The Initial Interview – It’s not about you

During my interview preparation workshops I deliver to our DPP candidates at bases all across the country, I usually start off with a short exercise to illustrate a basic premise of interviewing and I thought it would be worthwhile to share it with everyone on this blog post.

Here’s the exercise:

 1)      Take out a sheet of paper and make two columns.  On the left column, title it “ideal job” and then list the top 6-8 characteristics that you are looking for in your ideal job.  I’m not talking about a specific company or industry but rather the characteristics you are looking for.  For example, some of those might be opportunity for growth, cultural fit, location, etc. 

2)      Then, on the right column, title it “ideal employee” and imagine you are now in a position of hiring authority and list the 6-8 characteristics you’d look for in an ideal employee. 

3)      Next, I want you to draw a line between the two columns connecting the characteristics that directly correlate with one another.

 If your practical exercise turns out anything like those I have done at my workshops, you will most likely have drawn 2-3 direct correlations between the two columns but that’s about it.  Now, here is the final piece of the exercise.  I want you to re-label the left column from “ideal job” to “what you want” and the right column from “ideal employee” to “what they want”.   

My point is to help illustrate a fundamental premise of interviewing – it’s not about you, at least not initially.  As we’ve written on this blog before, you are trying to accomplish three things when walking into an initial interview – 1) Prove your fit 2) Demonstrate interest and 3) Build rapport.   None of these objectives are about determining if you want to go to work for the company.  There will be ample time for that but it’s not during the initial 45-60 minute interview.  If you walk into an interview with a “what’s in it for me” attitude and the mindset that you have to determine whether this is the company where you will go to work for the next 20+ years, then you won’t allow the interviewer the opportunity  to gauge your fit and they will more than likely not pursue you for follow-up interviews.  

Remember, the initial interview is like a first date.  You aren’t trying to make the decision if this is the person you will marry; but rather to try to connect with each other, establish common ground, and start to build a relationship.  The same goes for this initial interview.  If it goes well, there will be the potential for follow on interviews where you will have more opportunities to evaluate the company based on your “wish list”.  And trust me, if you are interviewing for a development candidate type of position, there will be follow-on interviews.   So, my recommendation to all of you is to keep this exercise and premise in mind when going through your initial interviews.  Give yourself the very best chance to earn that “yes” and get to the next level in the interviewing process and utimately the offer.

Rob Davis