Interviewing - General
The Interview and Preparation
- Read an interview book. The best ones outline theory about what the interviewer is looking for as well as some practice questions and the strategy behind the development of those questions. They may also provide you with examples of good responses and the strategies to consider when responding. Also, see the end of this commentary for some relevant websites.
- Practice your interviewing skills with your spouse, a colleague or a friend.
- The morning of the interview, pull the interview book off the shelf, read a few questions and try to answer them. Get your mind limbered up for the interview.
- Know the City, the Council and their issues. Attend a few meetings if you can.
- Read highlights from the last six months of the local newspaper.
- Review their website, meeting minutes for the last six months, and so on.
- Look at the budget, the CAFR and the management letter.
- If you can, prior to the interview, attend a council meeting and introduce yourself to the elected officials.
- Dress appropriately. Wear a conservative outfit, although try not to be bland. Wear a white shirt or blouse; it conveys sincerity, honesty and trust. In every City and County Manager search I have done except one, the government has hired someone who wore a white shirt or blouse to the interview. Odd but true.
- Demonstrate good posture; sit forward; be alert and attentive.
- Be yourself; demonstrate confidence in your abilities.
- Smile -- be positive and upbeat. The glass is always more than half full!
- Interject a little humor, if you can. Make it easy humor and ensure that it is appropriate.
- Answer questions by getting to the main point; then quit when you are done. Do not go on and on just to prove how much you know. Use good grammar; avoid both jargon and slang.
- Do not simply answer the questions; engage the interviewer. That means, interact with the interviewer. Smile at them and kid with them a little – again, if you can, and when appropriate. From time to time, after you answer a question, consider throwing one back. "Did I answer your question?" "Would you like me to tell you more?" "Have you had similar problems here?" "At least that is how I would handle it. Do you think there is a better approach?"
- At the end of the interview, you will likely be asked if you have any questions for them. Always have two or three ready to go. One that I like is, "What was it about my credentials that attracted you to me?" Their answers will give you valuable feedback but it also makes the interviewer think about your good points once again and leaves them with the impression you are open to critical comments. Another I like is, "Assuming you hire me, after one year, what measures will you use to determine if I have been successful?" You may also want to ask what characteristics the official liked about the prior manager and what s/he did not like.