Interviewing Tips

Now that you have secured an interview you are in the right place to get some great interview tips.

Most people are good at managing up or down, but usually not both. Which one are you?

The Real Question: Are you more charm than substance?

Top-line Tactic: Try to avoid the distinction by framing “managing up” and “managing down” as different skills for different times and then focusing on which you’ve excelled at . . . so far.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “managing up” basically means massaging your relationship with your supervisor to keep your work on his or her radar, get access to the resources you need and temper any unrealistic expectations. For some people, it has a pretty nasty connotation of sycophancy and self-promotion.

“I put people into two different categories: people who manage up really well and people who manage down really well, and I love the latter,” Kim Bowers, CEO of CST Brands (a large U.S. company that runs convenience stores), once said in interview, for example. “It’s the folks who manage up really well but have this underlying storm all the time who concern me because you don’t know if they’re just trying to charm to cover up.”

Other people view “managing up” as simply good business practice. This difference of opinion, along with the either/or framing of this question, can make it a particularly dangerous one. One way to avoid the obvious pitfalls here is to frame the skills of “managing up” and “managing down” as appropriate for different circumstances rather than a fundamental personality divide that you could accidentally end up on the wrong side of.

For me, managing up and managing down are skills I’ve had to master at different stages in my career based on different situations I’ve encountered. In my first job after college, for instance, my boss was always traveling and I realized she was sometimes out of the loop on what different team members were working on and we had to wait for her to catch up before we could move on. By sending her progress reports every week and asking specifically about the priorities for the week to come I was able to keep things moving forward. In that case, managing up got me promoted to team leader the following year. Now, I’m working on my skills at managing down.

Another approach for avoiding the either/or framing of the question is to bring up any 360-degree reviews you have been involved in. As these sorts of exercises evaluate your ability to manage up, down and sideways, noting positive reviews is a good way to avoid having to signal allegiance for only team “managing up” or team “managing down,” as well as stressing your flexibility in communicating well with people no matter their position in the office pecking order.

Which websites do you use personally? Why?

The Real Question: Do you keep abreast of industry news? Are you tech savvy?

Top-line Tactic: Determine what level of technical competence the interviewer is probably looking for and respond appropriately.

The import of this question very much depends on what sort of job you’re applying for. If it’s a traditional role in a non-tech company, the chances are the interviewer is fishing mainly to find out if and how you keep abreast of news and industry trends. Possibly, they’re also looking for basic tech skills, especially if you suspect they don’t possess such skills themselves.

In this case, simply tell the interviewer how you follow developments in the sector, keep up to date with current events and stay in touch with friends and colleagues online. Nothing fancy is required; just make sure you mention the touchstones in your industry. Perhaps that’s the FT if you’re in finance, popular design blogs if you’re a designer or LinkedIn if you’re a salesperson or recruiter—demonstrate you are familiar with what people in your niche are using and throw in a few personal favorites like that classic car site you’re addicted to or your love of Pinterest to give a glimpse of your character. A classic canned answer for this question is to say you use the New York Times website, but most employers have heard this answer so many times that it literally goes without saying. One stated that people “drink water and read the [New York Times] website,” so try to show a bit of personality in answering this question.

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