Boyden Executive Search

Julie Quick offers her advice on interviewing effectively and securing your next assignment

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There is an abundance of articles, lists and advice on interviewing techniques, how to achieve, approach and perform well at interview. And after some research it would seem that some of the best advice, although dated, still stands the test of time.

In 1964 the Harvard Business Review talked about a range of techniques, from “being authentic” to “the fear of silence and the art of listening”. And my personal favourite and one I can relate to is treating an interview like an audition. As we know interviewing is not an exact science, it’s a two-way exchange and a multi layered process and susceptible to all manner of influences, both positive and negative. Unconscious bias ranges from automatic stereotyping – unintentional but often deeply engrained, to confirmation bias; ‘the halo effect’ and ‘affinity bias’, to name just a few. Candidates and clients have professional and personal agendas too. All of these can potentially undermine the recruitment process.

Clearly the right hiring decision is critical; assessing culture, team fit, leadership capability and core technical skills can make it a process tricky to navigate and deliver a successful hire.  Equally for both parties it should be a positive experience promoting confidence in the process, the business and the exchange.

Some further research unveiled that more dynamic approaches are becoming more prevalent, in addition to assessment tools and traditional techniques, even venturing into the realm of AI. For example, McKinsey recently trialed a computer game around building a coral reef, in an attempt to understand and measure how people think and attract more tech savvy candidates.

However, the format of traditional interviewing is the mainstay and one of those activities which we think we know enough about, simply because we’ve been at it for so long. Yet with some analysis of technique and style, it will come as no surprise that better interviewing and resultant hiring hugely impact the growth of an organisation. Therefore, be you candidate or client, upping your interview game is vital.

From an interim perspective, solid interviewing techniques have long been essential. Knowing your value proposition and being able to articulate it eloquently and succinctly will be the difference between landing the role or not.

As an Interim you may also be part of the education process for the client, on the value an Interim can deliver; the cost benefits, the speed at which you can have an impact and the legacy. Differentiating between traditional “consultancy” and “Interim” may also need addressing.

Being specific with your narrative is key, focusing on performance, productivity and showcasing demonstrable ROI. This alongside your softer skills, around leadership and how you build relationships, by describing when and why you’ve been successful, will be paramount.  Conveying your implementation experience and operational effectiveness, or how “hands on” and “roll your sleeves up” you are, with any strategic capability, is also important.

Also consider the risk element from the client’s point of view, to help comprehend issues and concerns they may have, then tailor your skills accordingly with specific examples around your value, expertise, accountability and cultural fit.

So, from being authentic to doing your homework, here are some further interesting pointers to think on, refresh or revisit, from my experience as a professional consultant within interim management and those of my colleagues, in no particular order:

Do be authentic:

Understand a little about your own psychology and certainly investigate your own unconscious bias.

But also remember it’s a conversation between humans, take time and read the emotional cues. Allow space, listen, build rapport.

Create your own personal narrative, what makes you unique? What are your values and your personality traits?  Apparently adopting a “storytelling style” can be really impactful and help control the conversation.

Put in the preparation:

Research the organisation, its mission, strategy and ethics, all will hopefully give clues as to the culture. In addition to the financials and products and services. Become an expert, become a customer if you can.  Check all social media sites, including your own public profiles.

Do have an agenda, it’s powerful if delivered in the right way and shows initiative and that you’re a proactive participant in the meeting.

Be equally prepared for a formal or informal meeting in style. Should the context, setting or interviewer change at the last moment. It will allow you to adapt easily.

Or expect the unexpected and at least be prepared for it!

What will you be like to work with?

Prospective employees/interviewers want to know what sort of colleague/ leader you will be.

How will you complement the team and fit the culture?

Ensure you dedicate some time to thinking and conveying this aspect of your social self.

Demonstrate your ability:

What’s your value proposition? Can you articulate and translate your experience and passion using relevant examples.

Have you identified what the role /organisation actually requires and have you tailored your experience accordingly?

Be familiar with more traditional interviewing techniques; competency based and behavioral.

And always be specific in your responses, no bluff.  Interims are particularly adept at this:  Interim management Value proposition -

Enthusiasm and passion, conviction and confidence.

Take a moment and adopt a power pose:

Proven to boost your level of confidence, before you enter the room -

Ask for feedback:

And remember it’s not over until the feedback comes in. Whatever the outcome, its crucial to the entire process and can leave a positive legacy as we know. The focus should be on how you can improve future performance, rather than why you didn’t get the job. And is worth pursuing.

This isn’t of course definitive, particularly in the world of Interim where there can often be a more informal style of conversation that takes place and a less structured approach. 

If you feel you could benefit from some additional coaching or advice please do get in touch.

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