What’s an Interview | Foundation 6 – Lesson 1

Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.

In this Foundation, we’re going to cover how you can sell yourself to a potential employer… but before we dive into the tactics, we need to burn one lesson making sure that we are all crystal clear on what a job interview is, what interviewers are looking for, and what tools they are going to use to find it.

What is a job interview?

A job interview is any conversation you have in which you influence a hiring decision.

This means that any time you—as a candidate—interact with a decision maker, influencer, or gatekeeper, you are in a job interview. And really, when are you not talking with someone who is either a decision maker, influencer, or gatekeeper?

Perhaps you think of the job interview more technically: a conversation—held face-to-face, over the phone, or through some other media—during which you and a potential employer determine if the likelihood of your success as an employee merits you receiving a job offer. But this definition is too narrow. It assumes that companies only make hiring decisions about candidates when the candidate is in the office, sitting on a chair, talking with an interviewer… and that’s simply not true. Especially today, with LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media sites, it’s becoming impossible to keep one’s personal and professional lives separate.

Though to be fair, that’s nothing new: for many people, there has long been a blur between the personal and the professional. For instance, if you are talking with a friend whose company offers a “recommend a buddy bonus,” whereby your friend gets a few hundred bucks spending money by recommending you to HR and helping you get hired, then your friend is an influencer and when you meet at the bar for a beer, it’s not just social, it’s also now a screening for a job interview.

No way!, you say?

Yes, way. Your friend sits there and looks at you, knowing full well that you need a job, and also knowing full well that it could be worth hundreds of dollars to recommend you to the company, and asking—silently—”Would I want you around me every day? Is it worth the few hundred bucks to recommend you?”

And that, folks, is a job interview.

It gets better: let’s say your friend recommends you to HR. What does the recommendation sound like? Is it a glowing endorsement? Or a milquetoast, “Yeah, I got a friend for ya, here’s the number. Do I get my check now?” You see, it’s not just that your friend may recommend you, it’s also that the way in which your friend recommends you could make a different! So instead of thinking about meeting your friend for a beer, think instead about always acting in a way that people would want you around them and are likely to ask you to join them.

What this means is, you are always on.

Always.

And just so that there is no misunderstanding, by always on, I mean, “even when you are talking to your friends who ‘don’t count.'” Unless you are at home, behind closed doors, talking to yourself silently in your head, it counts. I overheard a person in a restaurant lamenting to a friend about a bad client (she is a consultant), and watched someone else get up, approach her, tell her he worked for the company and knew the project she was on, and he would see what he could do about having her removed from such a “lame assignment.” You just never know who’s around… so rather than pretend like you can keep you personal and professional lives separate—especially in a Facebook world!—it may be easier to adapt a “profersonal” approach, blend the two sides, and act accordingly!

What are job interviewers looking for?

When interviewers say that they are looking for specific skills or cultural fit, what do they mean? They mean they are looking for someone who is going to make their lives easy. Every hiring manager I have ever talked with has said the same thing: the ideal candidate would require no training and would fit right into the operation; s/he would demonstrate critical thinking skills, loyalty, a strong work ethic as well as initiative/personal responsibility, and the ability to play nice with others. Literally, that’s the list, every time. (The following lessons will cover key elements of that list and how to demonstrate those skills.)

How do they look for these things?

Loosely, employers use two types of tools: formal and informal. Formal tools include resume screens, phone screens, interviews, personality tests, executive interviews (which is when they hire me), and the like. There is only one informal tool, and while not everyone will admit it, pretty much everyone uses some variant of it. It’s called intuition.

As I’m the one who’s often on the other side of the interviewing table, I’ve got some insight into how hiring managers are wired, and how they apply both formal and informal tools to the hiring process.

And this brings us full circle: for the remainder of this program, I’m going to be sharing these insights with you so you can hone your sales pitch!

HOMEWORK!

Review ALL of your social media profiles and do the following:

  • Clean up! If necessary, open a new account and start over. Btw, the screen name “DazedandConfused” will not cut it anymore.
  • Cut-and-paste your bio information from one site to another so it’s consistent across all sites.
  • Remove any incriminating photos
  • Delete/edit messages, tweets, status updates, etc. that don’t fit your “professonal” image. (WARNING: the snappier the comment, the more likely it’s inappropriate.)

Take some time to go ego-surfing. To make sure you do a thorough job, follow these steps:

  1. Pick someone you don’t—repeat don’t—much respect. Look that person up and see what dirt you can find. Dig deep, follow the link trails!
  2. Take yourself through exactly the same steps, only using your own name this time.
  3. Set up Google Alerts for your name.

Remove yourself from sites you no longer frequent, or at least change your screen name to something that will not come up to a recruiter or hiring manager researching you online.

Reach out to blog owners and ask to have any posts.

If you have friends like these, set your Facebook and Twitter profiles to private. Even better: consider getting new friends.

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