18. The Purpose of a Job Interview

If I were to ask you what’s the purpose of a job interview, you’d probably say something along the lines of, “To show what I can do for the company.”

You’d be right in that your answer implies you’re asking for a chance—you understand an interview is a sales meeting, which is the mindset you need to have when being interviewed. 

People stress preparing for an interview. Actually, the key to a successful interview is to not over-think it. Although there’s no interview formula that’ll work every time, it’s helpful to think of an interview as a conversation with four distinct but overlapping purposes.

  • Connect: Get to know the interviewer. (bond)
  • Culture: Understand what type of person works best at the company.
  • Challenges: Identify and clarify the concerns the company’s management team has.
  • Close: What are the next steps in the hiring process.

The holistic mechanics used to achieve these four purposes are the following five interview stages: 

  • Introductions (connect, culture)
  • Small Talk (connect, culture)
  • Information Gathering (culture, challenges, matching your experience and skillset)
  • Question/Answer (culture, challenges)
  • Wrapping Up (close)

Notice “culture” appears four times. I can’t overstress the importance of fit when it comes to deciding you’re “the one.” If you’re having a tough time with your job search, it’s because you’re trying to fit yourself into jobs and companies where you don’t belong.

If you make connecting with your interviewer a priority, you’ll be memorable in a good way. If there’s no connection, your experience, qualifications, etc., are meaningless to the interviewer. This isn’t a transgression—this is human psychology 101. Maya Angelou’s words, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” offers sage advice.

Truism: We’re incline to want to work with and do business with (READ: “buy from”—remember, an interview is a sales meeting.), someone who makes us feel good and whom we can relate to—people we feel comfortable with. You can call it bias—I call it what it is: human nature. As much as the government has tried to mitigate bias through numerous legislations, bias continues to exist and always will. 

Getting someone to feel at ease with you doesn’t require repartee and dazzling verbal displays. It simply requires demonstrating interest—genuine interest, not fake I’m-trying-to-butter-you-up interest—and a willingness to listen. Do you know anyone who doesn’t like being paid attention to?

Listening is key to understanding what the other person wants and needs and, therefore, is the foundation of persuasion. (Reminder, an interview is a sales meeting.) A person is more likely to want to build a relationship with someone who understands their situation, their problems, and their goals. Listening and observing to understand another person is never time wasted.

When it comes to asking questions ask questions that show you’re eager to contribute to the company’s success and not what you can get from the company. 

While there are infinite number of questions you could ask your interviewer, there are three questions to always ask:

  1. How is success measured in this role?
  2. What skills and attributes are valued by you and the leadership team?
  3. [If your interviewer will be your boss.] What’s your management style like? How will you manage me?

Listen carefully! Be ready to interject examples of how you exceeded expectations and demonstrated the skills your interviewer mentioned are valuable.

The most common interview advice I give: Lose any sense of entitlement you may have! You’re not owed a job. With so many human factors being part of the hiring decision, the best candidate on paper doesn’t always get the job. Entitlement is a huge turnoff.

Employers aren’t going to offer you the job because you only have $350 in the bank, and your mortgage is past due. The position will be offered to the person regarded as qualified to do the job (skills, experience) and is considered to be a fit (this is paramount)—the person the interviewer can envision working with, will fit in with the current team and whom they can see themselves dealing with daily and will meet their boss’s approval.