I’m a pilot, and the first thing you do before you get ready to fly is to preflight the plane – and the trip. The preflight is pretty involved and requires a thorough inspection, both inside and outside of the plane, as well as all the available information for that flight, including weather and notices to airmen (NOTAMS) about the airport I’m departing and my destination. Missing information here could have me set up for an approach that the NOTAMS would have told me were not applicable that day or time, or even worse, an airport or runway closure.
I’ve been flying for 25 years and have nearly 2000 hours of flight time, which is decent for someone that has never flown for money – that is, as an instructor or a commercial pilot. I’ve flown my current plane for 6 years and over a thousand hours and feel like I know it very well – it’s a Piper Malibu Mirage, in case you were curious. Even so, I never do my preflight without my checklist. It’s too important to not miss something that could come back to haunt me. I also read the NTSB reports of accidents and find that quite a number happen due to pilot error and many could have been avoided with a more adequate preflight. My checklist is laminated and bound and I keep it in a pocket next to my seat. It comes out before every flight and during any abnormal instances in a flight that can be anticipated, such as icing, or instrument conditions.
What does this have to do with executive search? I’ll get to the point, I promise.
I can’t tell you how often I meet with candidates that haven’t “pre-flighted” their interview, either with me or with my client. Most candidates these days do basic research on our client, and even on our firm and sometimes even on me, so they can find some area of commonality with me and create a bond. That’s very valuable and speaks to how they like to build relationships – by knowing as much as possible about the person they’re going to be meeting.
But how often do they “fly” the interview in advance? Part of pre-flighting, especially on a day that will not be an easy flight day (weather, turbulence, potential icing can all play a part), is to “fly” the trip in your mind. I like to anticipate what altitude I’ll be at by a certain time, and cross reference that with the weather to determine if I’ll be in the freezing/icing zone, and if I’ll be in the clouds. In the clouds, with lots of moisture and in the icing layer (0 degrees C to minus 10 C, usually), I need to know what my out will be. If I’m flying over mountains and this could be the picture I see, I won’t go because I can’t go down to get out of icing (the mountains, remember).
What does your pre-flight/pre-interview checklist look like? A sample could be something like:
- Have I looked up the company and what they’re all about? (Not just their company website, but other websites that may have reviews from former employees, LinkedIn, news articles, etc.) Have you done your research on who is interviewing you and what they are like, their interests and maybe some things that you can talk about that you have in common?
- What does your name bring up when you type it into a search engine? (This might be a little odd, but it’s what people are looking at if they can’t use any other personal reference before the interview. Do your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest accounts look professional? What does your LinkedIn profile do for you?)
- Is your resume free of errors and presentable? Have you sent it to the hiring manager? Do you have extra copies? Do you have a professional pad-folio?
- Do you have a clear explanation to some questions that the interviewer may have about you, such as job hopping or not enough experience for the role? Are you prepared for typical or maybe unusual interview questions?
- Do you have professional interview attire? Is your suit pressed and shirt clean, shoes shined? Is your pants suit free of lint? Is your dress/ skirt length appropriate? Hair and make-up appropriate? You only have one chance at a first impression – look and feel like a million bucks!
The equivalent pre-flight for an interview would be to role play with a confidant on the potential questions that might be asked of you by an interviewer, and also the questions you might ask of the interviewer. Your confidant should be well-versed in interviewing skills assessment (like a flight instructor), and hopefully feels confident enough to give you feedback on how you did. Questions you ask, stories you tell in answer to questions, and your overall demeanor during the process will determine the outcome.
I tell candidates that their resume got them into the interview with me. Their depth and my perception of their real skills and experience, as well as their culture fit with my client, will determine if they go to the next stage. The best way to give yourself the best chance of completing the interview successfully (same as a successful outcome to the flight), is the pre-flight.