Avoid A Common Interview Mistake

You shine at your job. Now it’s time for you to move to the next stage and you’re interviewing. The new position is the next logical extension of your past job, so you’re confident in your chances to get an offer. You interview well – after all, you’re confident and accomplished.

But the interview didn’t feel like it went as well as you hoped. What went wrong?

One misconception that can cause interview problems is that your record of accomplishments alone is enough during an interview. Employers are more interested in what you will be able to do for them than what you’ve already done for someone else. The two are related, but not the same. For example, you’ve gotten spectacular results in your previous organization, which is how you got the interview in the first place. Though the past is important, interviews are also about looking into the future. What can you do for the new organization? How will you get along with others there? What will it be like to work with you? What skills and knowledge will you bring to the table? How will you use them in the new organization? How you communicate these messages is just as, or may be even more important, than what you say.

This interview thought trap may manifest as an assumption that the strategies and approaches that worked in one company will automatically translate to a new organization: The “it worked at company A, it’ll work at company B” philosophy. Just as your cover letter is unlikely to get you an interview by just changing the name, your interview should also be tailored to the organization and the interviewers, right?

Over-relying on past strategies during an interview may make you look like a one-trick pony. A more successful approach would be to spend some time thinking about the new organization and whether your previous strategies make sense in the new environment. If so, explain why you think that strategy will work in this organization. If not, what would you do instead? What’s similar and different between the organizations? How would those differences impact your approach?

This approach works especially well when you’ve done your homework in advance. Read about the company. Talk to others who have worked in or with the company. Ask questions during the interview. Use that information in your discussion and answers to show that you’re interested in the company, you’re taking their needs into account, and that you’re paying attention and integrating what you’ve learned into your strategy. Directly address their needs; build upon their strengths. In other words, be open to the reality of the new organization when formulating or supplying your answers.

In the end, if you can’t imagine yourself in a new environment, then they’re unlikely to imagine it either. Paint a positive picture of your potential new role for yourself and them, and you may just find yourself living that reality.