member of their team.

Digressions into issues that may be very important to you, but that do not relate to the position at hand, or to the goals and priorities of that hiring manager will not help you. They may lead the hiring manager to think that either you have not read the job description they provided, or that you are actually looking for a different job than the one they are looking to hire for. Either can be a disqualifier, and can bring that hiring manager so stop looking for reasons to hire and start looking for reasons to justify not hiring you.

Ask questions and draw out the hiring manager for more information. If you meet with a gatekeeper as a first interview step in a longer process, draw them out for information and insight too. In that a gatekeeper can become a valuable information resource that you can gain insight from when later meeting with the hiring manager.

• Show you have done your homework but show interest in learning more and of being involved and a part of the team.
• And have your elevator pitch and remember it cannot be effective if it is simply a monolog.
• Listen – both gatekeepers and hiring managers have things they want to tell you and both about the business and about the position you are interviewing for. These details should be considered gifts that will offer you valuable insight if you let them tell you what they want to share with you. Listen and then speak, and engage in a conversation with a focus on them and not on you.

I am going to continue on the topic of interviewing in the next installment in this series, but before you get to that, I would suggest that you try an exercise. Think back to the interviews you have had and ask yourself some basic questions.

• Was I focused on understanding the needs and priorities of the hiring manager and their business, or was I focused on demonstrating my breadth and depth of skills and experience?
• Did I listen enough and ask good questions for drawing out the people interviewing me for more information about their needs and objectives in hiring?
• Did I focus on issues or details that may reasonably have lead the interviewer to question relevance to their specific candidate requirements and the job at hand?
• Was I nervous and if so did I focus on that in my body language and in how much I said?
• Did I really watch the body language of the people I was meeting with?
• Did I treat everyone I met with from the front desk receptionist on in, as if I was meeting with a decision maker? In that, did I listen and learn what I could from every encounter? Did I smile and show interest? Did I really seek to use these opportunities as the sources of value they always are?

I will go into interviewing etiquette and related issues in the next posting and on how you can make sure your answers to questions like these are positive and supportive of your succeeding in your job search.

2 Responses

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  1. […] Finding your best practices Plan B when your job search isn't … […]

  2. […] business oriented or not. I started my job search Plan B series (postings 56 to 66) and wrote Part 1 of this on interviewing with that same goal in […]

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