Over the past few months I have had the task of sitting in on several interview panels for various positions at my place of employment. I have learned that you can learn a lot from that experience.

Question mark shaped cloud

Before you ask, how would you answer?

Throughout the interview process some rely on generated lists of sample interview questions that can be found online. This can be fine, but you need to go beyond printing off the list in your course of preparation. Consider how you would like the interviewee to answer and discuss possible answers with your fellow interviewers.

Beyond developing your ideal answer from a candidate, take some time to consider how you would answer yourself. Be honest! This is a good chance to evaluate where you could improve in your own work. Even if you aren’t interviewing anyone, you might consider browsing websites for interview questions and answering them yourself.

After your questions, consider theirs.

After you have gone through your list of questions, it is always a good idea to ask the candidate if they have any questions for you and your team. These can be enlightening. You learn where in your discussion you may have been unclear and can make necessary adjustments for future interviews. You learn what ideas are important to the candidate and where their priorities may lie.

In addition to learning from the interviewee’s questions, you can also learn for the questions and answers of your co-interviewers. In a recent interview a candidate was discussing opportunities for professional development. All the interviewers I was seated with voiced how important this was to them personally. While this isn’t surprising (I do work in higher education), it was wonderful to hear it voiced from the top of our unit, and to hear why they value this feature of our workplace.

Flip the interview on its head.

I read once that when you’re interviewing for a position, you are trying to find out if you are right for the position AND if the position is right for you. Another article I read said that you should identify what your minimum requirements are that must be met in order to achieve your own version of professional happiness.

Along those lines, I propose flipping the interview process on its head. Come up with an ideal job description for a position you would love to have. You don’t have to be as specific as a job title and company name. Start with job traits.

For example, I know that investment in professional development is important to me. If a company is not willing to invest in training, workshops, or conferences for employees then I am not interested in working for them. I also know that family time is important to me, so I wouldn’t want to work for a company that consistently poses unreasonable demands on employees that force them to miss family functions.

Even if you aren’t looking for a job, having an idea of what job traits are important to you can help you to evaluate new opportunities as they come along, making sure that you reduce risk of making a bad career move in the heat of the moment (or risk missing out on a great opportunity!) It can also be a useful tool when you have an annual review and your boss asks what they could do to make your job more enjoyable.


Photo: Flickr user Micky.!