When was the last time you were interviewed? When was the last time you did the interviewing? If you’re in my role as an administrator, interviewing people, encouraging them to engage and elaborate can be a life-altering moment. I’d say “career-altering” but that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Life-altering. When you’re sitting in the chair waiting to answer any question put to you, are you thinking about how to engage the people who are asking you the questions? When I’m in “The Chair” my goal is to be as open and transparent about my approach. I want no pretense or pretend answers in my responses. If the interviewer doesn’t know what I’m thinking, that could set us both up for failure later.
And, as an interviewer, I don’t want a cagey response that hedges its bets. Put yourself out there, elaborate as much as you can within the bounds of the question.  Here are some tips for a “better interview.”
Still, with all this in mind since a few of my colleagues have lost their jobs and found them again, going to interviews, I wonder, what advice would have been good for them to have as they went job hunting?
Here are some tips, perhaps dangerous, from my conversations with them, and I’ve added questions that one could ask of interview panels:
  1. Don’t burn your bridges with past employers; how will you connect with my past employers so that you can hear what great things they have to say about the work I can do for you? This piece of advice came in handy as one person I know sought new employment in the area she wanted, was clearly prepared for. The clincher in being hired wasn’t her qualifications, although that didn’t hurt. Nor was it the excellent letters of recommendation from everyone who knew her, or a great web eportfolio. Rather, it was a phone call from one prospective boss to a past one–what do you think of this candidate? That call was the clincher.
  2. Find how the questions the interviewer asks tap into your job-related passion; what does one of you do that reflects your passion? It’s so easy to listen to an interviewer ask a question that appears unrelated to what you are passionate about. Your response, professional, courteous and on-target is missing something…what? Passion. For example, if you ask me about how writing and technology come together, I’m going to be passionate. I could go on for hours about how well they fit together, etc. It matters to me personally because I’m a writer who uses technology on a daily basis to share his writing with others and invites collaboration.
  3. Share how you enjoy your work; how are people in this organization enthralled with their work? In the same vein as tapping into your passion when responding to a question, demonstrating how you enjoy your work captures the attention of others. When I discuss Moodle, I have to admit how enthralled I am by the problems it presents, whether it’s server-based or online course design. When I share about my use of social media, I have to discuss the challenges of adopting communication technologies that democratize expression for all individuals and groups beyond the control of an organization (like public schools). 
  4. Own your mistakes and point out what you learned and how you made it better; are people in your organization able to “fail forward?” We all make mistakes. I still remember the time when I convinced an employer to pay $3000 for software and training to create web-based databases, then realized mid-way through the training this solution wasn’t going to work for us. After some reflection (a few hours), I owned my mistake, sought forgiveness then sought another solution. We later implemented another solution I found that was in use for years and cost a fraction of the failed solution’s cost. I learned so much from how my boss handled that mistake, and how I made it better. 
  5. Discuss how you handle project management; how do you, as an organization, handle projects? I’ve adapted this from a suggestion shared via Plurk. You know, it’s so easy to talk about doing stuff but shepherding new project ideas through a “process” often involves discussing it with various stakeholders. Some projects are stillborn because even though everyone thinks they are great, one person–the boss–does not. Or, some ideas are great, including the boss, but the process for planning, managing, implementing the project are not in place. 
As I review the 5 tips above, I suppose I’m not that confident that asking these questions in an interview would be the best thing to do. After all, there is such a thing as being TOO direct at a first meeting. Yet, one thing I’ve learned from doing interviews is that, it’s not until we can get past the “fluff” and social niceties that we can both connect authentically about what we all really want to know about–are you going to be a good fit for this team?
What do you think?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure