Your job interview is not about job skills

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Do you think the most important part of the job interview with the hiring manager is your job skills? You might think so since so many managers spend so much time on your job skills to their peril. Instead, let’s look at the real purpose of each of the stages of the job hiring process.

The purpose of a resume is to get an interview. Nothing else really matters about the resume save its success in getting interviews. What do our resumes speak to? The job skills we have and the results we have achieved with them.

The purpose of a phone interview is also about your job skills and your results. Someone, before sending you off to a hiring manager, is determining if you can do the job through your skills and experiences. But the purpose of a phone interview is to get a job interview with a hiring manager and the people supporting the hiring manager’s decision.

When you get to the hiring manager, your job skills matter, but not as much as you might think — you would not be doing the interview if your resume didn’t have the requisite job skills needed for the job nor would you have gotten past the phone interview. The purpose in the hiring manager interview is to determine your fit with the group so you can get a job offer.

But it is the big interview. Don’t job skills count?

So what is the hiring manager interview all about? Your motivation for doing the job and determining how well you will fit with the manager’s style and team.

Alison Green notes in How Employers Choose From Among Many Great Candidates that the choices have virtually nothing to do with job skills — that’s assumed — and all about “get(ting) along with the manager” or the “fit with the company’s culture” or the candidates “want(ing) this particular job.”

And since I like wine — and jobs, comparing the impressions you leave behind after an interview with tasting wine is a sure-fire way to get my attention. In Job Interviews: 10 Impressions You Leave Behind After Your Job Interview talks all about the energy you had during the interview, the sense of who you are, your flexibility and others — none of which have anything to do with your job skills.

Can I work with you? Do I WANT to work with you?

Even though job skills is an important part of the job search and job interview equation, business is a social environment. Often an environment that has great pressure, short time frames, and seemingly impossible tasks. Consequently, it is important to feel comfortable with the people you work with because there will be lots of times when the going gets tough.

It is important to know if the group you will be working with is right for your best working environment. You need to be just as comfortable working with them as they do working with you. You need to know their motivations for doing the work as well as figuring out if you can work with them or you will drive yourself crazy if you get the job.

After the interview, it isn’t about the job skills. It’s about wanting to work with you and you wanting to work with them.

What questions do you ask to determine if your potential employer is right for you?

  • Excellent post. You’re right…by the time you get to the interview, the focus is often a little bit less on skills and a little bit more on intangibles, like fit. If jobseekers can remember that the interview is a conversation, it takes some of the pressure off and lets more of their own personality shine through. And jobseekers who ask great questions in the interview make a great impression. I have a few suggestions to offer about that here:

    • @Peggy — these are good questions to ask to get a sense of the company culture and the manager’s style and are easily adapted across different types of jobs. And treating the interview as a conversation (hard, given the stakes…), will help in getting to showing yourself as you are to the hiring manager.

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