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A few months ago, I wrote a blog post entitled 12 Steps to a Great Interview. I know, I know, 12 is a lot of steps, so I wanted to dig deeper into what I think are the two most important points. Here’s your CliffsNotes version to a Great Interview!
1) Make a Connection to the Interviewer and the Organization
The most important thing you do in an interview is make a connection with the interviewer and the organization. The best interviews are those where you leave feeling like you’ve made a new friend. People enjoy working with people they like. Again, this is the heart of WorkMonger’s approach. Many people will be qualified for the job, but our goal at WorkMonger is to match the person who is also the best fit for the organization’s culture, mission, and values. And this is especially important at social impact organizations, where interviewers are not only looking for employees who can do the job, but also those that align with the organization’s mission.
So, how do you make a connection? Ask about your interviewer! Learn about their background and what they do at the organization. See what you have in common. Find out what they like best about working there. Convey your commitment to the cause that the organization serves and passion for the work that you’ll be doing in the potential role. The old airport layover test – would I want to be stuck in an airport for a 3 hour layover with this person – is still very true. To this day I still credit getting my first job after college as an investment banking analyst with Citigroup to hitting it off with my interviewer because he was fascinated with an internship I had once had at the United Nations and he wanted to hear stories about my experience.
2) Convince the Organization you can Solve their Problem
Every organization and hiring supervisor have a problem, and they believe that hiring the right person will solve it. Your job is to determine what that problem is and convince the hiring team that you are the best person to solve it.
Perhaps a talented member of the team just left to go to graduate school and her boss is now pulling double duty and desperately needs the right person to come on board and get up to speed quickly so she can once again catch her breath. Perhaps a social enterprise recently received a multi-million dollar investment to scale one of their existing programs and has thus far been unable to do so due to a lack of capacity. Perhaps a nonprofit just completed a new strategic plan, yet they lack an experienced fundraiser to raise the funds necessary to enable the desired impact. Whatever the case, people are hired for their ability to solve a problem, and usually to solve it quickly and effectively.
So, how do you find out what that problem is? Ask! Yes, the job description will give you great insight into the role, and you should use this to make an educated assumption regarding the problem to guide you during the first round interview. However, be sure to ask probing questions when given the opportunity in the first round interview as well. This will enable you to truly focus on highlighting how you’ll be able to address the challenge they are facing when you return for subsequent interviews.
Think back to the interview process for your current or most recent job. Did you make a connection with the interviewer(s)? How did you do it? What problem did the organization have, and how did you convince them (maybe without even realizing it at the time) that you’d be the best person to solve it for them? Odds are, since you were hired, one way or another you accomplished both these tasks.
Now, let’s flip it. Think back to a job you really wanted and interviewed for but weren’t extended an offer. Did you make a connection with the interviewer(s)? Did you convey your excitement about the cause the organization served? Were you able to successfully convince them of your ability to solve the problem they were striving to address with that role? Likely not. Where did you go wrong? What could you have done differently?
Recently, I talked with a jobseeker who was applying for a project management role at a nonprofit about her interview. She had hit it off with the interviewer, but she was worried that she hadn’t sufficiently conveyed her ability to project manage during the interview. Given this was the problem the organization was trying to solve with this hire, she knew she needed to do something. I suggested she develop a draft 30 – 60 – 90 day work plan (i.e., what would be her priorities and action steps for her first, second, and third months on the job) to convey both her strong interest in the role and her ability to project manage. She did so and emailed it as a follow-up document after her interview. The interviewer was so impressed with her initiative and abilities that the she received the second round interview and eventually the offer. How did she do it? She convinced them she’d solve their problem.
There are lots of little things that can make a difference in an interview. Ultimately though, if you make a connection with the interviewer and the organization, and you convince the interviewer that you can solve the problem they need addressed, everything else is just icing on the cake. And if you’re job seeking in the social impact sector, WorkMonger factors both the likelihood that you’ll connect with an organization as well as your ability to solve the organization’s challenge before we even recommend you for a role – making your likelihood of successfully receiving an offer that much higher.
Have advice to share with our readers on making a connection in an interview or conveying how you will solve the organization’s problem? Or perhaps you have a related story to share from the perspective of a jobseeker or an employer? If so, please share in the comments below!
John Troy is the Founder of WorkMonger and has interviewed hundreds of people for roles in the social impact sector, as well as been a candidate in interviews quite a few times himself.