What is an interview, exactly?
You see, the biggest mistake I see executive job seekers make is preparing on the EXECUTION front (crafting a presentation, rehearsing answers, doing research), without ever once questioning the STRUCTURE. This is missing the forest for the trees because even the simplest changes to STRUCTURE will have an enormous positive impact on the execution side of things. But it’s scary. And it’s WAY more uncertain than putting together a slide deck.
So let’s demystify it a little bit. Here are 3 powerful strategies you can bring into play to reshape the interview and tilt the odds in your favor:
1. Bringing a standardized approach into play.
While it may seem tempting to “blank sheet” an upcoming interview and customize everything, it’s just not effective. Let’s say we’re both in the running for a position, and we both have exactly the same amount of time to prepare. If you expend all of your energy starting from scratch, and I use that time to “leapfrog” to a higher level of development by leveraging pre-existing stories and strategies that have worked in the past, and only really customize some small and highly visible points, who do you think will come out ahead?
Start tracking everything. Every story or anecdote that works, record it and save it as part of a story portfolio. Every time you’re able to successfully “thread the needle” with a complicated answer, write it down and save it as the go-to for every following situation which requires it…until you’re able to optimize and use THAT as the new reference. You can do this with hiring-related emails, anything and everything that will allow you to operate from a pre-existing base of success.
2. Actively seeking out the awkward moments.
While it’s pleasant to have a hiring interview progress like a comfortable chat, at the end of the day it cannot, and should not, stay that way. Ask any sales leader, or really any professional who deals in gaining compliance from others, and they’ll tell you: the “love fest” is largely a waste of time. If you’re not dealing with at least a few hard points, you’re not making progress.
So…seek out the awkward moments, and build a pattern with your interviewer that will enable you both to keep seeking them out, and moving past them, without the fear of upsetting things. One of the easiest ways you can do this is to ask “Hiring Stage testing” questions. Interviews generally move from a “building credibility” stage to a “moving to offer” stage. Start asking questions related to much later in the process- behind the scenes details, key priorities upon start, compensation, etc. If you meet resistance, you know that your interviewer is still in an earlier stage. Back up and start probing to discover what’s missing.
3. Changing the success criteria.
No amount of preparation will guarantee a great interview outcome. No matter what you do, there’s always going to be factors beyond your control, and outside of your line of sight. When we over-invest in the outcome of an interview, it starts to warp EVERYTHING- how we handle key situations, how we follow up, and ultimately, the amount of leverage we’re able to sustain (SO critical).
So, STOP pinning your criteria for success on whether or not you get the role, or otherwise gain a stranger’s acceptance. Focus on goals you can control, “stretch goals” that will make you into a better presenter and advocate for your interests tomorrow- which is the ultimate win. Go into that room and tell yourself, “I’m going to share 3 stories that I’m really passionate about with regards to my work and life. I’m going to ask 30% more questions than I might otherwise feel comfortable with. And if I do that, I’ll have earned that ice cream sundae/Double IPA/insert vice of choice I’ll be treating myself to IMMEDIATELY afterwards!”
— Anish Majumdar
This story originally appeared on Ivy Exec. Anish Majumdar is a nationally recognized Career Coach, Personal Branding Expert, and a fierce advocate for transitioning leaders. His posts and videos on disrupting the "normal rules" of job searching and getting ahead reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month. Go down the rabbit hole of Anish’s career videos at HelloAnish.com, and connect with him on LinkedIn to receive daily career tips and advice.