Friday, May 16, 2014

The art of interviewing

We celebrated commencement of our senior graduating class last weekend, but many universities are still going through graduation. So it seems a good time to pass on this article from about the art of interviewing.

In career counseling, universities provide advice and coaching to students about interviews, resumes, and cover letters. But coaching on the job interview process mostly focuses on how to "sell" yourself in an interview. In contrast Terry Mulligan's article shares different advice when not to elaborate in answering a question.

From the article: There are certain interview questions that cannot win you the interview, but can lose you the interview. Preparation in the true “art” of interviewing will help you recognize these peripheral questions, such as:
  • Why did you leave your last company?
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Tell me about an issue you had with a boss?

Mulligan recommends preparing "brief, rock-solid" answers to these questions, and he expands with advice on when to elaborate in an interview response (discussing skills and experience, leadership competencies) and when to keep it short (why you left a previous job, weaknesses, personal beliefs, or past decisions).

While I agree that it's important to recognize when to explore an answer and really get into things, versus when to hold back and not over-share, I advise students to consider a "journey" of their past experiences. Map out your personal journey, distilled to just those events that hold the greatest meaning. These moments can be either "negative" or "positive". I find that my leadership journey has the most to say when I focus just on the peaks and valleys: what went really right (peaks) and where did things go wrong (valleys).

You don't need to share all the details of your journey in the interview, but having done this exercise allows you to put your mind in order so that you are ready to tell short, compelling stories during your interview. And you can leverage the journeys to discuss your personal growth. For example, rather than talking about what went wrong, you can emphasize what you learned in those instances. And that is a great response in an interview.
photo: Flazingo

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