Getting the interview ...

We have another thoughtful piece from co-Job Stalker, Gordon Dymowski, today, looking at what’s involved with interviewing. This is a sore subject for me, as I get so very few interviews, and am always amazed at the folks who can crank through several every month … but, then again, I guess those are the “square peg in the square holes” guys, and I’m never that.

I’m hoping that ChicagoNow is over the worst of the move to the new blogging platform. It took me three hours to post the piece on Monday (which didn’t include the time involved writing it), and I was NOT a happy camper about that! Anyway, here’s Gordon’s words of wisdom on interviewing:

                                                    — — —

For me, it’s the Holy Grail of my job search – it’s the one goal that I always strive for, the single sign post that confirms for me that my networking, resume submission, and occasional long, dark tea time of the soul did not happen in vain.

That is, of course, the interview – that one moment where my skills actually appear to fit a company’s/organization’s/non-profits needs. It’s the professional equivalent of the “coffee date” – at this point, we both see whether or not there will be, at the very least, another coffee date.

It’s easy to believe that somehow, after one interview, I will be hired on the spot. After all, reading about othergreatinterviewsgonewellcan often lead to bitter, resentful disappointment later on. But for me, the interview is key – I know that each interview is great practice for the next one, and the next one, and that if I hit my goal of one to two interviews a week, I know that my job search is in full gear. (More importantly, I lose my self-consciousness when talking about my professional career, and achieve a kind of humility about my accomplishments.)

For me, it begins with reviewing my “working file” on an employer – this is an actual file folder which contains a copy of the position listed with some other background information (for example, the person that referred the position, some other information about the organization, etc). After reviewing the position, noting what I can bring (or possible weaknesses/areas for growth), I then deep dive into my potential employer – who’s doing the hiring? If I do a search via LinkedIn, do I have any potential advocates/contacts whom I can ask about the company? What have they done recently? Most of this work is for me to be able to understand not just what the company/organization/non-profit is looking for in terms of hiring for the specific position, but what is their overall approach? What are their challenges?

When I review my past career, I see that I have been hired because I can solve specific problems. It sounds like another how-to-find-a-job article, but I was able to create a unique niche for myself within a given context – being the “online communications expert” for a word-of-mouth marketing agency; having a strong treatment-based background when hired for a community position; being able to articulate complicated, abstract concepts in simple, understandable terms throughout my career. That’s what I try to do when I prepare for an interview – show that I can bring something more than just what they require. To use current buzz words, I am “adding value” to the position.

(A quick note – as a friend blogs in ThingsTheyDontTeachYouinBusinessSchool, employersareincreasinglyrelyingonphonescreensandpreinterviews. Although it would be very easy for me to slack off, my due diligence is just as strong when prepping for phone interviews – in fact, it may even be a bit stronger, since I’m relying on mostly my voice, rather than my overall manner, to connote confidence).

Part of my preparation is also reviewing and prepping for difficult interview questions – knowing that there will be the obligatory “tough question to answer” during the interview. One of my go-to texts (via mylocallibrary) is Tony Beshara’s AcingtheInterview – a nice, thick tome that provides a very strategic approach to answering tough interview questions. (The book contains examples, but focuses more on the rationale behind certain questions….and contains almost every variation on a theme). Thankfully, I have enough improv-training (one of the glorious results of my misspent youth) to be able to handle unusual questions, and to be able to navigate a tricky situation.

(Great example – awhile ago, I interviewed for a non-profit that stated that they were performing a “leadership interview”….one with no right answers, but was being scored. One of the questions they asked was “What starship captain do you think your leadership style most resembles?” After a slight pause, I answered BenSiskoofDS9, because I could balance the ethical, business, and life concerns of leadership. When talking with fellow job stalker Brendan, he stated that I should have indicated thischaracter from thistelevisionprogram. Personally, I think that they were taken aback because I admitted I was a Doctor Who fan….and quite frankly, taking on the Klingon Empire was not part of the job description. I only bring this up to state that some interviews can be a little quirky….but should focus somewhat on whether the candidate is a good fit for the position).

But back to interviewing: when I have a face to face scheduled, I always make an effort to show up at least ten to fifteen minutes early. (It’s much easier for me to demonstrate timeliness by showing up early than attempting to be “on the button”. Besides, it provides the interviewer with a chance to prep before meeting me). If the interviewer and/or receptionist offer a beverage, I always take water – part of it is that when nervous, my mouth dries up; it also allows for a moment of relaxation for everyone. Finally, after the interview, I usually send a thank you e-mail that evening, followed up with a hand written thank you card with my business card tucked inside.

But that’s how I approach interviews – how about you? Is my e-mail followed by hand written card overkill? Did I miss anything? Please feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below. If you like what you read and want to check out my other online channels, just head to (I am also willing to connect via LinkedIn – just let me know that you got the referral via Job Stalker). Thanks again for reading!



Filed under: Uncategorized

Leave a comment