It would certainly be useful, to say the least, if we knew. What questions were coming? What were the best answers to those questions? And what did they think were the best questions for the interviewee to be asking? If only we knew all that.
But we can’t read minds, so we’re left making our best guesses about all those things. By the way, our best guesses aren’t all that far off. Aside from that, though, we can try to get things started by looking at an interviewer’s typical preparation, even if there’s guesswork and generalization involved.
It would be nice to think that interviewers took a careful look at all the paperwork that got you this far, but that’s not something you can count on. You may well end up talking with someone who’s spent a minimal amount of time preparing for this meeting – remember that what may be an important event for you may also be one of many such daily events for your interviewer – and that the preparation involved may only mean that they’ve taken a brief look at your resume.
Because you don’t know how thoroughly your interviewer has prepared, your own preparation has to include the ability to elaborate on what your resume has to say and explain and expand on things that you might have thought were already pretty clear from all the papers they’d already seen.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conventional wisdom once held that interviewers made their decisions in the first minute or two, but recent research doesn’t really support that notion. Experienced interviewers tend toward quicker decisions, but more than half of interviewers in a recent study took five minutes or longer to make up their minds, and only 5 percent made decisions in the first minute.
Your entire interview matters, so there’s no harm – and a lot of potential good – in spending time essentially educating the interviewer.
There’s another thing you may not know in advance: Are you speaking with someone who’s actually in your field? You may find that you’re seeing someone from HR, perhaps because this is just round one of a couple of interviews, and, if that’s the case, your interviewer may not be all that familiar with some of the items in your resume, especially if you’re in a more technical field. Again, you have to be prepared to fill in the blanks.
Every interview is a crossroads. It’s a discrete event that can – all by itself – determine what your professional life will be like in the future – not just in terms of how much money you’ll make, but in terms of doing interesting work with interesting people in a place that can open the door to tremendous opportunity. Or, of course, it can close that door, at least temporarily.
The lesson here is that you should try not to make too many assumptions about what’s happening across the desk. Make your interview preparation as open-ended and comprehensive as you can. You should prepare to meet someone who knows all about you, and all about your field, or someone who knows the bare minimum and isn’t all that sure of exactly what you do – and everything in between.
If you need help preparing for that interview or preparing the documents to land that interview, we offer a variety of services to help get your foot in the door, and to assist in everything that comes next.