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Interviewing "Up," Securing the Job You Really Want

Sheri Welsh

In my post a few weeks ago, I talked about positioning yourself to get the job you really want. If you follow some of those suggestions, I have no doubt that very soon you'll find yourself in a position to actually interview for that BIG position, which presents a new set of challenges.

If you've never been a manager, team leader, or department leader how can you present yourself as capable and competent to do those jobs? How can you set yourself apart from other candidates who may have years of leadership experience and appear better qualified than you are? Here are a few suggestions that might help:

1. Draw on leadership experiences in other areas of your life. Have you served on a board? Have you led a group of volunteers on a committee or on a project? Your leadership experience in your church, school, or community can demonstrate a great deal about what can be expected from you as a leader. Consider what you've led others to accomplish, how you have motivated volunteers (where there's often no accountability in place), and how you overcame challenges to be successful in the work. Past performance is often a predictor of future success.

2. Envision yourself in the leadership role. What kind of a manager will you be? What would you do if __________ happened? You may be asked behavioral-based interview questions that will require you to respond as you have experience in the previous situations. That may be difficult to do if you've never been in the situation before. It won't be difficult at all, however, if you've taken the time to think through how you might respond to a given situation. Your response might be something like "While I've never had the opportunity to handle a situation like that before, let me tell you how I would handle it." Explain your approach with confidence.

3. Demonstrate your ability to learn new things. Have you moved from marketing a technical business-to-business product to marketing consumer products? Have you transitioned from design engineering into quality engineering? If you have successfully learned a new industry, a new skill, or a new job at any point in your career you have demonstrated your ability to be developed as a talent. Help your interviewer to see that, although you don't have the desired leadership experience, you have proven your ability to grow, be coached, and developed into a top talent for their organization.

4. Ask insightful questions that demonstrate your understanding of the leadership role. Of course, you'll need to do some homework on the organization prior to the interview. The job description may provide you with some great clues as to what the company is really looking for. Use this information to ask questions that demonstrate your understanding of the position and the company's mission. Consider asking questions such as "What is your current social media strategy? And how does that fit into your overall marketing strategy?" or "What is the one thing that your entry level employees need to understand most about the position? Tell me about the onboarding and mentoring programs that you have in place."

Nothing will boost your confidence in an "interviewing up" situation more than this: advance preparation. Use these suggestions and secure that BIG job! And be sure to let us know how it all works out.

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