How to Handle Other Types of Interviews
Off-site, Group, Panel, Campus, Case, Recruiter, and Internal Interviews
THE BEST WAY to prepare for any interview is to continue to hone the skills you've learned and developed, such as researching, listening well, preparing questions and answers, and editing and diversifying your success stories. You simply can't go wrong if you bring the same level of organization, alertness, and enthusiasm to every interview. At the same time, it helps immeasurably to know the nuts and bolts of each kind of interview.
Although it is true that most interviews share the same features, a few have pronounced differences. For example, a panel interview involves several interviewers—a difference that requires you to answer questions more concisely than you might in a standard interview, where there is more room to be expansive. Learning how to gauge your skills and responses to differences in interviewing techniques and styles requires flexibility and a willingness to improvise. But with a little preparation and practice, you should be able to handle the dynamics of any interview setting.
The key is to be as proactive as possible: Become involved in the interview process rather than letting it roll over you. And rather than dwell on the constraints of a particular form of interview, look for opportunities to show your strengths and best qualifications for a job. If you don't lose focus of your objective and have the courage to direct—and even re-channel—the flow of questions and answers, you are guaranteed to have a great interview.
The first step is to know what will be expected of you in each interview scenario. This article begins with a familiar form—the traditional interview. Here, it goes off site. As you will see, your skills and modus operandi will have to adapt to a change of location, but the information and advice that follows should help smooth the way. Finally, be aware that thoughtful and prompt follow-up is required of every form of interview. Use the opportunity of writing a thank-you note or making a phone call to consolidate and preserve the good impression you've already made.
Off-site interviews are generally conducted over a meal—lunch or dinner—in a restaurant. There are a number of reasons why you might be asked to attend an off-site interview. Your interviewer may prefer to meet you without office distractions, or the interviewer may work in a small office where the two of you could not have privacy. Or if your prospective job involves meeting with clients or being in the public eye, the off-site interview may be a test of your social graces.
No matter what the reason for your off-site interview, make sure that you're well versed in the rules of etiquette. In order to prepare your self for the meeting, peruse the pages of a standard book of etiquette, such as The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette (revised edition, 2000). This is not to assume that you have no manners, but rather to help you be more comfortable with the situation. You will feel more confident knowing that you double-checked which bread plate belongs to you. Whether or not the job involves entertaining clients, your prospective supervisor will look for a certain level of poise in social settings.
The interview will likely be fluid and more conversational in tone. However, it is still in your best interests to consider it a test. Although you and the interviewer may discuss a recent film or a book you just read, remember that this is still an interview, not a meal with a friend.
On a purely pragmatic level, it makes sense not to order a dish that will be difficult to manage, such as lobster or spaghetti, unless, of course, you are extremely adept at handling both. But then there's the drinking dilemma.
Should You Order a Drink?
The best rule of thumb is: Never drink alcohol at an interview. Even if your host is drinking, it is not a good idea. Although you may think you handle alcohol well, it is easy to lose your focus and self-control if you drink. If you don't handle alcohol well, do not order it under any circumstances, even if your potential boss orders a glass (or bottle) of wine, a beer, or a cocktail.
Don't leave the interview, even if it is at a restaurant or in the company cafeteria, without finding out what the next step is. Who will be calling whom?
And, of course, you need to send a thank-you note. Typically, a note is handwritten on stationery or printed on the same paper with the same heading style as your resume and cover letter paper. Writing a note shows that you have taken the time to express your thanks in a thoughtful and personal way. Remember to refer specifically to something you discussed over the meal that reinforces how well suited you are to the job. If you are not sure how to write a thank-you note, almost any book of etiquette will show you how, or refer to the sample in Appendix D.
Regarding thank-you notes: Mailing an actual note is the best option, but in today's business world, e-mail is often the norm, especially when hiring decisions are being made quickly. The key to any thank-you communication is to be courteous, concise, and timely.
A group interview involves meeting with several different people over the course of a few hours or a day. If you are interviewing for a paralegal position at a large law firm, for instance, you might meet with a human resources administrator, a financial manager, several attorneys, and one or two paralegals, in addition to your prospective boss. The reasons for being interviewed by a group may vary, but in most cases, you will have already had two interviews before you are asked back to meet more people:
- A screening interview with someone from the Human Resources department
- An interview with your potential boss
The people you will meet in a group interview are either in your potential department or work with it, in one capacity or another. The most important thing to remember about this kind of interview is that although your potential boss's opinion of you counts the most, he or she would not have asked others to interview you if their vote didn't count also.
In the best-case scenario, the majority wins: If almost everyone—say five out of a group of six (including your potential boss)—agrees that you are the best candidate for the job, then you are hired. In the worst-case scenario, a consensus is called for, and you don't get hired unless everyone agrees that you should get the job.
Needless to say, it is important to do well in all of your interviews, whether it is one-on-one with someone in human resources or with a group of potential co-employees. Part of the test in being interviewed by many people is getting along with all of them. Often the feeling is, "Oh well, I didn't have chemistry with the financial manager, but I did with the marketing person, so they will cancel each other out. " However, that might not be true. Try to build rapport with everyone. Listen for clues about what is most important to each person; once you know, you can expand your answers to include relevant details.
Sometimes the interviewing group is composed of your peers, which may make you feel more comfortable and will give you an opportunity to learn about company culture from your peer group. Be careful, though, about the questions you ask. Your potential boss will undoubtedly ask members of the group what you talked about, and it could seriously work against you if he or she discovers that you kept asking everyone what the promotional opportunities or vacation policies are, especially if you've already covered this ground with your potential boss. It will look like you're double-checking what he or she told you or that you're less focused on the job itself than on the job's benefits.
Strategies for Talking to a Group
When you're talking to a lot of different people, you won't have as much time to get across as many stories as you did during the interview with your potential boss, so you will have to be selective about the ones you use. For example, if you're chatting with a financial person, work in a short story that demonstrates your numbers savvy; if you're talking to a marketing person, pick a story about when you've used creative ideas.
So it's important to understand your audience: What is this person's function in the organization, and which of my stories would be the most compelling and relevant to their particular experience? For example, here's how one person handled a group interview successfully.
After my first interview at an advertising company, I was called back for a group interview. I was a little nervous about having to sell myself to so many people in a single day—after all, one interview is exhausting, so I figured five or six would be grueling.
But then a friend told me a little trick to make things go more smoothly. She said that one way to make the interviews easier was to incorporate what the one person had told you about the company into your interviews with others. It sounds simple, but it really works.
My first interviewer told me a bit about a recent, untraditional ad campaign the company was involved in. So, when I met with the second interviewer, I mentioned the campaign and asked if the firm was planning to continue exploring innovative advertising methods. I was even able to tie our discussion in with a story about how I had used some unorthodox, but very successful, methods to boost the number of advertisers at my college yearbook.
As I learned more information from different individuals, I incorporated it into my next interviews. I was more relaxed, and I came across as very knowledgeable and interested in the firm. And, best of all, I got the job.
After a group interview, thank your potential boss for giving you the opportunity to meet with some of the people with whom you might be working. Don't leave without asking him or her what the next step is. If you need to call someone in human resources or your potential supervisor by a certain date, make sure that you do. In the meantime, send individual thank-you notes to the people you met. Take the time to write a thank-you note to your interviewer. It is important to reinforce your interest or to express renewed enthusiasm for the job.
During a panel interview, you will meet with several people at the same time. This type of interview simulates a business meeting where you are the presenter. The members of the panel will be people with whom you would interact when on the job or a group of individuals designated because of their status, skills, and areas of expertise as an "Employment Committee. " The panel might include your potential supervisor, his or her boss, someone from human resources, coworkers, plus one or more senior managers who might be tangentially involved with you and your work. The interview usually lasts for about an hour, although it could be longer.
Even if you are scheduled for a panel interview, you will still have a one-on-one interview with your potential supervisor, which should last at least an hour. The interviews don't necessarily occur on the same day.
A panel interview typically follows a standard progression: Stage one is the interview with human resources; stage two is the interview with your potential supervisor. On-campus panels take place at a college or university; in these interviews, students are asked to come into a room, one at a time, to be interviewed without the benefit of meeting with anyone from the company beforehand. In other words, this arrangement would take the place of a screening interview. If all goes well, the student is invited back to the employer's location for the second stage of the interview.
The person who moderates a panel interview is usually the senior person in the room. The arrangement varies from company to company, although it should be fairly clear who the moderator is because he or she will be the person to set the stage for you.
For example, the moderator might begin by introducing the members of the panel and then launch into the objective of the interview. Pay attention to both points, and quickly jot down notes to help you remember the names of the panel members. The moderator will then tell you what the next steps will be. Usually it is a straightforward affair: Members of the panel ask questions and you answer them until the hour is up or the questions seem to come to a natural stopping point.
There is no limit to the number of people who might be on the panel: There may be as many as six or more or as few as two. Remember, the composition of a panel varies depending on the nature of the job, so don't be surprised if there is someone on the panel who might actually be your peer. If the company expects you to work in teams with people from various levels of the organization, it makes sense to meet them early on. The main advantage of the panel is that it saves time. Everybody hears your story firsthand, so it's a efficient way of interviewing.
However, panel interviews can be stressful. This is something that most candidates underestimate. It is challenging to build rapport with each panelist. Also, panel members don't always decide before the interview what types of questions will be asked and who will ask them. So, while you're answering one question, the panel members are busy thinking of the next one. This rapid-fire questioning technique can be both hectic and demanding, and it requires that you think on your feet.
Strategies for Panel Interviews
In your effort to create some sort of structure to reduce the stress of being asked so many questions by so many people at such a fast rate, the tendency is to focus on answering the questions of one person on the panel. This is a mistake. Instead, you should try to include all members of the panel in the discussion. Make eye contact with the person who has asked the question, but make sure you include others by making eye contact with them as well. (See Chapter 5 for more information about using—and reading other people's—body language in an interview. ) If you can, tie comments made by one member of the panel into your answer of another member's question.
The second mistake you can make in a panel interview is to be reactive rather than proactive. On one hand, it is important to pay attention to the questions and make sure you answer them. On the other hand, you want to maintain some control of the interview and tell some of your success stories. First, focus on answering the questions being asked, and then switch your focus to using your success stories. For example, take a look at the following interview to see how you might accomplish this.
Panel Member 1: Why did you choose to go to Humboldt College?
Tyler: I chose Humboldt for several reasons. I knew that I wanted to go into journalism, and Humboldt has an excellent writing program, as well as a well-respected college newspaper—
Panel Member 2: Yes. I see here that you were managing editor of the newspaper. So you decided to do that to gain experience in journalism?
Tyler: That was certainly part of it. But I also chose to work on the paper because of the leadership opportunities the job provided. As managing editor, I was responsible for supervising a staff of 45 columnists and editors. I didn't just have my own deadlines—I had to keep track of and manage everyone's deadlines.
I created a computer tracking system that sent automatic e-mails to columnists, reminding them that their column was due in one week, two days, and one day. The reminders worked wonders, and because columns were in on time, the editors and layout staff were able to produce the paper in a timely manner—instead of being forced to pull all-nighters. So, I decided to work on the paper to learn about journalism, but also to tackle a leadership role and to prove that I could implement creative ideas to make an organization run more smoothly.
Tyler could have gotten flustered when the second panel member interrupted him. Instead, he capitalized on the panel member's question, using it to tell a story that demonstrated his initiative, leadership, and problem-solving abilities.
You may actually find it much easier than you expected to tell your success stories, because people will ask you a lot more questions than they would in any other setting, including group interviews. However, don't get nervous if you can't get all ten stories out—five or six is plenty. So, before you start freewheeling and talking off the top of your head, remember your strategy:
- Don't wait to work in your success stories if you see possible segues. It is just as important to illustrate your good qualities by way of success stories in a group as it is during a one-on-one interview. Remember to answer each question directly, if necessary, and then launch a story.
- If the panel asks you questions for which you have no prepared story, you will have to think on your feet. Pause, collect your thoughts, and improvise. Keep these answers short, and save your time for the success stories that you've prepared.
- Try to give the panelists equal time. Providing thorough answers to each question ensures that you've given respectful, thoughtful answers to each member.
If you tell your stories in a compelling way, your audience will want to hear more. If you've ever made a speech, delivered a paper, or made a presentation in class, you know the drill: People ask questions afterward. If your topic has been particularly stimulating, they get excited and start asking questions simultaneously, without waiting for each other. In this situation, you may feel relaxed because you know your subject and feel in control of it. You should feel the same way about a panel interview because the subject matter is you. Prepare to talk about yourself as you would any other subject of a speech or presentation.
Before the interview, go over the ten stories that describe your best qualities over and over again. Think of ways to weave them into the kinds of questions that might be asked of you. Following are some sample questions that do not specifically ask for stories. Pay attention to the answers, noting the way the speaker used the questions to segue into his stories.
What are your greatest strengths?
I am levelheaded, efficient, and I'm very persistent. I think my greatest strength, however, is creative problem solving. I'm good at looking at problems and thinking of ways to fix them. For instance, I spent one summer working at a doctor's office. The administrative assistants did all the billing by hand—it was an arduous process.
I knew there had to be a better way, so I did some research on computerized billing programs. I found one company that would come to the office and spend half a day training the employees, without charging any more than the other services. I also volunteered to learn all the intricacies of the program myself, so that I could assist anyone who had trouble using the system. Within a couple of weeks, things were running smoothly—and all of the assistants had extra time to devote to other tasks.
How do you usually handle conflicts?
I try to keep cool when dealing with a difficult situation. I think it's important to solve problems by reasoning, rather than letting personal issues get in the way. I often had to deal with conflicts when I was editor of my high school yearbook. I had a very large staff, and there were often huge disagreements over what photos to print, how to lay out the pages, how to spend our budget, and so on. In addition, there were many clashing personalities—some of the staff members had trouble getting along with others. During one meeting, the arguing got so bad that we simply couldn't get anything done.
Instead of losing my temper, I decided that we had to implement a better system of running meetings and making decisions: a set agenda. Everyone received a copy of the agenda, so there was no confusion about what would be discussed; I always factored in time for people to bring up other issues, but the agenda gave the meetings structure. We also voted on all decisions, and a decision could only pass if three-fourths of the staff agreed to it. Meetings ran much more smoothly after that, and there were fewer arguments.
There is a third mistake that panel interviewees sometimes make: They assume that they have to get everything right, but have no idea what that means. Relax. This is not a true/false quiz. The panel will evaluate all of your answers, your communication style, your poise, and many other factors. There is no right answer that will get you the job. As with all types of interviews, prepare yourself by doing your homework on the company and get a good night's sleep. Exhibit 6–1 is a checklist of suggestions to help you before and during a panel interview.
If a panel interview is either on the same day or within a day or two of a one-on-one interview with your potential boss, write him or her a thank-you note, and be sure to write individual notes to everyone on the panel. It is also a courtesy to thank your potential employer for arranging the panel interview. Remember to point out anything that came up in the panel interview that was of special interest to you or that relates to your particular fitness for the job.
If you really want to move on to the next step, you must take the initiative; you don't want to leave your future in someone else's hands
Some campus interviews occur at career fairs, which gives them an entirely different feel than traditional job interviews. For one thing, you have less time to present yourself in the best light. In fact, you don't usually have more than three minutes to deliver your sound bite at an employer's booth or table. Some companies conduct mini-interviews in an auditorium or hall filled with hundreds of other students who are trying to obtain the same job. Under these circumstances, what you have to do is get your resume into the hands of the right person, and make sure that he or she remembers you during the screening process.
Making an Impression
If you have only three minutes in which to sell yourself—and that's exactly how long most campus interviews really last—it is extremely helpful to research the company first and rehearse what you want to say. (Please refer to Chapter 3 for more information on researching a company. ) You will greatly boost your chances of being taken seriously if you can say that you are interested in the company for specific reasons and that your background is a good fit for the job because of specific reasons.
In any case, you won't have time for even one good success story, so you have no choice but to focus on facts. Be prepared to know what they are and make as compelling a case as you can for yourself. Don't be shy. Campus recruiters expect a hard sell because of time limitations and the sheer number of students who want to be interviewed. Once you get a date for a second interview, you can work on presenting yourself at length—and with a little more polish.
Your college or university may also participate in on-campus recruiting. This means that you can arrange interviews with certain firms through your college career center. The interviews will take place on campus.
The companies that participate in on-campus recruiting tend to be large firms that hire many new employees straight out of college. The types of companies that recruit vary depending upon which college you attend.
Speak with your college career center to see how on-campus recruiting works at your school. Some schools arrange a "resume drop," a day when students wishing to participate in on-campus interviews must file all resumes and cover letters with the college career center. Typically, students will have to prepare a separate resume/cover letter package for each firm to which they wish to apply. If your college has such a system, be prepared—resume drops may occur as early as December, although interviews may not be scheduled until February or March.
What to Expect
On-campus interviews are screening interviews to decide which candidates will be invited back to the company for further interviews. A company interviewer may be your potential supervisor, human resources personnel, or an employee in a position similar to the one for which you are interviewing. Companies usually try to include one employee who graduates from your school.
Because on-campus interviews are screening interviews, the interviewers will meet with a number of students and then select a certain percentage of those students to proceed on to the next round of interviews. Although your interviewer will not be making hiring decisions, expect competition to be pretty stiff—on-campus interviewers will be seeing many qualified candidates.
If you are interviewing in certain fields, particularly consulting, financial services, and business development, you may be required to participate in one or more case interviews. In such an interview, you will be presented with a business problem, and asked how you would go about solving it. The goal of the interview is for the interviewer to gauge your analytical and problem-solving skills.
The interview will not test your specific knowledge about an industry or business. Instead, applicants are typically presented with a generic scenario and may be given relevant information needed to solve the problem. As you work out the problem aloud, your interviewer will give you constant feedback and provide you with more information as you need it.
Cases can incorporate numbers and data to varying degrees. The interviewer may be interested in testing your ease with numbers and your quantitative abilities. If economic concepts are what the company is after (if, for instance, you are interviewing with a firm in financial services), they may instead deal with profitability or simple financial functions. In general, though, the most critical skills that case interviews screen for is the ability to think through problems in a logical, coherent manner with little preparation and limited information.
Case Interview Format
There are generally two types of cases that interviewers rely on.
- Estimation cases or "mini cases" present the candidate with a numerical problem to solve with guidance from the interviewer. Although there may be a right answer, success does not depend on how close you come to this answer. Instead, the interviewer is more concerned with how you arrived at your answer and whether or not you can identify why you may be wrong.
- Business problem cases or "full case" interviews present the candidate with an open-ended business situation. Usually more complex and well developed than shorter estimation cases, these cases have no right answer and test your ability to think through issues to a conclusion that you can defend.
An example of the type of question you might hear at an estimation interview is, "How many pieces of luggage are unloaded at LaGuardia Airport each day?" To see how you might go about answering this question, and for more sample case interview questions, see Appendix G.
An example of such a case would be: "Imagine that you are a consultant, hired by Carnegie Hall, a large concert hall in New York City. For the past several years, its profits have been declining, and you need to decipher out how to reverse this trend and restore profitability?" For a sample approach to this problem, as well as more information about tackling business problem cases, see Appendix G.
Cases can seem daunting at first, but with a little practice, they can be a fun and interesting challenge, as well as the first step to a new job. Exhibit 6–2 offers some tips and tricks from an experienced management consultant.
Interviews With Recruiters
Recruitment firms are companies hired by other companies to fill vacant positions. Job hunters often use recruitment firms to find employment opportunities. Some recruitment firms are not interested in trying to place recent college graduates because their focus is on executive recruitment—headhunting for companies that want seasoned professionals. These are called "retained recruiters" or "retained search firms" but are most often refered to as "headhunters. " They are hired on a long-term basis and paid by the employer, regardless of whether they find a candidate for every job or not.
However, some recruiters are interested in recent graduates—recruiters in contingency firms, for example. These people are paid by the employer if the candidate they put forward is actually hired for the job. Recruiters in contingency firms find candidates from the college graduate pool in the following ways:
- From ads
- From their database
- From resumes posted on the Internet
- Through their network
If you've responded to an ad by submitting a resume, you may get a call from a recruiter who is interested in interviewing you for a possible job. He or she may have found your resume posted on the Internet, or may have found your name through his or her network. For example, suppose a recruiter who specializes in advertising jobs has a contact at the ABC Research Lab. You've recentlyapplied to ABC, and although you have a strong resume, you don't have the background in biochemistry for which ABC is looking. The recruiter calls his or her contact and expresses interest in a strong candidate for an advertising position: Does the contact have any potential candidates? Your name and resume might be passed along to the recruiter.
The thing to remember about working with recruiting firms is that they are in the business of sales: They're not going to get paid unless they make one. Contingency recruiters don't have a lot of time to interview candidates in depth. Consequently, they're going to do a lot of screening as quickly as possible in order to get the right pool of candidates for a certain job. Therefore, you must do everything you can to make a lasting impression during a recruiting interview. For example, because recruiters are "in sales" and generally tend to be highenergy people, it helps to emulate their level of energy and enthusiasm during an interview
You may feel that the contingency firm is working for you—a feeling that the firm itself might promote, but remember that it is not doing anything for you personally. Remember that the firm is working first and foremost to get paid, and the only way that will happen is if it fills a job for an employer. The rub is that you aren't necessarily the only candidate the recruiting firm has in mind for a particular spot, no matter how special you're made to feel. Don't assume that just because you're listed with a recruiting firm, you're taken care of. You need to use a variety of job search tactics to land a position. Exhibit 6–3 offers some suggestions for how to work effectively with recruiters.
If you are the proverbial round peg that fits the recruiting firm's round hole, you will be pretty high on its list. In other words, if you have a background that matches what the recruiting firm's potential client needs, it will be motivated to work for you. After all, the chances of getting a fee for placing you will be high. An example is an accounting major who's looking for a job as a staff accountant with a Big Five accounting firm. However, if you have an idiosyncratic background, or if you're a liberal arts major, your position on the recruiter's list will be lower.
A Few Caveats Regarding Recruiters
If you get a job offer through a recruiting firm, be careful: The recruiter is going to put some pressure on you to take the job. The recruiter's objective, after all, is to make the placement. Recruiters have a vested interest in your taking the job—if you take it, they get paid. Therefore, do not rely solely on the recruiter to be your mentor and co-decision maker.
As a person in business, you will need recruiters in your life—when you're in your first job, for example, and looking for the next one. Definitely keep recruiters in your network. They are a valuable resource. Therefore, even if you don't take the job, make sure your recruiter knows that you value him or her and have every intention of keeping him or her in your network.
A good way to keep in your recruiter's good graces is not to surprise him or her. For example, although your recruiter knows that you will also be interviewing for positions on your own, the recruiter has no way of knowing when you are close to a job offer. Be sure to let your recruiter know when you're in the final round of interviewing at a company—that way, the recruiter won't be surprised if you turn down a job the recruiter found for you and you accept a different job. You don't want to just disappear into thin air as a viable candidate. Your recruiter will feel that he or she is working for you, but you're not working with him or her. Therefore, use the same courtesy in this relationship as you do with your entire professional network.
Part of following up with a recruiting firm is keeping it in your network. Make contact with your recruiter periodically, even if it's just for a casual chat. Some businesses and industries are more volatile than others—so you may be looking for another job sooner than you think. Keep all of your options open. If the recruiting firm finds a job for you, send a thank-you note immediately.
Internal interviews are those in which an employee interviews for a job within the firm he or she is currently working for. Therefore, this type of interview will not be a concern for you until you've started to work for a company. Before you get hired, however, look into the company's policy about employees answering job postings, because it varies from place to place. Some companies actually have a bulletin board where job openings are posted.
Under the best circumstances, the company does not look for outside talent before it has investigated all the possibilities of hiring from within. Often, insiders know about a job opening before it is even made public to other people in the company. Like so many other aspects of business life, word gets around before the official memos and postings do. If you work for a large organization, or one that has offices in various parts of the United States or overseas, it probably has a website for new job opportunities.
If you are interested in pursuing a job that has become available in your company, find out what the policy is before plunging ahead. For example, some companies insist that you first tell your boss that you want to apply for another job, while others do not have such a requirement.
The second factor to consider is your boss: Some bosses take pride in seeing the people they've hired move up, even if it means that an employee will be moving out of their department. These bosses are usually quite supportive. However, some bosses see moving on as a form of disloyalty. It is especially tricky to have this kind of boss if you interview for another job and don't get it. Your relationship will be somewhat strained afterward. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate your boss, as well as the company policy, before interviewing for another job. You may want to have a confidential interview with human resources personnel to get advice on how to handle the situation.
The Process of Interviewing for Another Job in the Company for which You're Currently Working
When it comes to internal interviews, employees in most companies follow a similar pattern:
- Stage one: an interview with the human resources department
- Stage two: an interview with the potential new supervisor
Stage One: Interviews with HR
The most important criteria that human resource departments use to evaluate an employee for a new job include:
The human resources department conducted your initial screening interview, of course, so they already know a great deal about you—how much money you make, for example, and how you were evaluated in previous performance reviews.
Now, however, you will have an opportunity to highlight recent projects, additional education, and outside activities that don't appear in your personnel file. The human resources person who interviews you will want to know all about what you've done in your current job and, more specifically, how it has prepared you for the prospective job. He or she will have little more than your original application to go on, so be sure to focus on what you've achieved since you joined the company:
- Update your resume: Use it as a blueprint for your conversation with human resources
- Write a summary of what you've accomplished on your current job, or make a list of what you've accomplished
- List your achievements outside of work
- Point to successes on your last written performance review
If your last performance review noted an area that needs development, discuss the steps you've taken to improve your performance. If you've received any additional training or taken classes outside of work, such as computer programming, software design, business management, or even a foreign language course, list it after your job accomplishments. The same goes for other valuable experiences you've had outside of work, such as becoming the president of your alumni association or assuming a leadership position in your neighborhood or community. These accomplishments will say a great deal about who you are and where your values lie.
The term fit is a little harder to gauge than salary or skills, because it has to do with your job performance and reputation in the company. For better or for worse, this is where your past will catch up with you. If you've had a complaint against you or been involved in some sort of conflict with a colleague, it will be factored, consciously or unconsciously, into the equation. Under these circumstances, the best thing to do is to put the subject on the table.
For example, Lucia and Julie were working together on a project and Lucia felt that Julie was doing none of the work. Naturally, there was a conflict, and Lucia and Julie found themselves in the human resources department in order to have the issue resolved. Six months later, Julie applied for a higher position in the company.
Once again, this is where skill at telling success stories comes in. In this case, Julie made it a point to show her maturity and ability to learn from her mistakes. She explained to a human resources administrator that after the conflict, she took Lucia to lunch, and they discussed the situation and cleared the air. Now, they valued each other as colleagues.
Julie's story was easy for human resources to substantiate. She received the promotion, not only because of her skills, but also because she was able to demonstrate her professionalism and maturity. So, if you've had conflicts at work, resolve them. You don't want past mistakes to preclude you from advancing in your career.
Stage Two: Interviews with Your Prospective New Boss
Interviewing with your prospective boss is different than any other interview situation described so far. First of all, you may have worked with him or her or someone on the staff as part of your current position. Perhaps she or he has had an opportunity to see you present your ideas at a meeting. Maybe you've informally chatted during a company function. Whether or not you have interacted with this person, you can be sure that your prospective boss has tried to do research about your performance record and your ability to work with others. This research will help determine what questions to ask you and what issues need clarification before making a decision.
You can also do your own research through your informal network. Talk to people who can keep confidences and who know what skills and traits are valued by your prospective boss. You might also find out the goals and clients of the department to which you are applying and the reason that the position is open. This is exactly the kind of research you did when looking for your first job.
If you've worked effectively in the past with members of the department to which you are applying, you're in luck: The best reference you can get is a positive recommendation from your prospective boss or employees on the staff. Otherwise, think of people in the company with whom you have worked well and who regularly interact with your new department. You can cite examples of working with these people in your success stories. Keeping up your internal network will improve your chances of career advancement.
Although the interview itself will be conducted along the lines of a standard interview (refer back to the section on Traditional Job Interviews in Chapter 5 for guidelines), there are a few extra recommendations:
- Give your prospective boss a copy of your updated resume, even if the person in human resources says he already has a copy.
- Focus on the various skills you've learned from your previous job or from any training, classes, or courses you've taken outside the job since you first started working for the company.
- Use your success stories.
Because you've worked in the company, you should know the highly regarded success factors. An employee manual or your performance reviews may list skills that are particularly valued. If success factors aren't listed, ask your current boss what it takes to achieve long-term success in your company. Once you know these factors, you can choose success stories that demonstrate the traits that are important to your organization
For example, suppose you work at an advertising agency and your prospective supervisor asks you what your greatest strength is. Following is a sample reply.
I think one of my greatest strengths is my ability to work well on teams. In the marketing department, most of our work was handled in teams. I always volunteered to take minutes of meetings, and I used those minutes to draft agendas for future meetings. I also suggested that each team member take five or ten minutes at the beginning of every meeting to discuss what projects he was working on, where he needed help, and so on.
Because we were organized and every member of the team was informed about what everyone else was doing, we were able to be efficient and avoid arguments. I learned a lot about building coalitions and handling disputes. I know that many of the projects in this department are also handled by teams, and I'm confident that I will work very well in that environment.
At some point in the interview, you will be asked, "Why do you want to leave your current position?" It's important to give some thought to how you will answer that question, because your professionalism, maturity, and communication skills are being assessed.
In the best-case scenario, you've had ongoing conversations with your current boss about assuming more responsibility. He agrees that you're ready, but there's nothing available in your department. You've told him that you'd like to use internal posting when the right job comes up, and he agrees to be your coach to help you do well in the interview. This does happen and shows that the boss has the perspective to keep talent in the company. The one caveat is that he may ask you to time your departure to meet the business needs of the department.
There is, however, another scenario that's more challenging to handle. You've had conflicts with your boss over any number of issues—the work rules in the department, the assignments that you receive, how you've been evaluated, and so forth. So the reason that you want to leave has a lot to do with your boss. There is a strong likelihood that your prospective boss will be aware of this when it's time to get a reference from your current boss. So, the best thing to do is tell the truth, but communicate in the language of a professional businessperson. The following example suggests how to respond.
I respect my boss's authority and knowledge in his field. I've learned a lot about the insurance business from him. However, we don't always agree on how a project needs to be handled. I prefer to work more autonomously. He prefers to be very involved in projects. We've talked about this, and I don't feel I can do my best work unless I can make more independent decisions about projects that I'm responsible for.
There is no benefit to talking negatively about a boss or coworker. If you need to let off steam, you can do so with your friends and family. But in a business setting, there's an expected protocol. Even if you're justified in your complaints, your boss is being paid to direct the staff and make tough calls. You are being paid to implement his decisions in proactive, creative ways. If you demonstrate that you understand the company hierarchy and can maintain your professionalism even when your opinion differs from that of your boss, you will be more likely to advance in your company.
Finally, if you do get the job, make sure your new boss understands how important it is for you to be the first one to give the news to your current boss.
More Diplomacy Tips on Changing Jobs within the Same Company
Discuss with human resources personnel how important it is for you to be the one to tell your current boss about the new job—assuming, of course, that your boss doesn't already know that you've applied for another job within the company. It is simply a matter of courtesy to tell your boss that you are making a move before she hears it from somebody else.
Don't put your boss in the embarrassing position of being caught off guard. As a businessperson, you do not want to burn any bridges. In some industries, such as the fashion world, you run into many of the same people again and again as you move from one design house or retailer to another. And it is always good to know that you are well regarded by them, especially if they have any say in whether or not you should be considered for a job in their company.
Make sure to give 100% during your last weeks in your current job. Finish all your projects carefully. If you will be handing off projects to another individual, be sure to leave detailed notes and try to work with your replacement before you leave. Also, remind your boss that you will be available to give help or information to the person assuming your duties. Leave your new phone number and e-mail address so that you can be easily reached.
If You Don't Get the Job
If you are not accepted for the job, there may be two reasons for it:
- Another candidate was better qualified or a better skills match to the open position.
- There was something about your reputation that got in the way.
It may be difficult to assess accurately why you didn't get the job. Perhaps you lack certain technical or interpersonal skills. You may be unaware of these shortcomings, or you may have neglected to improve weak areas noted on your performance reviews.
All too often, disappointed candidates don't take the time to find out why they aren't being considered for certain jobs. Instead, they may begin to feel hostile toward the company and their work suffers. To prevent yourself from getting stuck in an unsatisfying job or at a certain level, take steps to discover why you're not getting ahead.
- Look into your company's policy. Who should give feedback to candidates when they don't get the jobs for which they apply? The person could be someone in human resources, or it might even be your own boss.
- Tell the person you're disappointed about not getting the job but would like to learn from the experience. Ask for concrete information. Some of the questions you might ask are:
- What did I do effectively in the interview?
- What did I do less effectively in the interview?
- What skills should I acquire, or which talents do I need to demonstrate, in order to be considered for a similar position within the company?
- Is there something that I'm doing (or not doing) in my current job that is taking me out of the running for other positions in the company?
Some companies do not tell people why they don't get jobs and expect their bosses to do all the explaining. But no matter what your company's policy, it is a good idea to keep the channels of communication open between you and your supervisor.
To summarize, although the interview format may be different, the same basic idea holds true for any interview. Be prepared! If you know that you are going to have a short time in which to sell yourself, have specific reasons ready as to why you are a good fit and why your background is suitable for the job. Use your success stories, be sure to answer the questions you are being asked, and link your success stories to the question.
For case study interviews, you can prepare by practicing and being up to date on your current events. Although you don't know exactly what kinds of problems you will be required to work through, if you have done several practice problems, you will be more used to using your reasoning and problem-solving skills. What the interviewer really wants to know is how well you think and solve problems on your feet.
When you interview with recruiters or for a different position within your current company, it is important to remember the networking skills you learned in Chapter 1. Make sure to both stay in touch and extend your network regularly; these steps will ensure that you have people working for you and people who are willing to help you at all times.
And finally, no matter what type of interview you are participating in, don't forget to follow up. Thank the people who have taken time out of their busy days to speak with you. When you follow up, you are proving that you have good interpersonal skills and are proactive; you are demonstrating professional qualities that everyone appreciates.
Don't Take Personal Calls or Beeper Messages During an Interview.
"I interviewed a woman for an entry-level position at an advertising agency. I was in the middle of describing our company and what her position would entail, when her cellular phone rang. I was a bit annoyed that she hadn't turned her phone off, but even more perturbed when she asked me to 'Hold on a sec,' and proceeded to take the call instead of turn off the phone. At first I assumed that there must be some sort of emergency, but instead, I listened—shocked—as she made evening plans with her significant other. It was clear to me that she would not be right for the position, so I stepped up the pace of the interview in order to get her finished and out the door—and to make room in my schedule to accommodate the next candidate. "
—SAMANTHA, PUBLIC RELATIONS DIRECTOR
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