Q: I did the second interview for a company last week. The interview panel asked me to deliver a presentation on my ideas for the role. It was tricky because I don’t work in the company and the sector is complex. I gave it my best shot but was taken aback when they cross examined me extensively on my presentation. I felt like saying, “well, I don’t really know what you do day in day out or what your strategic direction is because you keep all of that a closely guarded secret”, but I had to battle my way through the cross-examination as best I could. I’m still wondering if I did a good job. I’m waiting on the interview result. Was this approach fair of the company? (LC, email).
A: You have the disadvantage of not seeing how other candidates performed on the day. They’re your competitors. They’re the ones you had to match and surpass. You weren’t chasing a standard you might hope to achieve when making a presentation in your current company, where you have infinitely more knowledge of the topic than you had in this scenario.
A general rule for candidates is that interview panels are much the same for every candidate on the day. So, if you found the interview difficult, chances are other candidates did too. They couldn’t really expect a prospective employee to know the ins and outs of this role if they keep things as tightly under wraps as you indicate.
Therefore, the cross-examination may have been as much about seeing how you handle pressure and think on your feet, as it was to dive deeper into your knowledge of what they do.
So, give yourself a break if that’s the case. You haven’t got the PFO email or letter yet, so maybe you did a great interview and you’re still strongly in the mix.
Give yourself a break
I’m giving you a bit of a break above. I’m being a touch generous. Let’s look at this another way. Can I ask you to consider one thing: could you have known more going in than you did?
Are you letting yourself off the hook by saying that you couldn’t accrue the kind of knowledge they were hoping to see in you? I ask this because my experience is that most candidates come up shy in researching the company they are pursuing.
The exercise they set you had several dimensions – seeing how well you presented, how well you prepared your PowerPoint or other supporting software – but at the heart of it may have been assessing how well you researched what they do.
What they do as a company is their biggest interest. If you fell short on that front, the likelihood is that they will mark you down as someone who fails to do sufficient research. That would almost certainly damage your candidacy.
Only you can truly assess how well you did here. You must be honest in how you evaluate the whole encounter. Ask peers who might be able to offer an informed opinion. Only through honest self-evaluation can we make progress.
The reality is that we only do so many job interviews in our lives, and we need to learn from all of them.
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