You might have had a few interviews. But, no offers. That could mean the competition was significantly more qualified than you were. Or that you could improve how you interview.
Doing an Executive Interview Audit
However, if you’ve had many interviews and zero offers, then it makes common sense to do an audit of what has transpired during past interviews to see what can be modified to improve performance. Just as in accounting, an audit on your interviews is conducted to uncover possible problems. Regular audits make good financial sense in business and they could make a difference in the outcomes of your interviews.
Essentially there are 5 major areas to check over.
1) Preparation. Properly preparing for an interview falls into at least 4 categories.
• The first is the research you did on the company, ranging from its product lines and financials to the corporate culture and its longer-term goals. Had you gone beyond the website? What had security analysts said if it’s a public company? What was the competition up to?
• The second is how well you analyzed the data you researched. That’s to get you ready to respond to their questions and make intelligent comments.
• The third is if you needed to do a dry run to prevent lateness. This may sound obvious at the executive level, but you will be surprised how often it can happen. Not only is tardiness held against you, it throws off your equilibrium on the interview leaving you unsettled.
• The fourth is if you had the emotional intelligence (EI) to mirror the culture. That ranges from dress to language. In lean organizations those soft skills have become a must. There’s no place to hide. And everyone has to work together. Did you fit in?
2) Body Language. Here an infinite number of things could be off. Did you break eye contact? Do you think your answers were evasive? Do you smile too much? Did that mark you as lacking self-confidence?
Some of this may result from nervousness, which is normal. However, more likely they are inbred mannerisms that you should be aware of and make a conscious effort to decrease. That’s why it could be a worthwhile investment of time to simulate interviews and video-tape them. Have those you trust give you constructive criticism.
3) Interview Give And Take. A fundamental of all human interaction is that person with the most power determines the rules. Of course, the interviewer has that power edge and you should follow the lead. But within that deferential position there are many dicey decisions to make.
For example, you have to demonstrate leadership. How do you do that effectively without alienating the person in the company who’s interviewing you? They need insight on their technology from an IT leader. How do you frame that without coming across as arrogant or critical? In these scenarios it is best to ask questions in a consultative manner versus direct what should happen, when you truly have limited information.
Again, the smart move could be filming your simulated interviews and having your approaches critiqued. In that way you might finger that you “preach” about technology versus engaging in a conversation. The company decides you are brilliant but too difficult to work with.
4) Tough Questions. Difficult questions during interviewing have become fairly standard. The work environment is chaotic. So, the company wants to test out how you handle stress. It also needs to check out how fast-thinking you can be. And, of course, by throwing you off your game, the interviewers can shake loose information from you that might not be available anywhere else.
For many of the tough questions you would be prepared. You had been among the 7,000 laid off last year by Corporation X. This company wants to know why you were selected for the RIF and 40,000 others weren’t. Have a persuasive and confident, but truthful answer.
Additionally, there also are questions from left field you will have no way of anticipating. You are ushered into the design lab for auto dashboards. They want you to explain what you would do to reduce the cost by a third. For these types of questions, you are being assessed for your ability to think on your feet and that is the best way to approach these types of questions. Be confident in your ability to troubleshoot and diagnose.
The response you give could count for half your grade on that interview. Therefore it’s critical that you are totally “in the now” when this curve ball comes your way. If you are preoccupied with how you’re doing on the interview and not what you’re actually doing, your performance could be substandard.
For this very reason Silicon Valley is among the work environments exploring methods how to be in the present. One is mindfulness. Another is regular exercise. A third is learning how to reduce the kind of stress which distracts you. Engaging in these practices before the interview can help you on the interview.
5) Follow Up. A job offer can be yours to lose. And you could lose it during the follow-up period.
Many candidates do well on the interview and fail to follow-up, failing to realize that for some companies, following-up well is part of the process. How bad do you want the job? Here is the place to demonstrate it. The best explicitly single out what the applicants learned about the company during the interview and how that increased their enthusiasm. You sent the note snail mail instead of email. It never reached the executive’s desk. You pulled a gimmick such as sending a pizza to everyone in the loop in the process. They didn’t think that was clever – or appropriate. You called every few days to see how the process was going. Your name became the office joke.
Intuitively job applicants manage follow-up well when they are aggressively pursuing other possibilities. It could be emotional suicide to put all your hopes on one job. The odds are you will make the wrong moves because you’re overly focused on one. Post-interview, even if you sense it has gone well, don’t stop or slow down your search. It has happened that applicants who never let up on the hunt wind up with multiple offers.
From the get-go
Whether you are unemployed and “need” a job or you are exploring a better deal or fit, your immediate objective is to land interviews. It’s only by practice, practice, practice that you gain the experience you need to get an offer. Since the marketplace for talent is continually changing, what you learned about interviewing a few years ago could be out-of-date today.
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