interview.governmentSometimes the interview goes well, and sometimes it just doesn’t. Having been involved in several interview panels recently, here is a recap of the most memorable moments, both good and bad:

The candidate who threw her current City Manager under the proverbial bus: When asked why she was applying for the job, she said that the manager of her current city created a culture that didn’t encourage employee growth or provide much professional development.  While all that may be true, she had no idea whether or not that manager was a good friend or relative of someone on the panel.  It also comes across as blaming the manager or her organization for her own career results.  Here’s a great rule: Never portray your current organization or its leadership in negative terms. Instead, state in positive terms your reasons for pursuing this new opportunity.

The candidate who brought an organized set of written work product for the panel to review:  This shows not only initiative and good planning for the interview, but it lets the panel see that the candidate has actually produced results and can write.  Be careful to present samples of written work in an intentional way – think a nice organized spiral bound document with tabs, not a bunch of paper in an envelope.  A messy presentation or one that creates work for the panel could be a negative instead of a positive.

The candidate who couldn’t articulate his accomplishments:  Internal candidates can sometimes forget that the interview panel may consist mostly (or entirely) of people unfamiliar with their skills.  At a minimum, come prepared to the interview prepared to recap 2-3 significant resume-building accomplishments.  The interview questions can’t be predicted, of course, but most interviews include some sort of query about a difficult problem that the candidate solved, or how the candidate has worked collaboratively to produce results.  Having some examples in mind helps you to be more specific in your answers.

The candidate who was honest about his goals:  Another great rule to live by is to be tactful but honest with the panel.  If a major motivating factor for considering this position is because it is close to home, or it is your next desired career move, or you admire the organizational culture, than say so sincerely and offer up some specifics that confirm your reasons.

The candidate who couldn’t shut up: It is great to be enthusiastic, but remember that the interview is a conversation.  One candidate was so animated and excited to share her background that she had a hard time wrapping up her thoughts.  Remember the interview is a conversation, not a dissertation.  Be aware of the time allotted for the interview, read the body language of the panel, and don’t ramble.  Sometimes nerves can make people talkative, but that should moderate as the interview progresses.  If not, I’m wondering if your social skills need work.

The candidate with the funny barrette: Ok, as I write this I know this sounds incredibly petty. But we interview panelists are human, and therefore don’t judge me when I say I was completely distracted by a huge barrette on top of a candidate’s head.   Unconventional fashion choices may not kill your interview, but they certainly don’t help your cause.  You want the interviewers to be totally engrossed in your answers to their questions, not distracted by your hair, clothes, or makeup. Government offices remain fairly conservative workplaces in terms of work attire, so dress accordingly.

The candidate who asked for feedback:  When she was not selected to move forward in the hiring process, this candidate contacted me through LinkedIn for some feedback, which I was happy to give. We messaged back and forth a few times, and she is taking some of my advice related to the types of experience she needs to gain to round out her resume.  Perhaps not all interview panelists will respond with feedback, but it is always a good idea to ask.

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