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Now That You've Made it to 3rd Base - Now What?

May 14, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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You should always have a few questions at the end of an interview

You have gone through the entire interview process and made it to the final round. Congratulations! The final step is to meet with the CEO – maybe in a social setting like lunch or dinner. Makes sense – right? You will probably hear more of the same types of questions and a chance for the CEO to test your social skills over a meal. My friend Gwen Darling ranted about this when she first joined this blog.

The meal comes to an ending and the CEO turns to you and asks “So, do you have any questions for me”? Guess what the wrong answer is every time? If you guessed NO – you are our grand prize winner! You should always have a few questions at the end of an interview. If you don’t it may convey a completely different perception of you. Even if you think all of your questions have been answered you can always use this time to ask a new question OR ask the CEO where you are in the process.

Many times the CEO is looking to test your energy level in this last and final session before making a hiring decision. Two or three well thought out questions can mean the difference in getting an offer - or not. Here are a few questions you may want to modify slightly for your final meeting with the decision maker:

1. What are the key characteristics you are looking for in the person you select for this role?

2. How often do you meet with the leadership team?

3. What is your preferred method of communicating If I need to reach you i.e. in person, e-mail or cell phone?

4. If I am selected for this position and we move forward what are the most important items you want me to accomplish in the first 90 – 180 days?

5. Tell me about the make-up and dynamics at the Board level?

6. Based on everything we have discussed so far, what are your thoughts about my background and skill set in joining your organization?

Whatever line of questioning you decide to take – make sure your questions are well thought out - in advance. Your questions should engage your audience, highlight your communication skills and showcase you as THE candidate of choice!

Finally, if this is your dream job - make sure you wrap up your meeting by articulating that you want to be a part of their organization. You have to declare your interest – or they will draw their own conclusions. By all means make sure you follow-up with a personal Thank You note to the CEO. Good luck!

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Comments

Tim,
I always enjoy your posts. I usually also come away with the sense that there's a back story. About the person you just worked with that needed this advice.

Do you have any thoughts on Michael Watkins advice from a number of sources including his book:


The book outlines ten strategies that will shorten the time it takes you to reach what Watkins calls the breakeven point: the point at which your organization needs you as much as you need the job. Here they are ... the ten strategies:

1. PROMOTE YOURSELF. Make a mental break from your old job. Prepare to take charge in the new one. Don't assume that what has made you successful so far will continue to do so. The dangers of sticking with what you know, working hard at doing it, and failing miserably are very real.

2. ACCELERATE YOUR LEARNING. Climb the learning curve as fast as you can in your new organization. Understand markets, products, technologies, systems, and structures, as well as its culture and politics. It feels like drinking from a fire hose. So you have to be systematic and focused about deciding what you need to learn.

3. MATCH STRATEGY TO SITUATION. There are no universal rules for success in transitions. You need to diagnose the business situation accurately and clarify its challenges and opportunities. The author identifies four very different situations: launching a start-up, leading a turnaround, devising a realignment, and sustaining a high-performing unit. You need to know what your unique situation looks like before you develop your action plan.

4. SECURE EARLY WINS. Early victories build your credibility and create momentum. They create virtuous cycles that leverage organizational energy. In the first few weeks, you need to identify opportunities to build personal credibility. In the first 90 days, you need to identify ways to create value and improve business results.

5. NEGOTIATE SUCCESS. You need to figure out how to build a productive working relationship with your new boss and manage his or her expectations. No other relationship is more important. This means having a series of critical talks about the situation, expectations, style, resources, and your personal development. Crucially, it means developing and gaining consensus on your 90-day plan.


... and it goes on, from his book "The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels"  I've read it and listened to him in the HBR IdeaCast (Harvard Business Review podcasts).  I found it smart although bordering on academic.

And p.s. I need to stop using dashes in my comments because they don't show up here. I swear I know how to properly punctuate. :)

Great stuff Joe. Great tips and good advice on multiple fronts. I will plan on buying this book as it looks like a great read! Thanks Joe!

Tim,

Great post with solid advice, as usual. Earlier in my career I interviewed for a position with a guy who was so thorough during the interview process that when he asked me if I had any questions, I went blank he had covered everything so well I couldn't think of anything to ask! Your #4 would have been the perfect segue question - I always wondered if my silence cost me that opportunity.

I'll take Joe's book when you're done ~

G.

here's the Watkins book I recommend:

Shaping the Game: The New Leader's Guide to Effective Negotiating

The (free) audio podcast that introduced me to him was:
HBR IdeaCast 5:
Negotiate Your Way to a Fast Start ... 6/22/06

"Negotiating Success in a New Leadership Role: Best-selling author Michael Watkins lays out hands-on strategies for becoming a truly effective negotiator, including how to match your negotiation strategy to the situation, influence the perspectives of key counterparts, shape negotiation outcomes in your favor, and create the learning discipline necessary to become a world-class negotiator."

Always have a few engaging questions to ask. Sometimes it makes all the difference when you get to the final dance! Thanks again Gwen and Joe!

Tim Tolan

Senior Partner, Sanford Rose Associates Healthcare IT Practice

@@TimTolan

http://sanfordrose.net/thetolangroup/

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