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Good to Great: Interviews

Q. I am very interested in joining a small consulting company. I was introduced to the staff through a networking contact and had a great initial meeting with a consultant. After that, they asked me back for informal meetings with a few different people. They are all great and they seem to like me too. I know they have a real opening, but I haven’t been asked to interview for the position yet. What are my next steps? I don’t want to be too pushy, but I don’t want to lose what I think could be a great opportunity.

A. So far so good! Discovering opportunity through your network is exactly what job seekers hope for. Your network led you to what seems to be a good match and there is a great deal for you to do at this stage. Many people might describe meetings as informal, but meeting people you want to work with who might want to work with you, is anything but informal. Interviewing is a process of getting to know someone, the skills they have and their experience. It is also an opportunity to learn what an organization is looking for in terms of skills, style, and strengths needed for success on the job. Interviews do not necessarily need to start with formal invitations or use the question and answer format.

Your “interview” started with the introduction you received from your networking contact. That person described you; your skill set, and in their encouragement to meet, probably suggested some areas of professional interest for their contacts to explore. In each interaction you have had so far, you have been assessed for the position they are hiring for. Each participant in the interview process most likely has a list of criteria they have for the new hire and in their meetings with you, are looking for examples or demonstrations of these criteria. So, now you know you have been interviewing and you know you have not answered the most important questions they never asked.

Not every interviewer can provide candidates with a good interview, and as a result, great candidates need to over-prepare. Most people will prepare a list of the questions they anticipate being asked and they will prepare answers to these questions. They will also prepare a list of questions they want to ask. These preparations are all valuable, but where good candidates stop preparing, great candidates continue. Regardless of the questions asked, great candidates prepare a list of the messages they need to get across. Have you learned how they would describe the successful candidate? If you know what you would like to be asked in a formal interview, you know what you’ll discuss regardless of what gets asked or doesn’t. Are there examples of work you have done that you can discuss so the hiring organization can see how you would be successful on the job?

You have been interviewing, and now you have the opportunity to demonstrate the behaviors of a successful member of a small consulting company. So, take the initiative to arrange a next meeting. Discuss your sincere and significant interest in their organization and make sure you are prepared to convey the information which will make them see the best option there is – making you an offer.

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