Recently, Christopher Jones, the Authentic Leader of Authentic Business Services LLC and Principle Interviewer of The Authentic Interview, and InnerWill have gotten to know each other. We share a similar vision centered around leadership development. Sometimes the biggest challenge for leaders at all levels can be finding the talent or landing the job, so we decided to ask Christopher a few questions about interviewing. Here is what he said.
From as far back as I can remember, I have always loved the interview. Whether I was interviewing job candidates during my time in the corporate world or I was the one interviewing for a job, I loved everything about it. My love for interviewing people and my passion for leadership has developed into a monthly event called the Authentic Interview.
The idea for the Authentic Interview series stemmed from my desire to do a podcast. I had been holding a series of lunches for several years, but it had gotten to the point where something didn’t feel quite right. I felt like there was just too much focus on me. Something clicked, and I realized that I could launch a “live podcast interview” where people could learn while also making connections with their peers. And just as I thought, as soon as I took the focus off me and put it on the people that I was interviewing, the real magic happened. That’s been the secret sauce and the series continues to gain momentum and popularity.
Q: So, what makes an interview authentic? And what are some steps we can take, both as the interviewer and the interviewee, to be more effective?
A: If there was only one piece of advice I could share, it would be to prepare! The rapport with the person you’re interviewing or being interviewed by is just so critical. People sometimes get overly-confident and think they’ve seen enough interviews and it’s easy, only to sit down and realize that the reason it looked easy was because there was thoughtful preparation that lead up to the actual interview.
Years ago, when I was looking for a job, I came across the book 60 Seconds and You’re Hired by Robin Ryan. I think it’s one of the best reference books when it comes to effectively preparing for a job interview. One of the concepts highlighted is that as humans, we can only have so much in our minds at any given time. During an interview, you want to be able to answer questions at the ready. Ryan talks about a five-point agenda, where you identify the 5 examples you want to give in your answers when you’re asked questions.
Just take the time to do a little research. I can’t tell you the number of times, whether it’s been during a job interview or an interview I’m listening to on a podcast, that it’s obvious that there has been little to no research done ahead of time.
If you’re really interested in a job and believe you’re a good fit, doesn’t it seem ridiculous not to do a quick background check on the person who will be interviewing you? Check out their LinkedIn profile or read articles about their company. Knowing a little bit about the person you’ll be sharing the next hour with will go a long way, especially when it comes to making a first impression. This intel allows you to bring things up more naturally during the interview and leads to a more effortless dialogue that doesn’t feel forced.
It’s important to go into an interview focused on just having a conversation and on what you can discover. So often people look at what they expect the result to be rather than going into it with the expectation to discover the result that you will find at the end.
Q: Next, what does it mean to be authentic?
A: I was recently asked this question while being interviewed for a podcast. For me, it’s living my brand. I want to be an authentic leader, so I live and act accordingly. Authenticity comes from being transparent in your leadership and how you show up. When someone’s genuinely being themselves, you can feel it. It’s that shift from thinking you must have all the answers to recognizing that as leaders, we don’t have to. So just be yourself. One of the most powerful things a leader can say is, “I need help.” Your followers already know that you need help, so ask them. They want to help you.
Often people are asked about strengths and weaknesses in an interview. It’s a textbook question, and one that I’m not a fan of. It’s been around forever, and people either dread it because they know it’s going to be asked, or they’ve been coached so much that they give a very canned, inauthentic response. When I’m interviewing a candidate, I would rather find out who they really are. I don’t want them to be on their best behavior, I just want them to naturally be who they are. It’s your job as the interviewer to make that person feel comfortable and really encourage them to be themselves and pull out who they really are. That’s the key to an effective interview.
When I was being interviewed for jobs, I never went into it thinking I’m going in to get the job. I’m going in to learn more and confirm if this is the right fit for me. Because if you want a job just to accomplish getting the job, but it’s not actually the best fit for you, it’s going to be a struggle for you in the role. It’s going to be a struggle for the person who has hired you and you’ll both regret it. Make it easy and use the interview to figure out if this is really a good fit or not. It’s a responsibility for both the interviewee and interviewer.
Some of my favorite questions that I find most effective are very open-ended:
- Tell me about yourself. – You can share where you’re from, a few key points from your career and highlight your past experiences that have brought you where you are today.
- Why do you want to work here? It’s the job of the interviewee to draw out why you think you would be a good fit.
- What kind of results do you see yourself producing? This question helps show off how much homework the interviewee has done to research the role and the job, and how they think they can contribute to the bottom line of the organization.
- Why should we hire you? Think about this question beforehand. Why are you a fit in this organization or team? How will you bring your unique perspective?
- Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? It’s a powerful, but difficult question. It’s hard to see into the future, but this question does help to identify what kind of aspirations the candidate has. What direction are they going? It can be very telling.
Remember, go into an interview with an open mind. Let your hair down and go in with an attitude that you’re there to have a conversation. It’s up to you and the interviewer to have that conversation together and see where it goes.
Lastly, always expect success. Expect you’re going to enjoy this interview. You’re going to enjoy the conversation. Expect that the other person will also enjoy it. Keeping that in the front of your mind as you go into the interview totally changes the entire atmosphere that you’re walking into. Be happy and energetic and expect that it’s going to be a great interviewee. That energy will carry over to the interviewer. And what they’ll remember is that you came in with purpose and positivity. Just be yourself!