Interviewing; A view from the other side of the table
Author: Paul Luizzi
Paul Luizzi MBA, CFO, CPM has served in a variety of public safety positions for over 23 years and is currently working in the metro Phoenix area. He has an MBA with concentration in HR management, Certified Public Manager, and a Certified Chief Fire Officer.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be able to sit as an interview assessor for high level positions within city government. As an assessor you are able to observe many things about the candidates during the process. This includes body language, dress, and confidence in their abilities. What I look for when the candidates come into the interview room is a command presence and confidence in their abilities.
Recently, I have witnessed some candidates that were just the opposite, scared and looking like they’ve seen a ghost, while others are visibly shaking. One way that I feel to develop that confidence, as a candidate, is being fully prepared for the assessment center. The biggest part of the preparation is doing your homework on the organization and position that you are interviewing for. This includes using social media sites such as LinkedIn, researching City documents and budgets on the web, and reaching out to employees that work for the City or surrounding cities.
While being prepared is very important there are a couple of pitfalls that I need to inform you about. One issue that I have seen, from many different interviews, is the candidate coming in overly confident and having already diagnosed the issues that may or may not be present. As the assessor I am looking for the candidate to have done their homework on the organization and if they are able to identify the potential issues, be able to work systematically through those issues. Many want to just jump right to the solution and fix the problem. As with most things in life, issues involve people at some level and we never want to see people getting run over in favor of the solution.
On a recent interview, one candidate was excellent, they worked through all of the steps on helping identify the issues, including talking with people involved and working a realistic timeline to solve the problem. The second pitfall that we have been seeing more frequently is using PowerPoint for presentations. The candidate should be fully comfortable with the use of PowerPoint for presentations, especially if you’re interviewing for positions of department manager, director, or other high level positions. Presentations are still very common when interviewing for high level positions, they are frequently are in front of the City Manager or City Council making presentations on behalf of their departments or addressing specific issues. During most interview processes you will have between 10 and 15 minutes to complete your presentation and during that time you must hit the high points needed for the presentation.
Frequently what I have seen are several candidates taking over the amount of time allotted for the presentation, and not addressing the issue or coming up short on a conclusion. Also, I have seen many candidates read directly from their slides and have their back to the assessors for the full 15 minutes, this is not good.
So as a word of advice be prepared, confident in your abilities, and know your material and more times than not you will be successful in your attempts to get that job that you want.