Are the Candidates Ready for Their Interviews?

Had I been better prepared for my first interview arranged by an executive recruiter, I would have left a more positive impression on both the search and screening committee and the board chairman, who, I would learn, was the major decision-maker. In earlier job moves, I’d dealt directly with a department head or dean, who would be my boss. There were no voids in information I needed.

In this case, I had the job description and I’d done considerable research on the institution but, all at “arms length.” My first step would be with a large search and screening committee. I’d given thought to the committee interview process and the spectrum of questions I might be asked. However, the questions went far beyond my qualifications and experience, including causes I would support or actions I would take in the new job. Each needed a response.

Had I been better prepared, I would have been more articulate, confident and, hopefully, impressive to the search and screening committee and, perhaps, in time, to the “decision-maker. I might have felt fully confident to begin the job.

Not only does the recruited candidate have much at stake in an interview, so does the recruiter! The better I and fellow candidates do in an interview, and the more successful the chosen person is in the job, the more likely the recruiter will be invited to handle the next major vacancy.

Here are some things the executive recruiter may have learned – – or sought out – – and that he could have shared with me. It would have helped me – – and him.

1. His perspectives of the institution (company or agency) – – mission, major goals, numbers of staff, programs, clientele, governing structure, relationship to sister institutions (plants or agencies) – – and of the degree to which my experiences, training and interests meshed with those features.
2. Make-up of the screening committee – – their jobs, their biases, etc.
3. Who will make the hiring decision? That person’s or group’s emphases and biases.
4. The key staff I would supervise. Do any of them want the job? How good are they? Are there problems with any?
5. What is the organization’s biggest opportunity ahead? What is the biggest problem I would face?
6. Who are the icons in the organizations? What are the traditions and culture of the organization?
7. Why is the position vacant? Did the previous occupant go up or out? Why?

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In interviewing prospects to head units in universities, federal agencies and the private sector my colleagues and I have worked at selling the organization, as well as assessing the candidates. We’ve wanted every candidate, at the close of their interview, to be sold on the organization, to want the job.

Similarly, I’m sure an executive recruiter wants an employer completing a series of interviews to feel, “Every one of those prospects looks good; each appeared equipped and ready to step into the job tomorrow!”

Finding the qualified and interested prospects is Step 1. Insuring that every prospect is ready for the interview and, if chosen, the job at hand, is Step 2.

Dr. Acker’s new book, Can State Universities be Managed? A Primer for Presidents and Management Teams, will soon be available from Greenwood Publishers, or 800-225-5800. After his university presidency, Acker served as assistant secretary in USDA and headed a food production business and a finance corporation.


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