Saturday 15 March 2014

Preparing for the job interview (2)

In a previous post, I discussed how to prepare for interview questions about your experience and competence, based on the achievements of which you are truly proud, using the structure of story.

In this post, I want to address the vision question. If you are going for any kind of a leadership role, it is very likely you will be asked about this. 

It may be phrased as the difference you will make, or the direction you will set, and so on. Essentially, it is asking about your contribution to the future of the organisation.

Again, it is easy to talk hypothetically, about what you intend to do; or to draw on the many (often excellent) textbooks on the elements of a good vision (personally, I like Collins' and Porras' formulation: see Harvard Business Review September - October 1996. Reprint No 96501).

However, I think it is most authentic, and therefore most powerful and most useful, to ground this as firmly in reality as the rest of your presentation.

To do that requires some reflection and analysis: and again we start with your proud achievements. The underlying assumptions are that these proud achievements demonstrate you at your best, and that you are proud of them precisely because they matter to you.

So you need to analyse them once more. To do that, ask the question: Why am I proud of these? That can help you to start to unearth, clarify, and find credible ways to describe two important things: what you value, and what you aspire to.

If you can clearly articulate your values and aspirations, firstly to yourself, then you can start to engage authentically with the question about the contribution you hope to make in a future role.

The next step is then to look at the role and its organisational context, and ask the three strategic questions:

  • Where are they now?
  • Where do they want to get to (and where do I want them to get to)?
  • What are the actions that will lead them from the first to the second?

Based on your strengths, values and aspirations, you are now in a position to construct the  story for the future.

As before, it has three elements: a beginning (the status quo and the challenge), a middle (the journey foreseen, including the difficulties and your contribution in overcoming them) and the end (the desired future state).

You will need to keep it quite crisp, for the purposes of the interview, or you may lose people. For this type of story, it is often a good idea to start with the end: the desired future state, and then describe the journey.  If someone has asked you about your vision and you start with the here and now, that can feel a bit uninspiring. So paint a vivid picture of your aspiration for the organisation (or the bit of it for which you will be responsible), and then pose the rhetorical question: But how do we get there from here? Then answer that question by telling the rest of you story, ending a second time with the aspirational future.

Rhetorical questions, of course, are not the only type of rhetoric you may choose to use. I think it is well worth  considering the key messages you want to put across in an interview, and having a rhetorical formulation of each.  These can be embedded in your stories, or used as summaries at the end of them. 

I would not advise learning stories by heart; rather learn the framework of each story and rehearse it a few times: then the words will come relatively easily in the interview, and you will find turns of phrase that are expressive and work.  But it can be useful to learn the opening and closing lines, and any particular key points in a strong rhetorical form.  That ensures both clarity and impact; it can also reassure you at a time when you may experience some stress.

For more on rhetoric, see my previous post here.

No comments:

Post a Comment