Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

What I Look For When Interviewing Candidates

Office Space

So, you’re interviewing? Not happy with the current job? Don’t like your boss? Recently let go? Just time for a change? There’s a myriad of reasons you might be looking for a new job.

I was on a phone call recently, offering some advice to a colleague getting ready to interview for a new role. Midway through the conversation, he exclaimed, “you should be selling this advice!” My response was straightforward, “I’ve done a lot of hiring over my career; I’m just telling you what I would be looking for.”

My LinkedIn feed is full of friends, colleagues, and connections all looking for their next role. Most of them would have preferred to stay with their previous employer but were recently impacted by COVID-19 decisions. Given that, I felt there was no better time to offer some advice to current job seekers.

  1. Are you running toward “this” role, or are you running “from” your current role? The former is far more appealing to me. I want to know why this role is the role you want. Don’t tell me about how bad your current boss, team, role, or company are. Tell me why my role is the only role that’s motivating you to look for new opportunities.
  2. Beyond the job description and resume, what makes you uniquely qualified for this role? Are there things you bring to the table that no one else would? This is wide-ranging. It could be you’ve served in the military or you were an athlete. It could also be that you’ve worked for a key competitor in the past or maybe you’ve lived in 10 countries and had to learn 6 languages to navigate new experiences.
  3. Make your questions self-validating. “From reading the job description and from our short discussion, it sounds like this role requires someone who’s comfortable with ambiguity. Would that be a fair assessment.” If the answer is, “yes”, you have a window to now explain how you are adept at dealing with ambiguity.
  4. Ask, “what haven’t you found in the candidates you’ve met with so far?” This is the single best and most revealing question. It will offer you a wide range of knowledge. Let’s say I offer an answer like, “Good question. We’re at the beginning of this search. I can’t really offer an answer.” Now you have some great insight. You can set the pace. You can start to forecast how long the search is likely to take. You can ask a follow-up question like, “Thanks. What would the ideal candidate look like?” If the answer to the original question is a list of traits, characteristics, and requirements, you now have an opportunity to frame yourself as the person who checks all those boxes.
  5. The resume itself is mostly irrelevant, but how you map what you’ve done to what I’m looking for is priceless. If you’re meeting with me, you’re qualified. You submitted an application. Someone reviewed it. Someone else shortlisted you. If I’m the hiring manager, I’ve already reviewed it and deemed, on paper, you’re a fit. When we meet, skip the biography, but use our time together to interject examples from your experience that speak to what I’m looking for in a candidate.

If you’re looking for a new role, I wish you success. I hope my pieces of advice are helpful in your search. The job search process is taxing, often lengthy, and usually lacking in transparency. I’m sure it’s an even more stressful process right now. Good luck and never hesitate to reach out to me directly for some coaching, advice, or feedback.