Job interviewing is the least-practiced job skill we use in our careers. Think about it: we interview for jobs when we don’t have one or want another one. Compared to how often you use Microsoft Office, for example, how often you interview is rare.
And it shows. Right now, because I’m doing a consulting gig, I’m doing interviews as a hiring manager. The truth is, I really, really want to hire a great person. I go into every interview hoping to find that great person. And while the people I’m interviewing have the job skills, I’m not impressed enough because I’m not convinced they can use their job skills to achieve my goals for the work I have for them.
Obviously, all of this is the opinion of one hiring manager, and your mileage may vary. But let me tell you what I’m hearing when I ask the questions, and let’s see what you think.
I want to know what YOU did, not what WE did
When a hiring manager is interviewing you, it’s all about you. The hiring manager has the drum beat of, “Will this person help me reach my goal?” I want the yes answer.
But then I get, “In the project, we took this approach.” “We decided to build whatever this way.” “We took this in this direction.”
The “we” thing translates in my head as “you” made no decisions, you were following the directions of someone else, and you couldn’t figure out how to do it yourself or no one trusted your input to do it your way.
In an interview, it’s all about you. Not we. You lose big points when I can’t tell what you are doing versus what others are deciding for you.
I want to hear your approach to doing the work
There are many different methods to get stuff done. Now, if you are being asked a methodology question to find out whether you understand the methodology, I get that. But when I ask a question about how you would approach doing something based on some information I give you or an experience from your past, I expect you to answer how you would use the information to achieve your objective.
And not spout all sorts of Corporate Speak or hide behind all the methodology as being the real answer.
When asked how a person goes about organizing themselves for the day — a real example — I don’t expect to hear a methodology response of following Project methodology and using Six Sigma. After all, I’m running the project on this gig, and I’ll tell you that the very good methodology this company uses to manage projects addresses absolutely nothing about how organized I am doing the work.
And Six Sigma for organizing your work? Seriously? How you eliminate defects in your task analysis or something? It’s not a real answer.
Methodology is methodology. If all you spout is methodology about how you go about doing everything, or even most things, you lose points. Lots of them. Following methodology is a job skill, not how you get stuff done.
Just to extend this point a bit more, all I want to hear is that you have enough brains to explain how you would go about getting stuff done, not that it has to match my method of getting something done. I want to know you’ve thought about your approach to the work.
Tell me a story. Please.
You’ve all heard the “Tell me about a time when…” kind of question. If you aren’t prepared to tell a story about that time, you’re seriously behind the eight-ball. Worse, to answer it with a “Well, it depends on your situation and how you want to do it,” is the kiss of death. I’m not doing the work, you are, and I want to know how you would go about doing the work. If you answer as whatever I want to do as a client, it’s a cop out.
Stories help tell the context of what you do. Stories help tell the actions you took to achieve a goal. After all, you are the hero of this story, right? You came in, battled long odds, overcame setbacks and still delivered what you promised to fulfill your mission.
But what I’m getting is, “It depends.” What I’m getting is cloaked in methodology. What I hear is all Corporate Speak. Just so you know, I can watch myself self-actualize with the best of them, and you won’t win that point.
Hiring managers want to learn about what you do and how you do it
Have you thought about how you do your work? Have you thought of how to create stories from your accomplishments? Do you know what YOU contributed to the work? Hiring managers — if they are good ones (and I’m biased in my case) — want to see a position taken, want to see obstacles overcome, want to hear the difficulties experienced, and, honestly, would love to hire you.
If you only showed them what you do and how you do it — not that it has to match how I do it. Because that’s a conversation — not some Corporate Speak, methodology-dancing-with-the-stars explanation of what you think I want to hear.