It’s not just about you, so what does the hiring manager want?
If it’s a school principal, and you’re going for the deputy principal positon, figure out what are they looking for. What do they like? What do they exhibit that you should also try to exhibit?
It might be hard work; it might be recognition in the school, or in the local community, or regionally or nationally?
Reliability could be key. If they are someone who gets things done, chances are they will gravitate towards people who also get things done. They’re unlikely to go for a candidate who talks a good game but whose schemes slip away like water through porous limestone.
It could be innovation, technical skills or a commitment to further education.
You should also consider shortcomings the principal has. If they struggle with IT, and you’re a whizz kid, make sure they get to see that.
In my experience, candidates tend to be self-centred going to interview. It’s not just about you – it’s about how you meet what they want.
By looking across the table at what the key people there want, you can identify a lot of things you should address in an interview – only if you feasibly can, of course: I’m not suggesting telling lies or over-stating what you have.
If you happen to know the rivals for the position, you can do a similar exercise. What are they lacking that you have? What in their circumstances might make it difficult for them to step up to a more challenging role e.g. they’re very busy outside work?
Once you identify those things, you can subtly – emphasis on ‘subtly’ – address it in the interview by outlining how you have the qualification they don’t have (without mentioning them, I hasten to add) or that you have some time on your hands at the moment to take on a new challenge.
Respect your opponent
The other key piece of advice I would give is to harbour a healthy respect for your opponents for the job – but no more than that. Faraway hills can look green and we can convince ourselves that someone else is eminently more qualified to take on a role.
I like to know the identity of the opposition if I can at all. It’s amazing what you can hear, particularly in tightly knit sectors or circles. But it is important to use your knowledge of the other runners and riders in the way I have outlined above, not to psyche yourself out of the race.
On the day itself, you’ve got to be bullet proof.
I know one candidate who sat in her car outside the hotel where the interview was due to take place. She saw a man she knew only too well emerge from the hotel and, without needing to be Sherlock Holmes, she concluded that he, too, was in the race.
And she immediately figured he was a better candidate than her.
It threw her completely. She went in in a tizzy. Her interview suffered as a result, and she didn’t get the job.
Neither did the other candidate.
She had allowed herself to be thrown by something irrelevant. If you have done your homework, and built yourself up properly, you shouldn’t be derailed like that on the day of the interview.
Ines Gonzalez is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers.
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