Q: I was referred to a job by a friend and was told that I was going to meet with her contact at the company on the day of my interview. But when I got there, the person wasn't in the office, and I was instead sent to interview with someone who didn't know anything about me. I felt uncomfortable and am certain I didn't do well in the interview. What should a person do in a situation like that - cancel the interview? - Evan
J.T.: You learned a hard lesson about interviewing: Be prepared to meet with anyone and everyone. This happens more frequently than you might imagine. Now, in hindsight, you might be thinking that you should have asked to have the meeting rescheduled. However, what would that say about your ability to be flexible?
Dale: Exactly. Evan, you violated one of job searching's cardinal rules, one of life's cardinal rules: Don't take yourself too seriously. Come on, loosen up. After all, you came having done preinterview research - you did do research, didn't you? - and so you arrived with plenty of questions about the business and the people in it. Here was a chance to meet someone new and broaden your connections into the company - that's a good thing.
J.T.: I remember one time going for my first interview with a company and at the end of the interview the HR person said, "You know what, I'd like you to meet with the CEO right now." I thought I was going to fall over. I knew I couldn't say, "No, thanks," but I felt completely ill-prepared. Good thing I had my fool-proof three question combo ready to go. Whenever I'm suddenly thrown into a situation where I must meet with someone in an organization unexpectedly, I simply ask the following three questions and then just sit back and listen:
- In your opinion, what are the core traits of a person who is successful at your company and why?
- What are the three biggest challenges the company will face this year?
- How will the person who fills the role I'm applying for be able to assist in overcoming those challenges?
Dale: Once again, questions are the answer. Go into an interview determined to learn, prepared to be impressed instead of trying to be impressive, and you'll be eager to talk with anyone at the company, and they, in turn, will end up thinking they'd like to have you around to talk to.