How to ace a committee interview?
May 13, 2006 6:35 AM   Subscribe

InterviewFilter: Help me ace an interview with a hiring committee -- of my current and former professors!

I've applied and been asked to interview for a support tech position in the film department I'm graduating from at the end of this month. I've interviewed before, of course, but this is the first "serious" interview I've dealt with, i.e. for a full-time, well-paying, not-retail/food-service job. Its also my first interview by a hiring committee. I'm definitely qualified. The big wrinkle is that of the people on the comittee, three are professors whose classes I'm in the process of finishing (I actually have a final presentation for one professor's class a couple of hours after the interview), and two are current department employees who I'm on friendly terms with.

In general, I don't forsee a problem -- they like me, I like them, they're excited I've applied -- but if the hivemind has any advice on how to handle myself professionally in this situation and hopefully ace the interview, I'd appreciate it. General advice on committee interview techniques and tactics would also be great!
posted by Alterscape to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1. Anticipate all the questions you'll get and write down answers in advance. Be sure to include questions asking about your technical experience and some "problem-solving" questions.
2. Practice answering those questions while looking into a mirror or better yet, have a friend who works ask you the questions (and any you didn't think of). Get feedback and do it again.
3. Dress nice. Minimum slacks and button-up shirt with tie but a suit would be better if you have it. You want them to see you serious about the position and not just a walk-in from their classes.
4. Speak slowly and clearly. Slowly make eye contact with everyone as you answer.
5. Show your enthusiasm! I can't stress this last one enough. No one ever faulted an interviewee for being too excited about a job.

Good luck! You really won't need it since you already know everyone on the committe :)
posted by junesix at 7:58 AM on May 13, 2006

Just be careful not to give the impression that you think the job is in the bag and are not taking the interview seriously. Follow Junesix's excellent advice and act (insofar as possible) like it is an interview with total strangers.
posted by LarryC at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2006

As well as not giving off the impression that you think the job is in the bag, also try and remind yourself that you're dealing with people you know and are friendly with, and so you may easily get the idea the job is in the bag when in fact it isn't. Despite the "in" and your qualifications, you may still not get the job. It happens to everybody; don't be too disappointed or angry if it happens to you this time.
posted by BackwardsCity at 10:26 AM on May 13, 2006

People who move from student to professional within the same department sometimes show a lack of seriousness. That is, people
who move somewhere new tend to have a greater drive for success than those that just change desks. If I was hiring you, I'd be worried that you'd never grow out of your student role. I would be sure to give the impression that you take the job very seriously and see it as a role that is distinct from your previous roles in this department. That you are willing to accept certain people as your boss who may not be boss now.

Another way to state this is, you aren't bringing new blood into your department. No fresh outlook, etc. That's what you are fighting against.

The bright side of the above is that you are bringing a known quantity to the job. They like you and there is little risk -- lots of people look good on paper or sound good during an interview.
They know what to expect from you.
posted by about_time at 11:24 AM on May 13, 2006

Also, i want to reiterate that everyone loves to hire someone who is excited to work there. If you seem unexcited to take the position, then I would infer that you aren't going to do your best at the job. Sharp, professional dress, eye contact, leaning forward in your chair, all that stuff above.
posted by about_time at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2006

Remember that the reason for the committee interview vs a one to one interview is likely to get different perspectives from the different interviewers. You know these people, so take a moment to think about what each of them may be looking for. Keep in mind their different areas of expertise. Do any of them work largely in areas you're not so familiar with? If so, be especially careful when trying to anticipate the questions they might come up with. Don't be caught off guard.

Like Larry and Backwords said, don't let yourself think the job is in the bag. Since you're asking others for advice, it looks like you probably don't have that problem, but keep it up. Treat it like any other interview. Perhaps give them a friendly hello to begin with, but once the interview starts, look like you mean business.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:39 AM on May 13, 2006

Best answer: We hired a former student in the music department where I teach, and if your faculty is anything like ours, they wouldn't be speaking to you if they weren't serious about you having the job.

We also use students in several important work-study positions, and we don't even approach a potential hire if we haven't already discussed that person in advance and reached a consensus that that individual is responsible and mature, and would be a good fit. Your being a student is an odd issue from your perspective moreso than from theirs. As a professor, I recognize that my students are adults. Young adults, certainly, many with a lot of growing up still to do, but so many changes, so much learning happens between 18 & 22 that I would be foolish (and disrespectful) not to acknowledge them as adults, especially as they approach graduation. (And here I speak of 'traditional' students--I have a few students older than I am.) Several of my former students are now friends.

Not to say that you have this in the bag--you still need to make a good impression in the interview. I've had several high-pressure interviews and auditions so far in my career, and they're always easier than I thought they would be--HOWEVER, I always made sure I was absolutely stone cold ready for them. To do so, I recommend the advice above about spending some time anticipating what kinds of questions they will ask you, and make some notes as to answers. Keep that piece of paper in your pocket, and if you feel the need to refer to it during the interview (depending upon length), you can always excuse yourself to the restroom for a minute and read it over. I've never needed to look at my "cheat sheet" in an interview, but always felt more comfortable knowing that some notes were there if I needed them.

Also spend some time thinking of what questions you have for them--many forget in interviews that the process is mutual. Yes, you want the job, but they want someone for the job, and each of you is finding out about the other in this process. So it's perfectly appropriate to ask specific questions about job responsibilities, duties, schedule, other expectations, etc., about whatever you may currently be unclear. Questions like this are not only appropriate, but expected from the committee's point of view--when I'm on a search committee, it's always a red flag when a candidate has no real questions about a position. Even our former student who is now our tech person, and knew the job well (he was in that area as a work-study while a student), had questions.

You need to be clear as to exactly what the job is, what's required, what resources you will have to accomplish those, what the compensation is, etc., whereever you may not already know that.

Speak clearly, don't mumble, smile, look people in the eye, be clean and well dressed (but appropriate to whatever the regular level of dress is in that building, you'd look goofy if it's a casual faculty, and you show up in a suit--especially if, in a tech position, you're moving around a lot and need to dress comfortably.).

Above all, don't be too nervous or anxious! After all, any interview is for all parties to gain a better sense of each other, and you can't be any "better" of a person than you already are. If there were some sort of off-putting quirks in your personality, you wouldn't have the interview. So they like you in a general sense, know you are qualified, and of course need to find out some more specific things. So you can only be yourself, and answer honestly. The interview process in this kind of situation, in my experience, is not about convincing a committee that you're No. 1! It's about letting them know who you are, what your strengths are, why you want this job and are enthusiastic about it; it's also for you to investigate this position more fully, to be sure that not only is this the job you want, but that these are the people with whom YOU would like to work.

Good luck! Have fun, be real, be prepared, and you'll be fine.
posted by LooseFilter at 12:31 PM on May 13, 2006

Have a REAL answer to the "where do you see yourself in five years" question. Can't tell you the number of times I've seen a group interview fall flat because the interviewee can't even paint a picture of what next WEEK might look like.
posted by frogan at 9:40 PM on May 13, 2006

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