Interviewing - Interviewing in Person
Suggestions for Interviewing for a Management PositionThe materials you provide when responding to an advertisement - your resume, cover letter, and so on - get you to the interview. Then most potential employers forget about them and make a selection solely based on how you perform in the interview. The following are some suggestions to help you succeed in the interview.
- Remember the interviewer is looking for two things: (1) Will you do an outstanding job in the position, and (2) Will you be a good fit for our organization. The latter also boils down to two things: Will I (the interviewer) enjoy / be able to work well with this person and will the staff enjoy / be able to work well with this individual?
- Be prepared. Know the City / County, the Council / Commission and the issues. We cannot emphasize this point enough. Some people get the job based on charm. That is very rare. Most people get the job based on their demonstrated ability to do the job and their knowledge of the client. By the same token, many people lose the opportunity to get a job because they are not prepared. It shows. With the resources available to on the Internet, no reason exists for you not to be fully prepared. We know it, you know it and our clients know it. Here are some things you can do to prepare.
- Re-read the recruitment profile.
- Read the last six months of the local newspaper.
- Google the City / County.
- Find out why the position you are interviewing for is vacant.
- Check out their website and watch the Council / Commission meetings for at least the last six months. If you cannot, at least read the meeting minutes.
- Look at the Comprehensive Plan, Strategic Plan, and other plans.
- Look at the budget, the CAFR and the management letter.
- Call nearby managers to get their impressions but remember they do not work there so their impressions may be flawed.
- Talk to the recruiter about the position, the City / County and the issues.
- Call the President of the Chamber of Commerce and the Tourist Development Commission. They will probably be helpful, but they will also probably tell the folks they know on the Council / Commission that you did.
- If you can, prior to the interview, attend a council meeting and introduce yourself to the elected officials. You can let them know that the Council-Manager relationship is like a marriage - it has to be right for both them and for you.
As an aside, if you cannot make time to prepare, then there is no reason for you to accept the interview. You probably will not get the job anyway.
- Dress appropriately. Wear a conservative outfit although you do not be bland. Wear a white shirt or blouse. White conveys sincerity and integrity. Wear a gray or dark suit. As an aside, in virtually all the City and County Manager searches we have done, the City / County has hired the person wearing the white shirt or blouse with two exceptions. Odd but true.
- Demonstrate good posture, sit forward and be attentive. Do not sit back and lounge in the chair.
- Be yourself. Be confident in your abilities.
- Be passionate about wanting the job. Let the client know you want the job. As noted, jobs are like a marriage. If a guy proposed to the woman saying, "Will you marry me?" but gives the impression it is okay if she says no, then the likelihood that she will say no goes up dramatically. Employers want to be loved and they want someone who wants to be there!
- Smile -- be positive and upbeat. The glass is always more than half full!
- Interject a little humor if you can. It makes people feel comfortable that they can work with you. That said, do not force it. If it does not come naturally, then do not try.
- The first question in most interviews is something like, "Tell me about yourself." Most candidates give some dry answer citing the jobs over their career and devoid of achievements. That is crazy. The "tell me about yourself" question is your chance to hit a home run and you should use it to impress the interviewer. And impressing the interviewer is a great way to get an interview started. You should have a 3 to 5 minute monolog (the so called elevator speech) ready to go that tells the interviewer who you are, where you have worked, and what you have achieved in those jobs. But no more than 5 minutes!!!
- The second question (or sometimes the first) is why do you want to come our community or to be our City Manager (or whatever the position is)? Do not start with any personal reasons! Rather tell them what you can do for them. You are looking for new challenges is the best answer. You might then go on and tell them how your experience will help you address one or more of their particular challenges. At the end you can throw in that you have family in the area or some other reason. But do not tell them that some day you want to retire in their community or state. They will assume you view their job as a parttime retirement job or one where you can wind down slowly. That will cost you any opportunity to get the job.
- At some point in the interview, you will probably be asked about your greatest achievement. Have an answer ready. It is fine to say you have a tough time choosing so here are two. At least one should involve working with people (ideally, including some residents, although that can be hard to find sometimes) to make a project a success.
- You will also likely be asked about your weaknesses. The standard answers are, "I work too hard," and "I have very high expectations for my employees." If you want to use those, ready to defend those answers because, we, as an employer, would ask in response to the former, "I don't see why working too hard is a problem. In fact, I expect that. So why is it a weakness?" In terms of the latter, I would ask, "Why do you think having high expectations for your employees to be a weakness?" Further, since everyone uses these as "weaknesses," it might be better to pick something that used to be a weakness, is one you have largely conquered but you can say you are still working on.
- During the interview, if you are comfortable doing so, throw some personal stuff in - not a lot. Remember interviewer will be working with you and wants to feel comfortable that you will be a good fit with the organization. Showing you have life beyond work helps do that. Besides, most interviewers want to know about your personal situation but are often afraid to ask.
- When you are asked a question, get to the point and quit. Do not go on and on and on and on. As an aside, some candidates will give an answer and then, if there is a brief lull, try to fill the void by adding to their answer. Don't. Lulls occur naturally while the interviewer decides what he/she wants to ask next.
- In most cases, a good answer is 2 to 4 minutes in length. If you go on beyond 4 minutes regularly, you will be thought to be talking too much and that is not a good thing. Interviewers will wonder if you will spend all your time chatting on the job instead of doing the work. The interviewer does not generally want all the details - he/she wants the highlights. If they want more information, they will ask a follow-up question.
- If you can answer a question yes or no, then do so. After a pause, you can add, "Would you like me to explain my answer?" It is impressive when someone can be that direct.
- When you are answering questions, use examples. Examples drive the point home and make the answer real - as opposed to something you read in a textbook or heard about at a seminar. For example, if someone asks you about public involvement, explain how it can be done and then give an example of how you have successfully involved the public.
- Do not just answer the questions, engage the interviewer. That means, interact with the interviewer. Smile at them and kid with them a little (just a little) but only if you are comfortable doing so. If you are not, do not force it.
- At the end, you will probably be asked if you have any questions you want to ask. Always have two or three ready to go. One I like is, "What was it about my credentials that attracted you to me?" The answer will give you valuable feedback but it also makes the interviewer think about your good points once again. Another is, "If I am fortunate enough to be selected for this job, how will you judge if I am a success or not after one year?"