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How do managers prepare for an interview?

In short? Not much…and this gives you a tremendous advantage.

Now, this is not because they don’t want to – most managers want to do the right thing – it is simply because other activities take priority. If there’s the choice between preparing for a meeting with the CEO, a client or checking budget or sales figures for accuracy will always take priority over an interview. What this means is that you have a significant advantage heading into the interview…

I often do a role-play when training clients in interview techniques. This involves me being the manager who is getting prepared to conduct an interview. In this scenario, I am finishing a meeting, picking up a ‘resume’ off the printer and leafing through it while I’m walking towards the interview room and then introducing myself to the candidate. I give the veneer of being in control (prepared) and ready to run the interview, but in fact, I’ve practiced my speed reading on the resume, trying to pick up a few things I can ask . Unless I am fortunate enough to have a very long walk to the interview room and a photographic memory, I probably don’t take in a lot or given the interview the preparation it deserves. I do this role-play not to mock or denigrate interviewers, but instead to demonstrate the point that most interviewers don’t – or often can’t – devote a lot of time to interview preparation.

What happens in this scenario and how can you use it to your advantage?

1. The interviewer uses ‘throwaway questions’ – Questions such as ‘Tell me about yourself’, or ‘What do you see yourself doing in ‘x’ years’ or ‘What was your proudest achievement in that role?’ are fairly typical and don’t require a lot of thought or preparation. In this scenario, you absolutely want to be prepared for the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question which normally pops up early in the interview. Don’t recite your resume and don’t talk about your hobbies or personal circumstances, instead, give a brief 30 second ‘sales pitch’ focusing on your profession, industries & companies you have worked in, expertise in your vocation and strengths as an employee or leader. It stands to reason that the unprepared interviewer will love what you say, not just because it is delivered in a metered and professional way, but more so because you have given them prompts for more questions to ask (e.g. ‘You mentioned that one of your strengths is managing priorities…Can you give me a recent example of when you have had to effectively manage your time for a good outcome?’). Think of it like you are helping the interviewer!

2. ‘Gut feel’– I would love a dollar for every time I’ve heard something like ‘I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something that doesn’t quite gel about [candidate’s name]’. While you can’t control the interviewer and questions they ask, you can control what they hear, hence a good opening pitch (above), using structured responses to behavioural questions (Situation, Actions, Result), creating a good rapport, remembering interviewers names, eye-contact with all panel members, showing an interest in the company and asking intelligent questions among other things will all help to allay gut feel and give you every opportunity to progress in the selection process.

If you would like to improve your interview skills, arrange a face-to-face or telephone interview skills coaching session with Paul Di Michiel, The Career Medic by clicking here. You can also find out about the other services provided by The Career Medic here or by visiting

The Career Medic – Taking the worry out of job search for the over 40s

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