Late last year, Anthony, the husband of a close friend, was unexpectedly let go during a massive layoff at the corporation where he had been happily employed for over 15 years. I've known this guy for years, and although I've been privy to insider information regarding a few of his less-than-desirable man habits (you know exactly what I'm talking about), I'd always admired his professional chutzpah - he was most definitely a leader. Awards, promotions, recognition out the wazoo. So I wasn't the least bit worried about his future when the news that he was "in transition" was shared at our monthly Girls' Night Out. I told my friend to tell him that I was available to help in any way I could, and meant it, but I never expected to hear from him - he certainly had it under control.
Therefore I was more than a bit surprised when Anthony called me a few weeks later, sharing the fact that he had an interview with a company he had always admired, and telling me he was "scared sh*tless." Huh? Mr. In Charge, Larger Than Life, Let Me Show You How It's Done? Scared? Yes, he was scared. He hadn't had an interview in over 15 years and he was very intimidated by the thought of "auditioning" for total strangers who would be scrutinizing every thing he said and did. Every mannerism, every syllable. Every. Friggin (my word, not his). Thing.
He's right. They will be. But here's the thing. By the time you reach a certain point in your career, the interview should not be looked at as a one-way audition, but instead needs to be viewed as a mutually beneficial conversation between two parties who are both equally interested in finding a good fit. Do not think of it as an "interview." At the C-Level, it's now a "dialogue." Not only are you there so they can ply you with questions to determine whether or not you're "the one," but you are there to research, discover, and question them to determine the same thing. It's a lot like dating - tell me about you, I'll tell you about me, and we'll see if we have chemistry. (Well, I'm skipping some of the good parts, but for purposes of this forum, we'll leave it at that).
So, now that you look at the interview as a dialogue, it's critical that you have your questions lined up so you can contribute intelligently to the conversation. We've all seen lists of common interview questions to expect, and most likely you've seen a list of relatively boring questions you might toss out when asked. I recently ran across a fantastic list of questions a job candidate might ask on Workforce.com that will be tough to beat. Here are my personal favorites:
Question for HR: In your opinion, what is the most important contribution that this company expects from its employees?
Question for Hiring Managers: What would be a surprising but positive thing the new person could do in first 90 days?
Probing Question: What would I see if I stood outside the front door at five o’clock? Would people be smiling? Staying late or leaving early? Would everyone be taking work home?
Scheduled for an interview a dialogue? Do your research, know what to expect, and relax! If it's a good fit, great! And if not, just like dating, NEXT!