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Interview for the Interviewer, Not Just the Job

  • January 30, 2024

When you walk into an interview, you’re likely focused on presenting yourself as the ideal candidate for the position. However, savvy job seekers know there’s another crucial aspect to consider: the interviewer. After all, interviews are not just about landing the job; they’re about establishing a rapport with the person who could become your next boss or mentor. This means you’re not just interviewing for the job, but also for the interviewer.

Understanding the Interview Dynamic

Typically, interviews are viewed as a one-way street where the employer holds all the cards. However, this dynamic is shifting. Employers are increasingly aware that a successful hire is about fit, both in terms of skills and personality. As a candidate, understanding this can empower you to approach the interview with a different mindset – one where you are also assessing the interviewer.

Researching the Interviewer

Preparation begins long before you shake hands. Start by researching the interviewer. With platforms like LinkedIn, you can often find out about their professional background, their role within the company, and perhaps even common interests or mutual connections. This knowledge can help tailor your questions and conversation, making it relevant and engaging for the interviewer.

Building a Connection

The goal is to build a genuine connection. This doesn’t mean forcing a friendship, but it does involve finding common ground and demonstrating that you can communicate effectively. The ability to build rapport is a soft skill that’s invaluable in any workplace.

Start by being observant. Take note of what’s in their office – books, photos, awards – these can be great conversation starters. Listen actively when they speak, showing that you value their input. Small gestures of understanding, like nodding or summarizing their points, can go a long way in establishing a connection.

Asking Insightful Questions

While it’s expected for interviewers to ask the tough questions, flipping the script can set you apart. Prepare thoughtful questions that not only show you’ve done your homework but also demonstrate your interest in their perspective. For instance, ask about their experiences with the company, the challenges they’ve faced, or the accomplishments they’re proud of. This can give you insights into company culture and management style, and it shows the interviewer you’re considering how you would fit into the broader team dynamic.

Evaluating Leadership Style

Your interviewer's responses can provide clues about their leadership style. Do they focus on team achievements or individual milestones? Do they speak with enthusiasm about mentoring their staff? Understanding this can help you determine if their leadership style aligns with what helps you thrive.

Understanding Company Culture

An interviewer's demeanor can also reflect the company's culture. Are they formal and by-the-book or more relaxed and conversational? This can inform how you would be expected to interact with colleagues and clients. It’s important to gauge whether the work environment suits your personality and work style.

Showcasing Adaptability

Throughout the conversation, showcase your adaptability. This means being ready to steer the conversation in different directions based on the interviewer’s cues. If they seem excited about a particular topic, explore it further. Demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to engage on a variety of subjects can signal that you’ll be an easy colleague to work with.

Negotiating the Close

As the interview wraps up, don’t be afraid to discuss the next steps. This is also a moment to highlight how your conversation has confirmed your interest in the role and working with them specifically. It shows confidence and ensures you remain memorable.

Reflecting Post-Interview

After the interview, take time to reflect on the interaction. Did you feel comfortable and engaged? Could you see yourself working under their leadership? It’s essential to trust your instincts. If something felt off, consider whether it’s a red flag or simply interview nerves.

Final Thoughts

Interviewing for the interviewer does not negate the importance of the job itself. It’s about adding an additional layer to your interview strategy. It means going beyond showcasing your skills for the role and building a relationship with the person who could be your next boss.

Remember, an interview is a two-way street. You’re there to learn as much about them as they are about you. By interviewing for the interviewer, you can ensure not only that the job is a great fit for you but also that the leadership and culture will help you grow and succeed.

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