The Interview Focus Is on Future, Not Past

By | Small Business

shutterstock_218538004Until about 1990, the conventional thinking was that if you did your job satisfactorily, you would keep it for many years to come. Several of my friends were AT&T employees in those days, and many of them had had seniority for one or two decades. So it seemed like they had it made and that the only foreseeable future would be their retirement. But then we learned certain new words, such as downsizing and outsourcing; and life in America started shifting. Until then, managers had had to be good at planning, organizing, managing people, managing processes, managing budgets, and so on.

That was indeed the business world of the past. Today, though, things are different. Today’s managers and rank-and-file employees have to show they are innovators and that they can add value and competitive advantage via creative input and collaboration with internal and external customers. And those who are unable to live up to such expectations soon find themselves either marginalized or reassigned to mundane tasks or, in the worst case, terminated.

Today’s employees have voice—something that typically did not exist in the past—and they’re now judged by the contributions of their creative ideas for improved content, processes, and technologies. Plus, employees are now expected to improve customers’ satisfaction levels and to express themselves more extensively.

So, what does all this have to do with interviewing?

I hope that my preface has shifted the thinking of those preparing to talk about their past during an interview. Of course, you should recite, quantify, and herald your professional accomplishments. But remember that the interviewer’s focus is on the future. Through your examples, the interviewer is trying to figure out whether you’re the one to solve the company’s future problems.

Think about the big picture emphasized earlier, and provide examples of your ability to make the interviewer visualize you and your future contributions as parts of that interviewer’s future team. Here are a few common interview questions that will give you the opportunity to talk about your future with the company.

  • Where do you see yourself in the next three to five years?
  • Why would you like to work for us?
  • What is your management style?
  • What would you do within 90 days after your hire?
  • What’s your personality like?
  • What traits do you consider important for this job?

If well rehearsed, your answers to all of those questions could position you in the hiring manager’s future. Good luck and congratulations!

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