Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Interview Process

I work with many clients to prepare them for the interview process. Whether it’s for an initial phone screen or the multiple rounds for this: Since most of us interview infrequently and only out of necessity, our interview skills are usually rusty, at best; because the perceived stakes are high, our anxiety and expectations often trump our typical competence and confidence; and, because it’s not always clear what the interviewer is looking for, we aren’t sure how best to respond to their inquiries.

To insure you do the best interviews possible, I recommend the following: First, be very clear about the messages you want to communicate during the interview; secondly, develop a full complement of compelling stories that give credence to each of these messages; and, finally, know and be able to clearly articulate the value-add that resulted from each of your stories.

In regard to messaging, whether you have a long career or are just starting out, each of you have one or more underlying themes that describe you, your career, your motivation, passion, talents and skills. This is the “glue” that holds a career together and your ability to articulate these themes will help you to make a coherent and convincing case as to why you are a strong candidate for the job for which you are interviewing.

Even the best messages, however, are insufficient if you don’t have the right stories to back them up. For every major theme you offer, you must have several stories that provide the necessary evidence, and these stories should also show your range of motion, adaptability if you will, and paint a picture for your interviewer that you are both capable and confident with what you bring to the table. I encourage my clients to develop as many “accomplishment” stories as they can when preparing for their interviews.

Finally, and perhaps most important in today’s job market, is your ability to know and clearly articulate the added value for each of your stories and accomplishments. This value add may be a quantitative or qualitative change, or some of both. Whether easy or difficult to put into words, you will have a distinct advantage in the interview process if you can consistently speak about the results you achieved in your work.

Steve Hernandez and I do a lot of interview coaching. Feel free to contact either one of us if you need help in improving your interview skills. Best wishes.

Mark Guterman