Interviewing Beyond Your Comfort Zone


I recently coached two people who were preparing for job interviews that were a stretch from their current position. Several themes emerged that lead me to provide the following guidance to job-seekers.

When interviewing for a job takes you another rung up on the managerial ladder, especially if the job takes you beyond your comfort zone, you may feel insecure about how to prove to your interviewer that you can take on the greater responsibility. Don’t panic. Your resume was good enough to get you in the door. The interview is your opportunity to synthesize the elements in your previous experience that make you equal to the task. Your two principal tasks are to (1) demonstrate your leadership and managerial abilities, particularly your ability to zoom out and see the bigger picture, and to (2) interact with your interviewers in a manner that demonstrates that you are the kind of person they want to work with: a team player, a person who creates solutions rather than problems, a manager with the social and emotional intelligence to build and maintain a culture that fosters growth and success.

In addition to doing your homework about the organization with which you are interviewing and brushing up on the relevant skill sets, here are some elements of preparation will help you manifest the qualities that your prospective employer will likely be seeking:

*Understand and be able to articulate the core mission of the position you seek.

*Know how this mission fits in with the organization as a whole.

*Identify the unique value that you contribute to the mission.

*Find two (or more) things that excite you about the job, the people, the organization, and/or the industry. Your enthusiasm and drive matter.

*Create a vision of excellence for the area or division in which you seek to work.

*Develop a preliminary strategy for how you intend to pursue excellence.

*Identify key questions that you would like answered in the interview. Remember that if they offer you the job you will need to decide whether you really want it and this is a great chance to learn about the job, people, culture, and environment.

*Mine your resume and work history for concrete examples demonstrating the qualifications the employer seeks.

*Acknowledge any weaker areas in your experience and know how you will address them.

*Synthesize and summarize your qualifications so that you can answer with confidence why you are an ideal candidate for the job.

*Decide how you want to show up for the interview — who are you going to be? You may want to have a few key words, an image or metaphor, or even a theme song that puts you into that mode.

My final advice is similar to that many brides receive: When the big day arrives and all the preparation is done, you just have to let go and have fun.