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Inigima

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I dunno if we've ever really had one, but here's a thread for all things career related. Questions, advice, networking, that kind of thing.



For my part, I have a first-round internal interview for leadership of my team this week. I only just got the interview confirmation, so I don't have a lot of time to do prep. I work in IT, and I've been doing the leadership job in an acting capacity for almost a year -- my old team lead seriously hurt himself almost a year ago and I took on most of the responsibilities then, and he came back for a couple weeks and then quit. But as much as I might feel I'm "owed" the job, it's not guaranteed and I have competition, and I need to nail the interviews. I haven't interviewed for anything in years and I'm more than a little terrified.



I don't think I really have great answers for the "common" interview questions. I don't know if I want to answer the "greatest weakness" question honestly. If I did, I would say that I don't delegate enough -- but there's a reason for that. I work with VIPs in the organization, so things really need to be done right, and I have years of experience that tell me they won't be. Like, a while back I was asked to accept help from a lower-level team to cover absences, so I agreed, and then his team lead told him not to go. And I have meetings that I go to in suits, and I've had people on my team covering show up in hoodies. But we're being asked to do more with less, and to not go mad I need to delegate more. But I'm concerned that copping to that will be a strike against me in a leadership role.



I really am a perfect fit, and by far the best fit possible, for the role. It's hard to know what "greatest strength" to put forward. One of them is that "buck stops here" feeling. Another is extremely strong organizational skills -- years ago I was not naturally organized, so I long ago put systems in place to keep track of everything. I'm a great communicator, both written and oral, and I have scads of leadership experience from every organization I've ever been in, all the way back to the Boy Scouts.



I hate interviews and rarely do them, and I basically need from-the-beginning guidance, including how to answer common questions like those and "tell me about yourself." Help?


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The thing that helped me the most was running through a few mock interviews with someone who is pretty familiar with the interview process. When I went for a promotion last year, that was (thinking back) probably my first real job interview, ever. Practicing with my wife helped to ease the terror, polish some seemingly rough edges, and generally build some confidence, which is say is one of the most important things an interviewee should bring.

As to the answering those common "what is your weakness" type... I would advise answering honestly... y'know, for a given value of honesty, of course. Those questions are (in my experience) about seeing how critical and self-aware you are in your own performance, and a great chance to spin into something positive (ie how you are already working to overcome this weakness).

Sorry, going into work now myself... Will try to return to this

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I think R'hllor has the right of it. Honesty for a given value. So you have issues with delegation. You identified it. You developed a system to work on it. You might have a discussion re appropriate attire with some, or brought in a collaborative system re absence. Try and emphasise your leadership skills that came through as a result of the weakness. Everyone has weaknesses. The trick is how we deal with them.

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HR Weeny to the rescue.



For a management interview you need to think about more than just your own strengths and weaknesses. Try to look at things from the perspective of your team and customers (external or internal) and how you can influence and grow the team. Skills such as caring about direct reports, customer focus, developing your team, hiring and staffing, and examples of innovative ideas that you have implemented will be good to highlight.



When talking about weaknesses you should try to circle them back to a specific example where you have actually been successful in some aspects of the example. One common example i give is moving too fast on implementing a solution. Give the example and then dovetail into the areas that worked really well and circle back around to aspects of the project that did not work out as well. Summarize by stating what you learned, how you would do it differently and then close with an example of another project where you took that lesson and applied it.



A lot of companies are moving towards behavioral interviewing where they are looking for you to describe actions, explain your thought process, highlight the outcome and then talk about what you learned and how you applied it to other projects. If you can follow that pattern with concise answers you should do well.



and BTW - a little pet peeve of mine but i cant stand internal interviews in cases where someone has been acting in the job for an extended period. The best indicator of success is past results. If your past results have been successful and you have been in the role on a temp basis for a year it kind of rubs me the wrong way that they are making you interview for the job in such a formal manner. It could be a corporate culture issue, i know some government contractors require this but it can also mean you have a weak or indecisive leadership chain above you. Just sayin...

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I couldn't agree more Zelt, I'm miffed about it. But what can you do? We are a government agency, but my old team lead didn't have to interview or even apply for it -- HR have gotten real jumpy about dotting their I's in the last couple years though. Or at least pretending to -- the people who are super anal about FLSA rules are also the people who violate them constantly when it suits them.

My big concern is whether this is a "real" process or a smokescreen for hiring the person they've already decided they want. At least, if that's someone besides me. If it's me I'm ok with it. :p

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I agree with Zelticgar about being annoyed about internal interviews after being in the job for an extended period. I assume it's because your organization is so bureaucratic it took so long for the hiring process to be run up and down the chain of command. Ugh.

I would take a look at your year. I would talk about how you stepped in and took over and ran things. Take a hard look at any bumps and know what your successes were. You could talk about what your strengths are, like the fact that you have high standards, and you have to be careful a strength doesn't turn into a weakness ie your delegation issue.

And good luck, Ini!

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A lot of companies are moving towards behavioral interviewing where they are looking for you to describe actions, explain your thought process, highlight the outcome and then talk about what you learned and how you applied it to other projects. If you can follow that pattern with concise answers you should do well.

This has been my experience on both sides of the table in recent years - questions focusing on specific, detailed examples of past work scenarios are now the norm. I think this creates a strong bias toward folks whose memory recall naturally attunes to detailed anecdotal "storytelling." So if someone isn't naturally great at that, I'd recommend concentrating prep time refreshing their mind on the details of those past events.

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Don't forget that even if they are interviewing other people for the position, you are already at an advantage.



You have been in the position for a year. Use any and every success from that past year as a talking point in your interview. Don't be shy about it.


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Bring a taser

Or incriminating photographs.

Personally, I'm dreading eventually needing to do this sort of thing. Right now, I'm still in my first "professional" job out of grad school, and its a very small firm where my boss is the President/CEO/founder of the company, so the only thing I need to do for professional advancement is impress him with my work and have a good interpersonal relationship with him. No formal process required.

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I've got one for the wisdom of the board: in early January, I moved from Boston to SF for a new job. In early March my new employer was liquidated by its parent company and I was laid off along with all my coworkers. Now I've got the choice of living in the most expensive city in the country, buring through my severance pay, while looking for a new job in a place where I don't have a lot of contacts. Or I could pick up and move all the way back to Boston (paying for it myself this time) to live in a somewhat less expensive city where I have more contacts. Or I could live as a desert hermit in post-apocalyptic California (assuming the drought holds). Right now, the third option seems the most appealing because of the low entry requirements, but I'm not married to the idea.


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I'm currently at SFO, about to board a flight to Boston for final round of interviews and a presentation. I've been through 4 phone interviews and have answered the "tell me about yourself" question three times. The guy who is helping me through the process gave me some great advice, which was to write down "the story of Arbor Gold". Starting from college, what are the highlights that all tie together to land me to where I am right now? Write it down, then practice saying it aloud.

I have not been asked about my weaknesses but the one I have ready is that I tend to fly under the radar and don't make myself visible to management. It has gotten me in trouble before but I have learned to implement operating mechanisms with each new manager and things have improved blah blah blah.

Have specific examples (write them down) of a time things went poorly, or a situation you could have handled better. Did you turn around a difficult customer? If so, how? If not, what did you learn that you would do differently in the future?

Ask questions. I like to ask about what I could do to help make [interviewer] successful in her role. Also, I ask about what is expected in the first 90 days.

Good luck!

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The thing that helped me the most was running through a few mock interviews with someone who is pretty familiar with the interview process. When I went for a promotion last year, that was (thinking back) probably my first real job interview, ever. Practicing with my wife helped to ease the terror, polish some seemingly rough edges, and generally build some confidence, which is say is one of the most important things an interviewee should bring.

As to the answering those common "what is your weakness" type... I would advise answering honestly... y'know, for a given value of honesty, of course. Those questions are (in my experience) about seeing how critical and self-aware you are in your own performance, and a great chance to spin into something positive (ie how you are already working to overcome this weakness).

I also have practiced interviews, just like I do presentations. It helps tremendously, imo. I also love RRL's take on the 'pick your poison' questions. These include "What do you most regret?" "What would you handle differently now, looking back on your professional career?" All of those questions are designed to show whether or not you are capable of self-assessment, and how good you are at self-critiquing/self-correcting. But be careful; this is not the place to spill the beans on how much partying you did in college, or how your office romance with the boss's daughter tanked your promotion. It's all about revealing enough to appear honest without oversharing to the point of frightening people. Again, think about these questions, and make sure you have answers that are genuine and truthful. Examples of specific situations/problems and solutions that you came up with are great; don't be afraid to share the credit with people, either.

Just my .02. I have been on both sides of this; interviewee and interviewer. I'm not advocating being disingenuous, by any means, but there's a huge advantage in being prepared and having thought about what you want to convey in an interview. The interviews I have given where I didn't prepare adequately are the ones where I had what I like to call 'out of body experiences'. These are where I answer questions in a horrific manner, all while feeling as though I'm observing at a distance. Don't do this. Prepare! :D

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I'm going for a four-day apptitude test to join the marines Combat Intelligence branch next month. It will be a combination of interviews, reading comprehension exams, current affairs exams, essay writing and delivering presentations (prepared and improvised). I've been pushing hard for the last two years to get a place on this and whilst I'm definitely taking nothing for granted I'm going in confident. Not really looking for any advice at the moment but this seemed like the right thread to share.


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What's your field and role?

Biologist riding the sinking ship that is the pharmaceutical industry. Whenever I hear someone say that what this country needs is more people in STEM careers I kind of want to punch them in the face.

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I 100% agree with Arbor.



Answer the laundry list of questions, try to have the "themes" worked out and a few examples thoroughly thought through that you want to use. Also, remember to think about answering the questions with examples that show things the interviewer wants to hear, not just things you like to say.



Do not act entitled to the job just because you were subbing in for a while. Tell them you appreciated the opportunity to grow and work on your management skills by acting like a manager rather than focusing on why they owe you the job.


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Biologist riding the sinking ship that is the pharmaceutical industry. Whenever I hear someone say that what this country needs is more people in STEM careers I kind of want to punch them in the face.

Well, the industry needs STEM people willing to work for peanuts and hugs, and not demanding salaries commensurate with the highly trained and highly skilled class that they are. I have long since stopped recommending people enter STEM fields, because the industry is looking for the equivalent of burger-flippers.

(I'm sorry that you got the short straw in your latest job venture. I don't have many contacts in the pharma industry in the Bay Area either. :( )

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Best of luck Ini and AG.

I think Zelt and Cuellar gave good advice.

My suggestion for a mgmt role is to demonstrate that you understand how your team fits in the wider org and what it needs to do to contribute to org goals. Then give an insightful evaluation of strengths and weaknesses and a vision for how to take it forward. Tell them what's realistic and what's not and the highest priority changes.

People mgmt means being able to coach, develop and motivate your team. It also means you cannot be blindly loyal to your team members and overlook shortcomings -- most internal promotions struggle with that.

Not delegating is one the biggest hurdles that trips up new managers. If you identify that as your weakness then follow it up with a commitment device plan to ensure you don't do it. Also, read the original paper about the monkey on your back (it's short) -- a great learning for any manager.

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