Companies continue to make hiring decisions on how well people interview. This is not that unusual since we hire for the most important position in the same way: The President of the United States. We put the candidates through a brutal 18 months+ interview process and then make a decision on election day in early November every four years on who should lead the country and the free world.
In a job, you are going to listen to your boss and others to understand the problem and how they want the problem solved. No matter what business experts say, companies are still looking for obedience, diligence and intelligence. But they want more; they also want you to take charge to show that you can take initiative, come up with creative solutions and exhibit passion for the work. Lastly, they want you to reach some sort of agreement so you can focus on getting the work done to achieve some defined outcomes.
How do you show all this in an interview?
Since you are not doing the work, you literally have to do all of the following:
- Follow -- Sit, listen and answer
- Lead --- Stand and deliver
- Agree --- Walk together
Now that you know the strategy you are going to employ, you have to negotiate on how you want the interview to be conducted. This is not an unreasonable request. If the interviewer balks, then how are you any different than anyone else. I will not tell you what you should do ,but you are already losing. If you believe that an interview is a proxy for a job then you have to get this small win.
Suppose you are given an hour, then negotiate that you will give 20 minutes to the interviewer in the format of his choosing, then 20 minute for your chalk board talk or presentation and 20 minute walk to conclude the interview. If you win this, then you increase your chances for the big win: the job offer.
No matter the outcome, you are going to be different than other candidates who will wait to negotiate after getting the job offer. Note, you have one shot and you have to take it since you may not get another one.
Typically all interviews are conducted where you sit opposite the interviewer and have to demonstrate your listening skills and answer questions intelligently. You want the interviewer to take control and let him drive the agenda. There is no point taking control over at the outset since he has the position, thus, power, and you don't. One thing you have to realize is that if you want to get the job offer then everyone who is inside the company have the power over you.
He wants to see whether you listen well, easy to work with and respect his position. He is mostly judging you on whether you are obedient (listen to what they want done in a way they want done), diligent (will get the job done in time, under budget and with high quality) and intelligent (you will get the job done optimally).
You want to show that you can follow, are a consummate team player and do not pose any threat in getting the work done. You want to show that you will get the job done faster, better, cheaper and smarter.
Once you have allowed the interviewer to take control, it now time to seize control.
At some point during the interview, you must seize control by standing up and deliver. This could be a presentation that you have put together or go to the whiteboard (preferred) and show that you understand the problem and have thought of potential solutions that you would like them to consider. The key thing to remember is to get the interviewer involved. Do not resort to "spray and pray." You want the interviewer to co-opt the solution so he does not tune out or get threatened. Through seizing control you want to demonstrate that you are someone who can carry his weight and and makes the company, team and the boss look good.
The interviewer wants to see whether you show initiative, creativity and passion. But showing these three does not mean he wants you to be a lone ranger. You have to gain adoption of your ideas through engagement. The interviewer is willing to be a good student as long as you are ready to step up and be an excellent teacher.
You have to demonstrate that you indeed will make a great addition to the team since you know what the company is looking for; you know how to make the team look good in coming up with a joint solution and make your boss look good to his boss.
If you get this done then you have pulled and pushed. Now it is time to walk together and agree on delivering outcomes.
This is where you are equal where you want to go for a walk and discuss the optimal way to get it done. No one is leading or trailing. You are walking together side by side the way you will be working. Nilofer Merchant makes an interesting point in her blog "Sitting is the Smoking of Our Generation" that "There’s something about being side-by-side that puts the problem or ideas before us, and us working on it together."
By doing this way, you have just done something very subtle. Let the interviewer control the interview; taken control and walked as equals. Did you have to say it? No. You did it by doing it.
He is walking side with you as a peer though he may have the position over you. You are friendly and amiable and easy to talk to. You are not unwilling to follow and intimidate to lead. You are a professional that he has been looking for.
You are the one they are looking for. You will not get them fired since you are going to work out by the way you interviewed. They will not waste any more time and make the offer so you can join the team as soon as possible.
As I said interview's purpose is not to take a test, not to get a date and not to make friends, though all of these are certainly there. The main purpose of an interview is to give control, seize control and come to a decision to get the job done so everyone wins. This is the challenge you must meet when you are interviewing for any job.
Success in a job interview ultimately comes down to showing that you can follow, lead and walk together. If you do this well, you will walk away with a job offer.