Interviewing Six Pack

Interviewing. Most of us have done it, and at various times, many have been both the interviewer as well as the interviewee. Think about your interviewing experiences, and which ones stand out as memorable? What did YOU do in the interview that was memorable? How about the other person(s) in the interview? Successful interview experiences typically involve a healthy dialogue, a clear understanding of the role and how transferable the interviewee’s skills are, and a shared feeling of cultural fit.

In the attached article, Bonita C. Stewart, Vice President of Global Partnerships at Google, gives her perspective on the six things she always listens for when interviewing prospective candidates, which are:

  1. Transferable skills, experience
  2. Ask questions
  3. A list of accomplishments, but not all about yourself
  4. Take ownership of your mistakes
  5. Personal agility
  6. Show that you work well with others

Advice for the Interviewer & the Interviewee

Having extensive experience on both sides of the interview table as well, I have found many examples of things that both the interviewer and the interviewee can and should do in order to demonstrate preparation, authenticity and respect. Here are my six packs of do’s and don’ts for both.

Interviewer Do’s

  1. Do: Be fully engaged & transparent
    1. Be prepared with an overview of the company, an organization structure, some highlights on cultural successes and business results (non-confidential, of course).
    2. Be honest about areas of challenge or opportunity. You’re interviewing a candidate to help in an area of your organization, so be candid about it. Portraying utopia should raise a red flag for any potential candidate, and begs the question of why are you looking for talent?
  2. Do: Leave adequate time for questions
    1. Remember, a good candidate is interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them, so honor that exchange by allowing adequate discussion. Plus, the questions asked by the interviewee will give you some additional insight into how s/he thinks and what kind of preparation was done.
  3. Do: Be respectful of the investment made by the candidate
    1. Interviewees are typically stressed and nervous. So honor that uncertainty, and seek to put them at ease, especially at the start to settle down nerves.
    2. Interviewees have also likely spent significant time filling out applications, researching the company and consolidating examples, so be clear on the job expectations, give the interviewee your full attention and don’t seek to make a power play in the interview. Be relatable and genuine.

Interviewer Don’ts

  1. Don’t: Check e-mail, text or answer calls while in the interview
    1. There is not a clearer way to show disrespect and a lack of interest than purposely distracting yourself with day-to-day work during an interview. It also sends a very clear message about you, your inability to focus and be attentive, and suggests a culture that does not respect work/life balance.
  2. Don’t: Strive for the “gotcha” moment.
    1. An interview is not the place to try and showcase your brilliance, nor is it a place for you to play the power card. If you want the best talent, do you really think purposely backing a candidate into a corner will garner aspiration from the interviewee to join your organization?
  3. Don’t: Let pre-conceptions reign
    1. Interview pre-conception can go both ways. You can be interviewing someone who you’re certain is “the one”, or you can be interviewing a candidate who you have a bias against for a multitude of reasons. Check both of those and fully engage in the interview to seek to understand and listen. You might be surprised at how wrong your upfront pre-conceptions were…
An interview is hopefully the start of progress & success

Interviewee Do’s

  1. Do: Your homework!
    1. You know you are one of many potential candidates interviewing for a role, so what’s going to set you apart? I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that I never hired a candidate that came into an interview without doing homework on the business, brands, company, etc.
    2. You will be amazed at the power homework can carry. My wife interviewed for a role, and spent several days visiting stores, conducting price checks, and assessing the competitive landscape prior to the interview. In an interview with several of the company leaders, she dropped a question on them about distribution & brand development that floored them all, and let them know she was prepared, serious and vested. Less than 48 hours later, she received an offer.
  2. Do: Recite specific examples that demonstrate agility & flexibility
    1. I promise you will not have the perfect answer to every question. Guaranteed. But, don’t worry about it. Instead, listen to the question, try to assess what they are really trying to understand, and share specific examples that gets you close and demonstrates agility & flexibility. Listen for what you believe are their needs and how your experience fits into addressing those needs.
    2. Use the CAR example for answering questions: C = Challenge; A = Action; R = Result. If you frame up your experience in this way, you will provide context, articulate some critical actions you took, and the end output or result. This framework also helps you structure your answers as you prepare.
  3. Do: Ask questions about the structure & culture to assess fit
    1. Very rarely will you be interviewing for a role that is significantly beyond your skillset. But, assessing a new company will be more about understanding the EQ (“how”) the company works. Company culture is tough to assess, so frame up your questions that seek examples of collaboration, talent development, growth & investment, resourcing of key initiatives, and the communication hierarchy.
    2. Assess your boss with probing questions about how s/he helped mentor an employee, their proudest success as a leader, what they love and would change about their role, what style of management helps them flourish, and what would current and previous employees say they have learned most?

Interviewee Don’ts

  1. Don’t: Ask about salary, vacation, time off or benefits until the offer stage
    1. Unless you have received an offer, it’s too early to be asking about benefits. So don’t. A prospective employer wants to know you are interested in committing to help them solve their issues or constraints, not in their benefit package.
  2. Don’t: Pontificate about philosophy while ignoring specific actions and/or contributions
    1. One of the fastest ways for you to disqualify yourself in an interview is to answer a specific question with a generalization. Here’s an example:
      1. Question: Tell me about a specific instance where you were able to resolve conflict between supply chain and sales, and the way you were successful?
      2. Answer: My approach to conflict resolution is one of data immersion, so what I try and do is understand the details of what’s being discussed, then highlight possible solutions.
  3. Don’t: Be someone you’re not
    1. Being nervous is completely normal. Even seasoned CEO’s will become nervous when speaking with a potential Board of Directors. Focus on being your authentic self, be proud of the accomplishments you’ve achieved, be open to areas of learning you’ve been taught, and most importantly, don’t lie. Good interviewers see right through falsehoods, so not only will you not be successful, but it could hurt your reputation with other industry professionals.