How can you make a good impression, no matter where you are or who you’re speaking with?
This article is provided to Changeboard by our Future Talent 2018 partners, Heidrick & Struggles. You can see Heidricks' Managing Partner Colin Price in conversation with Aviva's CEO, Mark Wilson, at Changeboard's Future Talent Conference 2018.
Everyone makes mistakes in job seeking - not just recent graduates or people making a first move up the career ladder.
Even the most seasoned executives stumble. After all, prospective employers are looking not just for experience and skills but also for the qualities that differentiate you from everyone else in the market and speak to who you are as a person - and that is a complex message to deliver. The trick is to treat every interaction, both casual and formal, as an interview.
To help prepare you for this constant state of interviewing, here are some insights on the qualities that have become increasingly important in the hiring decision - and how to make a good impression no matter where you are or who you’re speaking with.
You would be surprised how many people don’t prepare well for a conversation. Before your first encounter with anyone from the company, read all you reasonably can about the business.
If possible, talk to people who’ve worked there. The goal is not to demonstrate perfect knowledge but to show that you care enough to prepare and can synthesize and analyze what you know.
It’s OK to ask questions about things you don’t know. What are the most significant opportunities and challenges the company faces? What are the biggest obstacles they face in achieving their goals, and how are they combating those?
Demonstrating intellectual curiosity shows you’re there to find out about their business, not tell them how to conduct it.
I am amazed at how many individuals are afraid to look too excited and wind up coming across as uninterested. Without going overboard, show that you are excited about the possibility of joining the company.
You may still have questions about the fit, but those questions should not be perceived as ambivalence. Be prepared with a good answer to the questions: why are you interested in this role? And why you?
“Be yourself” is easy to say but sometimes hard to do. Don’t try to be the person you think the interviewer wants you to be. In the long run, you want to be somewhere that fits your style and where you fit the culture.
Plus, smart companies know that to succeed they need diverse personalities and perspectives. Diversity is good for business.
Whether you’re applying for your first job or seeking a seat on a corporate board, you will almost certainly be asked about your shortcomings. Don’t hesitate before you answer, as if you were thinking about it for the first time.
And don’t insult the interviewer’s intelligence by identifying weaknesses that are really strengths: “I work too hard;” “I care too much about what I do.”
Many candidates possess the requisite skills, but not all of them have the requisite values. Conscientious companies will probe for those values.
For example, you might be asked what professional achievement you’re proudest of. Citing your promotions says one thing about you.
Citing a solution you helped find to a seemingly intractable problem says another. A lot of companies also look at how you treat people during the interview process.
Once I was working with an executive who was perfectly fine with me but dismissive with my team. My client observed the same thing and decided not to move the candidate forward.
Who are you?
The signals you send in every interaction you have with a prospective employer in terms of preparedness and passion, your punctuality, your responsiveness to communications, your treatment of junior team members without the power to hire you are all answers to the fundamental question in any hiring decision: Who are you?
A version of this article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of a “LinkedIn Influencers” series.
See Heidrick & Struggles at the Changeboard Future Talent Conference
About the author
Bonnie W. Gwin is vice chairman and co-managing partner of Heidrick & Struggles’ CEO & Board Practice. She is based in New York.