Thursday, October 30, 2008

What I Look for in an Interview

Recently, a neighbor shared her son's interviewing experience for a summer job. His dilemma was that he wasn't sure what the interviewer wanted hear. For example, even though he thought a detailed answer had been given, the interviewer asked for specifics. Also, he was never sure how good his interviews were.

I remember interviewing for my summer and permanent jobs. I also didn't have a clue about what was important. Now after doing many interviews as a hiring manager, I think I better understand why I was and wasn't successful in my job interviews. As an interviewer I try to look for specific characteristics that I believe will enable a candidate to be successful. Over time, I have narrowed it down to learning about the candidate in each of the following areas:

  1. Making a difference. All candidates will have examples of organizations, projects, or activities in which they participate, which I think is a great starting point. It's one level to be a member, it's a higher level to be an officer, and even a higher level is to be responsible for a positive outcome. I usually probe deeper to find out how they personally "made a difference."

    Examples of making a difference would be raising more money than before, achieving a higher level of championship in sports, or enabling more participation than the previous year.

    Of course, I would want to understand the candidates personal contribution, versus just being present for the ride.

  2. Having mastery. I expect every candidate to have a basic understanding of their field of study or work, at a minimum. The top candidates will demonstrate further mastery, by showing both depth and breadth of their knowledge. This area helps me understand how a candidate thinks and how they might apply their skills to challenges with which they have less familiarity.

  3. Track record of results. Successful candidates tend to have multiple examples of delivering good results, often in different areas, including sports, academics and business. To me, it is also important to understand how the candidate overcame challenges to achieve the results.
Of course, interviewing well in these three areas doesn't guarantee an offer. However, the lack of examples in these areas would reduce the chances of getting an offer from me.

For more on Crossing Generations, check back every Thursday for a new segment.

This is not financial or career advice. Please consult a professional advisor.

Copyright © 2008 Achievement Catalyst, LLC

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