[10.08.09]
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INTERVIEW WEEK: Talking To The Social And The Serious

interview week, interview topics, job search, job interviews

During interview day, you will meet all sorts.  Some who inspire you and some who concern you.  Some who are really interesting and some who are boring.  And the tough part?  You have to be ready for them all.  You have to adjust your style and temperament as you move throughout the day.

Why?  Because there is a possibility that if you don’t adjust, they may not like you as much.  And despite you being a great person who is highly qualified, those interviewers may tip the scales the other way.  Toward someone who had similar qualifications but was better at finding parts of themselves that could meet an interviewer’s style.

Now you might be thinking:  “Hey, I thought I was supposed to be ME on interview day.  Isn’t this acting?”

I don’t think so because what I am talking about is more about energy.  Ramping it up and ramping it down.  Accentuating parts of you more in some interviews and less in others.  We do this everyday in life anyway, right? Talking to the teller at a bank and then bumping into a good friend outside of it.  We do it.

And you’ll do it starting day one on the new job.  In a day when you meet with the IT team, the Marketing team, the HR group and the Finance group, you will be looking to influence a wide variety of people.  But on interview day, those people have the larger influence so it is important to be especially focused on this.

It also has a lot to do with company culture.  If the stated company culture is outgoing, risk-oriented and hard-charging, well those parts of you better be present.  And if that’s not you at all, then yes, you should reconsider whether that company is right for you.  If you feel like you are acting.  Struggling to keep up.  Then you may be fishing in the wrong pond.

Today I will focus on two common interview styles.  Based on my own interview experiences.

The Social Interview

The social interview is conducted by someone who either has been asked to primarily focus on your “fit” with the organization or just is really interested in getting to know you.  This can also be a style used by the nervous (folks who aren’t trained or comfortable in an interview setting).  It may be because they will be your peer or your partner.  They will be relying on you less to get work done and more to allow their work to be more fulfilling.

Social interviews can be frustrating for some candidates who are looking for real data from their interview day.  Some candidates want real engagement and see social interviews as a waste of time.  But I view them as a healthy and important part of the process.  They can also be:

1.  A nice break from an otherwise more rigorous schedule.

2.  A time to ask more open and honest questions such as “what will I like most and least about working here?”

3.  The chance to really connect with someone.  Interviews can often feel a little impersonal so having a few social interviews mixed in can be really helpful.  Perhaps these are the folks you follow up with between day 1 and day 2 if you get called back.

If you walk into the room and are greeted by a big smile that stays that way.  If they offer coffee and water in a way that makes you want to accept it.  If they seem to sympathize with your “long day”.  These are all signals of a social interview.

So smile back.  Ask questions that fit this style.  Ease back the throttle and use this time to get to know someone a little bit.

But be careful that you are not too cozy.  I have seen a social interview shift to a more serious tone. It happens.

The Serious Interview

Yes, interviews can be serious.  And I don’t mind these at all.  I expect one or two of these during each interview day.

Who are they?  Some are just serious people who, like you or unlike you, approach interviews as a critical investigation of your qualifications.  So they tend to be less focused on WHO you are and more focused on WHAT you have done.  Here you will be asked to prove yourself and bring to life with rich detail HOW you accomplished all of the things you claim on your resume.

How do you quickly spot a serious interview?  Well, you will still get a smile but it is likely a small one that is short lived.  You may get an offer for coffee, but it won’t feel like one you should accept.  There will be little chit chat and what there is will be all there for a purpose.

Now if you are a social person or if you just left a more social interview, be ready to adjust.  In fact, in between interviews as you are being walked down the hallway, is a great time to reset your expectations for the next interview.  That way you aren’t shocked by a significant shift in interviewer style.

One reason I don’t mind these interviews is that I am aware of what’s on the line for a company and for a manager.  A bad hire due to poor organizational or interview skills by the company has ramifications.  I respect the need of a company to prove me out.  And sometimes we all need a good grilling.  And let’s be honest, sometimes it helps to knock the dust off your feet.

Serious interviewers tend to work off a list of standard or favorite questions.  And they are asked in a set order.  Often there are two or three follow up questions.  Once I had a serious interviewer ask me the same question three times in a row (adjusting the scenario ever so slightly) to see how I would waver under pressure.  So be confident.

They can also be hard to read.  Even if you provide an absolute perfect answer, you may not see even an inkling of approval.

So if you are less comfortable in a serious interview they are highly valuable for a candidate.  Really?  Yes, because you can ask serious questions of a serious interviewer. You can challenge them a bit.

And if your interview day includes three serious interviews and one social interview, you’ve now been told a little about this company.  If one of the serious interviews was with the person who would be your boss, well you now have a decision to make.  Are you a serious person?  If not, how will they really be like starting day one?

On e suggestion?  If you get an offer, ask to discuss the offer over lunch with your new boss.  Still serious?

So, on interview day, be prepared for a lot of different types.  Be flexible.  And pay attention to how you feel in each interview.

Feeling welcome and respectfully challenged is good.


Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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