Imagine that you are interviewing for a leadership role. You’ve studied the position, looked into organizational challenges and opportunities, and conducted a couple of mock interviews. You settle into the chair and I enter the room and introduce myself. During the interview, I’m looking for several things to suggest that you are a good fit for our firm. If you lack any of these, I will likely pass on you. I suggest you look for these 5 traits in prospective teammates.
Whenever I interview someone, I ask myself, “does this person value what we value? We are building a certain culture; will they help or hurt that effort.” If we value teamwork, and all I hear in the interview is “I did this” and “I did that”, then the fit isn’t right. Know the values of the organization you are trying to join. If there isn’t a natural fit, don’t go there. It does mean you are a bad person, or they are a bad organization. It simply means that neither will be happy in the long run.
To have a truly fulfilling career, you must be passionate about the work. Yes, some days might stink – they do call it work – but you have to want something bad enough that the long hours, deadlines, and day-to-day demands are worth it. There are many ways to demonstrate passion in an interview. Don’t just describe the work you’ve done. Talk about why it mattered, why you did it, and what you personally gained from the experience.
You need to have tried things, taken risks, delivered something that mattered – won at times and occasionally lost. I wasn’t looking for someone who only won, because that meant you weren’t pushing hard enough – trying new things requires us to stumble at times. More important than winning or losing is the ability to learn from each and every experience so that you are a better performer because of the route taken.
A friend once told me that “a plan is nothing more than an agreed upon starting point for future changes.” Very few things go as planned. Natural disasters happen, markets shift, the boss gets a new idea of how things should be done, kids get sick – you name it. The ability to adjust and still perform is key. It doesn’t mean you don’t get frustrated; it just means you get over it and get it done.
I don’t mean having a canned question or two to ask the interviewer. I’m referring to a true curiosity for work and life. Ask questions that are spontaneous, not scripted. Demonstrate that you want to learn as much as possible about the role to make an informed decision and that you have a desire to learn and grow in all that you do.
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Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.