Getting A New Gig - The Job Interview

  • by Ted Leamy
  • We are gonna continue the discussion on getting a new job that suits your talents, is rewarding and provides a pathway forward in your career. So far in my recent blog posts we have covered when to look for a new job and some of the basics of how to do it - including what kind of resume works best. This edition we are going to discuss job interviews. I am going to tell you exactly what I look for when interviewing a candidate for a position.
  • Before we start - Did ya go to Infocomm? Trade events like Infocomm are custom made for job seekers. What a way to build your network! All these people involved in our industry all in one location and ready to engage in conversation. The perfect networking opportunity! Facebook and Linked In are great, but there is nothing and I mean NOTHING like getting out and shaking hands with all sorts of people in the same industry as you. You never know where the next exciting employment opportunity may come from.
  • Ok... Let's assume your resume, or some other initial contact has created interest at one of the companies you targeted and you find yourself being invited to a first interview. I say first interview, because seldom is a hiring decision ever made on a first meeting....as an aspiring applicant, you shouldn't make up your mind based on that first encounter either. It takes a couple meetings to get to know each other and get all the questions on the table. This part of getting a new gig is a process - a process that takes patience on both sides.
  • If you make it to a face-to-face interview, then chances are you are a serious candidate for the position at hand. So what do I first look for when meeting someone? I am pretty much like any hiring manager when it comes to qualifying applicants. What I tell you about my method is going to apply for most of the folks you are going to meet who are responsible for hiring. Why is this? Because what any hiring manager is looking for is pretty simple stuff and can be broken down to a few basic ideas. It doesn’t matter if it is a small business or a large corporation.
  • The questions I ask during the first meeting are meant to explore strengths and shortcomings. How the questions are answered speaks volumes about whether I will call for a second meeting or politely shake hands and move on to the next applicant!

The process is amazingly simple. I conduct all interviews very casually - but with a clear purpose. All of which I do with the applicant's resume within reach. The conversation consists of four different kinds of questions and observations.

#1. Can do? Does the prospective employee have the necessary education, talent and skill for the position. Can he/she do the job? The resume provides a lot of information here - amount/degree of relevant work experience, past work achievements, education and the basic knowledge and understanding required to be successful at the position.

I am always concerned when I see a series of jobs listed on a resume where each lasts only 15 months or so. For me this is a red flag. Fifteen months is a little longer than one typical business cycle. A cycle when at the end, an employer assesses profit margin and resources. Did you really have the knowledge to do that gig? Were you asked or encouraged to move on? If your resume looks like this, be prepared to explain why the numerous moves.

#2. Will do? Is the potential employee motivated and interested to dig in and do well at the position. Will he/she be a highly motivated employee? This is a very different question than 'can do'. This evaluation concerns whether the person's overall career goals are compatible with the job. A person's energy level is a good indicator of their ability to meet major job responsibilities - not just the prerequisite knowledge to carry out the daily tasks. It is also the portion of the dialogue where I begin to learn about the candidate's general analytical and problem-solving skills.

I am looking to learn how a person in their previous employment has helped that business succeed. How they participated in raising-the-bar when it comes to customer care, overall quality and the bottom line. Regardless of the type of position held, a level of self awareness about how one fits into making a business succeed tells much about the maturity of the individual. (See how important your well thought through and self-written resume can be? - go re-read my last blog!)

#3. Good fit? Will the person fit in the organization well. Does he/she have personal qualities to be effective in the organization? Do they have the natural ability to get along with other people? Having said that I am always looking for a certain willingness to engage in conflict - conflict of the right kind. Conflict that challenges other employees and the company as a whole to become better. People who are a good fit have a potential for advancement - helping a business to realize a succession plan for others who themselves are moving up the ranks.

#4. First impression? First impressions are important. How an individual presents themselves, their attitude, confidence, air of self reliance are all clues to their work ethic and ability to succeed in any environment.

I especially appreciate meeting candidates who have taken the time to research information about the company. It tells me they are serious. When he/she asks relevant questions during the first meeting I know they are paying attention.

Ok... so what exactly am I digging for during the first round of get-togethers by relying on first impressions? Simple - I am trying to see if there are the tell tale indicators the person sitting in front of me is a leader.

I daresay I share this practical view on leadership. Good advice for any of us to take up as a career mantra. The point is everyone has the capacity to be a leader in whatever position they hold in a business although it may not always seem that way. All organizations have a head honcho, a boss, but leadership is not about who is in charge according to the org chart. Leadership is about doing the right thing - putting your personal ego and feelings aside and demonstrating how to accomplish what ought to be done instead of what is easy to do. Any of us can choose to be a leader no matter our role or position of employment - in any situation. I'll hire a leader every time, even if they are not the top candidate when it comes to experience. Leaders succeed.

By the way, on a side note... I have a zero tolerance for someone who lies or purposely tries to mislead during the interview process. You should too.

Re-read this blog again with your new resume in hand. Do a self assessment. (That's what leaders do!) It might help you prepare for your next job interview and be less nervous on the big day. Remember to be yourself. Give honest answers in response to those interview questions like "where do you see yourself in five years?" After reading this blog, you can now see there are some clever reasons for asking those seemingly sappy yet probing questions!