4 Tips To Turn an Interview into a Planning Discussion with a Business Leader

Make your interview with a business leader more than just a rehashing of your work history

Job interviews can be one of the most stressful activities both for the job seeker and the business leader conducting the interview. I often spend as much time with the business leader prepping for interviews as I do the executives.  Every time you sit down to meet with some whether it is a job, a contract or a gig assignment, keep these words in the back of your head, “It’s not an interview, it’s a discussion.”  What do I mean by this?

Of course, it can be argued that an interview is a type of discussion. Getting past that, take a look at one definition of ‘discussion’, “the action or process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas.”  Now key in on the last few words, “to exchange ideas.”   Rather than following the typical Q&A that comes with an interview, transform it into a forward reaching discussion or ‘idea exchange’. Here’s some tips and examples to help further this transformation.


As simple as it is, it is one of the top issues I run into.  The person I am speaking to is not responding with comments relevant to recent statements.  Often, they are looking to make sure I know something about them and are responding with that instead of my question or the topic we were on.  Listen to what the individual is saying and stay on point with relevant discussion comments.  This will also help you add to the discussion rather than just answering questions.

Focus on the end point rather than starting point

Keep the discussion focused on where the company is going, what does ‘success’ look like, and what are some projects they are currently working on.  Look to understand what they are looking to accomplish with this role and how it can contribute to the success of the team or organization.  You can then build on this during the discussion.

Talk to the Future by Leveraging the Past

Instead of rehashing your work history, combine what you are learning from the discussion with examples from your past to relate to their future state. For example, from the discussion, I have learned that they are challenged with meeting deadlines and inaccurate information from the team.  Rather than talking about what I did at my last job, I will focus more on talking through examples or stories in my past of how I helped my team meet deadlines and improve our accuracy and accountability.  Relating stories from your past to the company’s goals gives you have a winning combination.

Consider you already have the job during the interview

I am not suggesting you use language such as, “If I get the job, I would…”.   Consider the interview more as a planning meeting as though you have already started the job. This will help you focus more on the types of questions to be asking, give you a better understanding of their situation and offering up commentary and information towards how you would fit in and what you would accomplish.

Put it all into the context of a couple hiring a designer for their home.  From the couple’s perspective, they want someone who will understand them, their vision, and what type of atmosphere they are looking for. When considering various design consultants, rather than focusing on a list of jobs they have done in the past, the couple wants to see the end state of those jobs and how that relates to what their home could look like. The more they visually see things in the examples they like, the more they have started to picture what they designer will turn their home into.  The designer will be sure to pick up on that and help them paint that picture with examples of drawings, wording such as “there is a great shop I know of that has some desks that would work fantastic in the nook”, and start the planning process on the spot.  The more planning that is done, the more the couple is confident the designer is the right one for the job.

It is easy to tell the difference between a good interview and a great discussion.  An interview helps the business leader assess whether your background and personality fit what they are looking for. A discussion helps the business leader better understand how you would transition into the role, how you would draw on your past experiences to benefit them, and what is in it for the business leader at the end of the day vs. it being all about you getting a job.  Keep the focus on what the business leader and company want and need and it will be a great discussion for all involved.

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