Know Your Interview Audience

The final round interview often entails meeting with several members of an organization.  These meetings can vary from individual (often the top-level management) to large group, from administrative staff to C-Suite management.  The key to success in these various interviews is to know your audience and understand their individual agendas.

For example:

1) Administrative Staff: The administrative staff interviews can be very influential.  They are the front line staff with whom you have talked to arrange your interview day, met you when you first come in the door, observed you as you wait for the first interview to start, and saw you throughout the day as you moved from one meeting to the next.  This is important to remember, when you come into the office for the first time and when you speak to company representatives on the phone, be polite and professional because you are forming an image with a potential interviewer.

When interviewing with the administrative staff, the panel will often seek information on your management style and how you have used administrative personnel in the past.  They may want to know your communication style – how you deliver information and how you will want to be communicated with – and how you view their role within the organization.  Your communication and management style directly affects their work environment and satisfaction – this is information they need to know in order to decide if they want to work for you.

And if you are thinking this group is an easy win, think again.  I have known many admin staff that act as gatekeepers for their supervisors and if that person does not like you, you will find it difficult to reach the executive. Remember, you are the unknown and the executive has a history with the administrative assistant.  Many execs have entrusted their assistants with much of their lives – from their calendars to buying anniversary/birthday/holiday presents – do not underestimate their influence on the executive.  I know one executive who would rather pass on a candidate than upset his executive assistant of 20+ years.

2) Co-Workers/Peers:  In this scenario, you are meeting with individuals who do the same/similar work that you would be expected to accomplish.  For entry-level employees, this could mean the person who had the job before you.  This group often focuses on the theme, “Can you do the job?”  Your co-workers are interested in knowing if you can handle the workload, pressure, and responsibilities of the role.  Your peers will also wonder, “Do I want to work with this person?” – will she be a good team member, fun to interact with, or will she rock the boat and not fit in well in the office?

This can be a tricky interview as one needs to know what is the culture of the office.  If new management is in place and wants to clean house, being chummy with the current staff may be a negative in the hiring manager’s eyes.  If one is looking to join a high functioning team, demonstrating that you can work well with the staff is a valuable trait.  If the team is mixed (some co-workers who are soon to be on their way out and others who are the future), this complicates matters.  A little research and conversation beforehand with the hiring manager can help you understand the direction of the organization.

3) External/Internal Constituents: This group tends to consist of representatives from outside the department but who have a stake in/relationship with the department.  Think of them as possible partners and thus need to uncover what are they looking for from the person who will be in this role.

Recently I was on an interview team for a rector opening (residence hall director position). While I have nothing to do with residence halls at Notre Dame, my office does try to partner with the rectors to help with programs.  Besides trying to decide if the person was a good overall candidate, I selfishly consider if I think the rector candidate would be willing to support and partner with my office’s programming efforts.  In the end though, this group tends to have some of the least influence in the final decision.

3) Senior Level:  This last group tends to be the final decision makers.  They will be your boss or boss’ boss.  In addition to evaluating if you can do the job, the senior level decision makers are also looking toward the future.  Do you have management potential?  Can the Sr. Manager envision mentoring you?  Senior Level Executives will often take a long view when considering an applicant.

Knowing this, these interviews tend not to focus on the details of the job but rather your vision for the future and career path.  Since these are the decision makers, the Senior Executives need to be sure there is a future with you.

Knowing your audience is an important step to take when interviewing.  By understanding where the interviewers’ interests and concerns are, you can better address your answers to communicate effectively.


About Kevin Monahan

I have 10+ years experience in coaching clients in their career management and career change efforts. Personal career consulting services combined with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituents.
This entry was posted in Career Management, Interview, Job Search and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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