It’s common advice that the key to nailing an interview for a job you want is preparation. But what about an interview for a job you don’t necessarily want?
“Even if you’re not interested, take the interview and then prepare,” says Bert Hensley, Morgan Samuels’ Chairman and CEO. After all, there may be an upcoming opening that is more appealing – either at this company or at another client company through the search firm. “If you get good feedback from a client, then search firms will think of you again. You have an audience beyond who’s in the room.”
Search firms place candidates in two broad categories: active and passive. Active candidates are actively seeking new employment, while passive candidates are generally happy in their current roles.
“Passive candidates sometimes don’t prepare like they should. There’s a perception among executives that they benefit from being coy or playing hard to get in the interview process,” Mr. Hensley says. “In my experience, that’s not the case. Go in prepared, or you’re better off not doing it,” he says.
Key Areas to Focus Your Preparation
- Know Your Numbers. Be able to quantify your own performance and provide meaningful context around those achievements, but also understand the performance of the company. If the company is public, read their annual reports online. Try to understand their strengths, their goals, and their successes.
- Know Their Story, and Yours. Be able to describe your career in a compelling narrative and a journey. How did you get where you are today, why do you want to work for the company interviewing, and what makes you a perfect fit for the job? What lessons have you learned along the way and how have they shaped your career trajectory? Also know the hiring company’s story. Know its history, understand the culture, and read through the latest press releases to learn about news and recent developments. Be sure to research the professional background of the interviewer, as well – learn about their career, their role at the company, and some common interests you both share.
- Know the Industry. Research what trends are impacting the company, both positively and negatively. Be able to speak to key people in the industry, technology disrupting the space, and what resources help you stay current on shifts in the market.
- Ask Pointed Questions. Why is the position available? What are their expectations? What roadblocks would you face? Are there opportunities for growth for someone in this position? Both parties need to understand whether the placement is a good fit or it won’t last long, if you do decide you want it.
Remember: interviewing for a job is always great practice, even if you’re not sure you’re interested in it. Look at it as an opportunity to shake the rust off your interviewing skills. That way, when you get to interview for your dream job, you’re ready to nail it. And who knows, maybe you will decide that you are interested in that role after all!