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9 Ways to Make a Hit During the Interview Process (Second in a Series)

Do’s and don’ts – and other common sense issues that need to be said out loud

So you’ve made your way into the interview room and greeted all the members of the search committee. And you’ve found your seat without tripping over something or yourself! Congratulations! Now comes the fun part.

Just as you’ve prepared for your interview by wearing appropriate attire, you must also prepare for success during the interview. This will lead to success in the job.

  • Be concise and complete. Members of a search committee have plenty of questions prepared. Although you want to share everything with them, be conscious of the time. Don’t drone on for 20 minutes about yourself and all the positions you’ve held. And while you speak and listen, remember to maintain good eye contact with everyone. This may take practice, if you’re not used to it or haven’t interviewed in a while.

  • Who are you? The most common first question asked during an interview is, “Now that we’ve read your CV, tell us something beyond the CV that we should know about you. Why are you interested in this job? What will distinguish you from the other candidates? Practice answering these questions ahead of time.

  • Know the mission and vision of the institution. If you can get a copy of the strategic plan, study it. Know what the institution is looking for in the years to come and how you will contribute to the strategy.

  • Why should we hire you? Committee members are astute and listen intently to responses. They know what to expect during an interview. Remember, you may not be the first or even fifth candidate being interviewed. So, they have heard many answers. Do you just want a job or do you want this job? Why should they select you? What will you bring to the institution and to this position that others will not?

  • How to answer a question correctly: First, once you know what the person is asking, give a complete, overall answer--the 30,000-foot response. Then, give an example that shows how you’ve done that. Be sure it was successful. If it wasn’t, state that, and tell the committee what you learned from the experience and what, knowing the outcome, you’d do differently now.

  • Speak clearly and avoid uh’s or um’s during your responses. Gathering your thoughts is acceptable–and preferred over the alternative. Depending on the number of committee members and the acoustics in the room, be sure you can be heard. Don’t let your sentences trail off at the end. If someone needs to ask you to speak up, don’t revert to speaking too softly.

  • Pay attention to body language. Observe the body language of the committee members. They’ll pick up on yours. Sit straight, but comfortably. Write down questions asked only if they ask more than one at any one time.

  • Most important, have questions for the committee members. The interview almost always ends with the committee giving you the floor to ask questions. Be prepared with questions. Above all, don’t ask what the next steps in the process will be. Your search consultant (or whoever brought you into this part of the process) should have informed you.

  • Don’t ask about salary and don’t ask why the position is vacant. You should already know the answers to these questions, because you’ve made it this far. Request information before the meeting so you can ask informed questions that show you’ve done your homework. When in doubt or if there is extra time and you need more information, you can always ask: For example: What are some of the first priorities for this position? What do they think are the major challenges? What’s the culture of the campus? What are the top two reasons committee members are still at XYZ University?

Above all, let the search-committee members know that you want the position and thank them for their time.

I’ve often said that most interviewing is common sense. But often, when people are a little nervous, common sense flies out the window.

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Next in this series—“Whew, the interview is over. Now what?”