Guest Column: The Recipe for a Successful Interview

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Photo of Steve Knight

By Steve Knight

Director, COCAbiz

Every interview presents a clear power differential: the candidate needs a job, and the employer is uniquely in position to grant it. In light of this dynamic, job seekers focus almost exclusively on “selling” themselves. But is this the recipe for a successful interview?

Steve Knight, an expert on professional training and leadership development, suggests there is a missing ingredient applicants should be mindful of.

“Be confident enough to realize that you have tremendous value,” Steve urges. “Remember that you are making an important choice, so you’re essentially conducting an interview also. You’re going to be giving a huge part of your life, time, energy, and creativity, so you have to determine whether the role is a good fit for you.”

Steve encourages job candidates to be active participants in their interviews, ideally coming to the table with two or three pertinent and well-researched questions. He says questions generally fall into one of three categories: specifics about the job itself, inquiries concerning workplace culture and management style, and big-picture questions about the overall direction of the organization and how the given role might factor into it. The type of questions asked will depend to some degree on the nature of the job and who is conducting the interview. In any case, doing the necessary homework demonstrates the kind of initiative hiring managers like Steve hope to see.

Of course, an interview is a two-way street, and the applicant isn’t solely responsible for setting the tone. It is also incumbent upon the interviewer to establish rapport and guide the discussion down a productive path.

“As a hiring manager, I’m looking for the candidate who not only answers my questions about how their capabilities and experience align with the job, but also demonstrates the perspective and interest to ask questions about the role, the culture, and perhaps some of the unwritten rules about how to be successful within the organization,” Steve explains. “Someone who shows that level of interest, understanding, and thinking becomes attractive to me as a hiring manager beyond just the raw points of their resume and experience.”

Most recently, Steve served as Director of COCAbiz, the business training arm of the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). Renowned for its innovative approach to performing and creative arts programming, COCA is one of the nation’s largest and most respected community arts institutions.

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