by Katherine Kimball Adelberg, Head Editor, INALJ Michigan
Interviewing for the Job You Already Have
Three years ago, I graduated with my MLS and applied for a job on a whim. I was thrilled to be called for an interview and had nothing to lose since I already had a good job. Confident and relaxed, I aced the lengthy interview process. My interview demonstrated that I was ready to transition from front-desk public library paraprofessional to administrator of a statewide program.
The only drawback was that the position was grant-funded and scheduled to end in 2013. Fortunately, a new position was created to continue the work I had been doing, and I found myself in the unique position of interviewing for the job I already had.
Standard job interviews measure a candidate’s flexibility, depth of experience, and ability to fit into the organizational culture. In my case, the interviewers already knew a great deal about these indicators since I had worked with them for two years. Along with not being a typical interview, this started out as the most difficult interview of my career. I found myself struggling to articulate my accomplishments, not wanting to brag to my colleagues or bore them with stories they already knew about my successes. Fortunately, I was still the best candidate for the job, and overcame my initial nervousness by drawing inspiration from an unexpected source: orchestra auditions.
The most grueling job interview process I’ve ever encountered was an orchestra audition. Imagine: at least 50 people are interviewing for the same position you are, and you’re all in a room together. Everyone is practicing answers to the same common interview questions (or the same pieces of music). Eventually, you’re ushered into a room where a panel of judges sits behind a screen. You have 5 minutes to answer 3 questions (or play 3 excerpts). If they like your answers, you’ll be invited back for a longer session later in the day. If not, you’ll be dismissed immediately. This process continues until only one candidate remains.
In interviewing for the job I had been holding, I benefited from applying the same mindset I used in successful auditions.
1. Focus on the performance, not on the audience. Instead of concerning myself on my interviewers’ knowledge of my skills and accomplishments, I regrouped and started with the basics, making no assumptions. In a blind audition, your performance speaks for itself; even if you know the judges behind the screen personally, they won’t be able to identify you.
2. Ignore the other applicants. One of my co-workers was also applying for this position, and I found myself wondering about her answers to the same questions. I refocused and spent that time polishing my answers instead.
3. Believe you are the best candidate. To succeed in an audition, you must believe that your interpretation and skill will be the best that the judges will hear all day. 49 other people will play the same thing, but if your interpretation in engaging, exciting, and confident enough, it will be convincing. This is sometimes known as swagger.
I found myself in a unique situation, and landed the job thanks to techniques borrowed from another discipline. The next time I prepare for an interview, I’ll tune out the other applicants, focus on my preparation, and most importantly, I won’t be shy about trumpeting my successes. The next time you schedule a job interview, think about past experiences that will help you perform at your best on audition day.