The Interview Dance

Interviewing for a job is like dancing.

As I have watched contestants perform on the television show “Dancing with the Stars”, I see two things that place the exceptional performers above the rest of the contestants. Exceptional partners:

  • Understand the movements of one another.
  • Have a solid relationship with one another.

Interviews are successful (we get the job offer) when the interviewer is convinced that the prospective employee:

  • Can solve the needs of the organization (potential partner) has the ability and understands the needs or movements of the organization.
  • Will work effectively with the interviewer and other members of the organization (will build solid relationships).

Following are tips that could help you perform exceptionally at your interview dances.

  • Research the company and position thoroughly before the interview.
  • Seek first to understand rather than be understood.
  • Ask questions that “put you in the position” as a significant contributor or exceptional performer.
  • Ask questions that will lead the interviewer to believe that you will build effective relationships with key people in the organization and the interviewer if you are hired.
  • Determine if the interview is a how or who interview and respond accordingly.

You can conduct your pre-interview research by reading recent articles about the company and/or articles written or comments by the interviewer or the head of the organization or function. Tap your network to gain information on the situation, needs, and challenges the company or interviewer is facing. Utilize your network for connections to individuals who work in the organization, know the decision maker, or serve the organization (consultants, vendors, salespersons, etc.).

Your research will provide indications of the needs of the interviewer or company. Ask questions during the interview to confirm the needs. Think about the last time a salesperson convinced you to make a significant purchase (car, appliance, etc.). Your visit to the showroom or store indicated your need. The salesperson asked you questions to confirm your needs before communicating how the product could satisfy your needs. Individuals will tune you out if you communicate information that they do not want or need. Again, seek first to understand rather than being understood.

Visions can be a powerful tool for you, especially when you create the vision. One of my favorite questions for placing yourself in a position is “If you hire me, what would I have to accomplish in the first 3-6 months to make a significant impact on the organization?”.

Series of questions that indicate you will build effective relationships if you are hired include:

  • What are the most significant challenges and issues I will have to address if you hire me?
  • Who are the key individuals with whom I will work or should consult to help me address the challenges and issues?
  • What are the expectations of the key individuals of me if I am hired?

“Pepper” your exchanges with the interviewer with your accomplishments that relate to the challenges. For example, what did you accomplish when you faced:

  • Working with limited resources?
  • Convincing skeptical business partners to support an important initiative or project?
  • Motivating staff or team members who were experiencing low morale?

Your statements of your accomplishments should be concise and brief. State the results, the benefits the organization realized, and the measures you took.

How interviews focus primarily on whether you have the skills and capabilities to satisfy the potential employer’s needs. Who interviews focus on your ability to fit into the organization. In how interviews, interviewers tend to probe information on your resume, especially your qualifications and experience. Fitting into the organization is your personal chemistry versus the chemistry or culture of the organization. Who interviews focus on factors such as your management or work style, your approach to getting things done, and even personal information such as your interests. One indication of a who interview is when the interviewer sits next to you rather than having a table or other physical separation between the interviewer and you. Watch for the clues. You will lose the interest of the interviewer if you keep dwelling on your professional qualifications when the interviewer wants to know “Will I be able to work with this person?” If the interview music is calling for who steps, don’t get out of sync with the partner by taking how steps.

What “aha” moments did you experience while reading The Interview Dance?

What ideas, suggestions, and interviewing experiences would you like to share?

What will you do differently the next time you interview for a position?

What additional information on interviewing would you like to receive?