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How your interview can get you more than just the job.

It’s easy to think that the whole raison d’être of an interview is to land the job, but if that is the limit of your ambition, then you are missing out.

Yes, you want to get that job, and, yes, that is the primary concern for all involved, but, if landing the job is 70% of the battle, what is the other 30%?

It takes a certain subtlety-of-thought to realise that extra, and in my opinion, most important, 30%, and it’s not about you in the accepted sense. Certainly, you need to demonstrate the required technical skills: you must “interview well”, and the interviewer must believe you will easily fit into the team, but the last 30% is all about the ambitions of your boss-to-be.

If they believe that you have tremendous potential—coupled with the right attitude, (more on that in a moment)—then they will start thinking about how to harvest your brilliance. And that could set you on the path to rapid promotion, with the higher salary and kudos that brings.

“Why would they do that?”, you sceptically ask. Easy: selfishness.

After the first few orientation months at a new company, you start looking to where you can go, and how you can impress the right people to get there. It’s human nature, and contrary to popular belief, bosses are also human--well, mostly.

Now, one of the key measurements for managers, is how well they actually manage--obviously. However, to realise their own ambitions they ideally want someone who will demonstrate exactly how good a manager they really are. Especially, if they aren't.

Again, you must apply some subtlety to your approach. You need to quickly understand, at your interview, what kind of boss they will be, for this to work effectively.

Is your boss-to-be:

  • A poor communicator?

  • Lacking technical skills?

  • Arrogant and unapproachable?

  • Overly ambitious?

  • Politically active?

  • Ill-equipped to be a manager?

  • Bored of working here?

Those are just a few possibilities--add your own list of boss-types. Using your list, consider what attitudes each boss-type will want you to exhibit.

Do they want you to:

  • Takes direction easily?

  • Help them understand technical issues?

  • Drive change?

  • Massage their ego?

  • Help with their communication to upper-management?

  • Show tact and discipline with dissenting colleagues?

  • Help them ignite their stalled ambitions?

Again, just a few starters-for-ten, but you can use this knowledge to shape your answers to interview questions and get them thinking about how they might shine with you as their employee.

So, I hear you ask, (I have good hearing) how exactly do I do that?

The first thing to remember, is that Interviews are a performance, on both sides.

They will attempt to gloss over the unpleasant realities of the work environment, and you will try to minimise your deficiencies in fulfilling the role--like in the movies, call it suspension-of-disbelief.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting, nor advocating, anything unethical, just reminding you that interviews aren’t necessarily about reality. Everyone knows this, but you still have to play the game. If you play it well enough, you win.

Ok, now that we have that clearly in front of us, you are ready to let loose your “Oscar” performance. The simplest way of finding out what their management style is: ask them. Once they tell you, then you can explain how that is your absolutely favourite management style, and why! This is where your intensive interview preparation comes in.

If they aren’t forthcoming enough for you, then use that old interview chestnut in reverse. Ask them, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?”

Their response, no matter how laconic or evasive, will tell you a lot about their ambitions and their management style. Use it to your advantage.

Use these tips to start your planning for the big day. It's all about investing some time in your career, by developing the right strategies, so that you can take control of the interview, and get them thinking about their future with you in it. The rewards will more than make up for it.

If you need a little help getting started, then, please, consider my “Interview Masterclass” where we will create an agenda specific to you.


Prefer to start with something more casual? Consider an "Interview-fit" workshop. Each workshop tackles a different interview question in a group setting.

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