The Interview: How knowing nothing will get you more job offers than knowing everything.
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job Search
I was in yoga class the other day, and right behind me was a new student – we’ll call him Chuck. He set up his mat in the hottest part of the room. One of the teachers told him that he might want to move – because it gets really hot, and given it was his first time…it might be better to move. But no, Chuck said, I want to get a good workout.
Within ten minutes, Chuck was curled up in child’s pose – gasping for air. Halfway through the class, Chuck lay prostrate as though he himself was on his last leg. Chuck’s version of down dog looked more like dead dog. But Chuck figured he’d come into the class…and be a superstar. He tried to cram all of his yogic experience into one class. I don’t know if Chuck will be back.
What might have served Chuck better was to seek first to understand. Understand the process. Understand the poses. Understand that the heat won’t kill you, but it just might set you back a few if you haven’t drunk enough water (or had one too many drinks of something else the night before).
And this got me thinking about interviews. So often, I hear people tell me “I’m going to go in there and show them. I’m going to tell them everything I can do for them. I’m going to get them to see that I’m the perfect person because I have all the answers. I’m going to…blah blah blah.”
Here’s the reality. You know nothing. Are you planning to go in and insult everyone who has been working there (a lot longer than you have!) by telling them you know more about their company than they do? And just because they’re bringing in someone from the outside to get fresh insights, shake things up, doesn’t mean they don’t know anything.
How about the next time you’re brought in for an interview, why don’t you forget about you and all that you don’t know…and focus on them…and all that they do know. Ask them what you want to know. Where is the company going? What is the company doing to get ahead of the competition? Which competitor are they most worried about today? What about five years from now? What new markets are they getting into? How do they plan to make that happen? What percent share do they have of their customer’s dollar? How are they planning to get more? How is the team positioned? Where are the holes? What makes this a great place to work? What’s the attrition rate? When good people leave, where do they go? What attracted them to the job? What’s one thing they wish they had known prior to working there? What surprised them most once they got on board? If they were to do one thing differently, what would it be?
Are you supposed to be a change agent? Then you’d better ask some questions about change. Ask about decision-making and how quickly or slowly it occurs. What about cultural issues – and people’s difficulty with change. What percent of the employees are change agents? Or will you be the only one (I hope you’re getting paid a lot!). Who’s going to get in the way…and why? What happened to the last change agent (may s/he rest in peace…).
Quit focusing on what you can do for them, and start asking the smart questions that will help you get a clearer picture of the real opportunity. The more you discover, the more you might find you have no desire to work at this company or for this person. Or, you might find that the opportunity sounds even more exciting than ever! Either way, you won’t know this unless you do a little interrogation. Take a lesson from Chuck. Seek first to understand. Ask the right questions. Pace yourself. And save enough to come back the next day. Namaste.