Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Bringing the job market and marketplace into focus – Part 11: the job interview when making a career change

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on September 8, 2010

This is my 12th posting in this series on job search in a contracted jobs market, and when effective search means at least something of a career change. I start out by stressing a point I have repeatedly raised throughout the preceding installments. If you have not already done so, systematically work you way through the earlier postings in this series and read other related postings from the Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development and work at those exercises and in sequence. The object of them is to help you organize and systematically carry out an effective search – your effective search. And each is intended to help you complete a specific step in a systematically planned out and executed process.

The last posting before this in the series, Part 10: Preliminary Interviewing for a Career Change has hopefully left you with a competitive edge over at least the less systematic and through of your competition and with a clearer insight and understanding as to what the hiring manger is looking for and with what priorities, and in how you present yourself as a candidate. Now the focus shifts to the job interview itself, and once again this is a process with that meeting itself simply one step.

• What do you know about the specific hiring company and its industry and marketplace context? What research have you done on this?
• What do you know about the hiring manager? Have you looked them up on LinkedIn and other business oriented social networking sites? Have you Googled them?
• What have you done to flesh out your understanding of the job description you have for this position? This can mean informational interviews, online and business library research and networking. What have you done to make sure you know everything you can that the hiring manager will take as their context and that you need to know too?

That is all about the company and job and the person who will make that hiring decision. You also want to prepare yourself with a self-review.

It is all but certain you have a resume gap and possibly more than just one, and you may be making a fairly significant career change. You can, very often, cover for any problems in that by demonstrating a clear and penetrating understanding of the job, the business and the hiring manager’s needs and by talking like an insider. But there are some review and preparation questions you will probably want to cover before that job interview too. And in this I group in-company gatekeeper interviews with interviews with the hiring manager directly.

• What are the issues and questions that you would feel most challenging for you to effectively answer?

Write out the list and work on draft answers to them. Do not memorize your answers and their specific wording as you do not want to come across sounding like you are repeating a memorized script, and you may need flexibility in wording depending on how they are asked and context – if they are asked at all. But you do want to be ready with approaches to answering them thought out. You want your answers to be thoughtful and to focus on the needs and priorities you have uncovered in your research, definitely including any revelations shared with you in meetings with this company itself.

• What is the corporate culture like and how should you dress for success in its setting?

This is not just about fitting in but about your being comfortable too. As a general rule, you want to dress one step up and more formally than is standard for the dress code you would work in. So if the dress code is casual, skip the jeans and tee shirts and wear a presentable business casual. If it is business casual, wear a coat and tie. If it is sports jacket and tie wear a suit. If it is a suit make yours conservative, and wear a more conservatively colored shirt and tie. I express this in terms of the male candidate as I have always searched as one, but the same basic principle applies for woman candidates too. Your goal is to fit in and to be respectful but it is also that you be as comfortable and relaxed as possible, and that you approach these interviews free of distractions.

When you go to a meeting, always bring a business card to hand out and even if it is a professional calling card that just lists your name and contact information. And always ask for the business cards of anyone you meet with. That way you can follow through with everyone after your meetings of the day, of which you may have several. Ask if you can take notes and jot down quick reminders so you can keep track of what was discussed with whom – so you can send follow through messages that are individually relevant to recipients.

Read through the relevant postings on conducting a Plan B job search listed in the Guide and especially postings 66 through 71.

• And get a good night’s rest the night before. You do not want to show up tired and stressed from not being rested, any more than you would want to show up unprepared and out of focus.

One area you want to be sure to cover is how your background and experience specifically applies to the context of this job you are trying to land. The good news here is that the people you are meeting with must already see something of that in you as they would not be meeting with you if they didn’t.

Listen and watch your body language with good eye contact and posture – sitting at least slightly forward and never slouching in your chair or looking disinterested our rushed. Smile. Ask pertinent questions. But also be prepared to step in and steer the conversation back on track with your questions if it looks to be drifting away from the job. You goal is not to simply have an enjoyable conversation but to show you are that great candidate they are looking for, and for the job under discussion.

The next posting in this series will look at follow-throughs to job interviews. But before I finish this posting I want to add one further thought and this is a very important one.

• The purpose of all of the earlier steps in your search is to get your way through a door and into a job interview at the hiring company.
• The purpose of any job interview is to get that next interview there and after that the next, until all other potential candidates have fallen away from consideration and you are left as the best choice. Then you will get the offer and then is the time to start working on negotiations as to terms.
• Do not short circuit this by discussing compensation before you get that offer and if you have to say anything on this earlier keep it general and flexible.

I will be going into this in more detail in a subsequent posting after looking in more details into post-job-interview follow-throughs.

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