And the answer – nearly all of the time – is, “Oh, I don’t know… just some HR person.”
“Just some HR person” can send you on to the next level, or hold you back from ever getting an offer.
Let’s set some context here: one critical skill new grads must develop as you move into the workplace is the need to become hyper aware of your audience.
Whether you are writing emails or giving presentations, the audience and its needs become more of a focal-point than it ever was at school. You aren’t writing papers any more to share your ideas about a theory, idea or piece of history.
In the case of a job interview, your audience is, of course, the person on the other side of the desk. It’s important to know whom that person is… before you walk into the appointment.
Your Goal Is to Address the Interviewer’s Needs and Objectives
When you know who they are, you’ll then know what expectations they have for the interview. Which means you can then adequately prepare to address the questions and concerns they might have.
Every person you interview with has a different need they want the interview to fulfill. For example:
- An HR person wants to screen you for cultural fit in the organization and ensure you have the basic qualifications to move deeper into the interview process. He wants to make sure you can walk and talk, and you don’t present some major risk to the organization. At some level this is also a filtering process; he wants to screen out applicants who really aren’t suitable for the job, or whose real life presence doesn’t quite match up to what the resume implies.
- A hiring manager wants to know that you can do the job, and that you want the job. Her questions may revolve around prior experience, behavioral interview stories, scenario questions, and your deep qualifications. She’ll also want to know how you fit into the team from a competency and personal style perspective. No manager wants to hire a problem.
- A peer interviewer wants to know if they want to work with you. Are you cool? Will you get along with the team? Can they see themselves having lunch with you? Do they want to spend long hours with you working on a project? Are you going to integrate into the team in a way that won’t be disruptive (or annoying).
- A panel interview may be a group of people from a single team or mixed teams. They all may have a different perspective on what they need from the person who’s hired. It will be important to know who they are and how they are related to the position.
If You Don’t Know Who the Interviewer Is… Ask!
If you’re asked to come in for an interview, it makes sense to ask whom you’ll be speaking with. Find out his title, and role in the organization is. You can request this information of anyone who sets up the appointment.
Then do some research, look them up on LinkedIn, and get a sense for who they are and what history they have in the organization and in their careers. This may give you a sense of what to expect in the conversation. It will also help you prepare questions to ask them when you meet.
The action step for you: always ask, who the interview is with.
Leave a comment below and let me know how this impacted your interview experience!
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Degrees of Transition!
About the Author: Lea McLeod helps recent grads and mid-careerists navigate the job search. And once you have a job, she’ll coach you to the brilliant performance of which you are capable! Her “Developing Patterns of Success” Workshop has been deployed to help thousands of college hires worldwide do just that. She blogs at Degreesoftransition.com. Follow her on Facebook, and Twitter, too.