Pre-preparation, Questions, Process, Flow, Pace and Finish
EVP, Managing Creative Director
415 Madison Avenue
New York, NY
I genuinely lucked out when I heard back from one of my top five interviewee candidates immediately. However, my first step was emailing five candidates two weeks ahead of time, prior to Thursday. Therefore, while I kept tabs on other interview candidates, I began to script twelve to fifteen questions with my first interviewee in mind.
I needed to fill 30 minutes of interview time, and began to pair down my initial set of questions to the top seven or eight. I then rewrote my final questions to avoid technical jargon, taking into account not to overwhelm or bore my interviewee. The last thing that I wanted to do is seem uninteresting, yet I also needed to balance topics in relation to collaboration (a rather broad topic, as is). In doing so, I considered key topics: personality conflicts, collaboration models, rewarding moments, team dysfunction, etc. I wanted to cover a broad range of topics in order to allow flexibility during engagement. If one particular topic wasn’t explored in great depth, I could easily switch the conversation to another topic. After all, I had no way of knowing if there would be synergy between me and the interviewee.
Preparation & Plan B
In case the interview was heading toward a direction that I would not know how to reign in, I decided to have a few things in place in order to access immediately:
1. Internet access
2. Mind Map of many topics
3. Thesis statement
4. Technical definitions
5. Articles in relation to collaboration
I could feel less anxious if I sensed that the interviewee was bored, irritated, distracted or disengaged. What I’ve learned from past interview experience, is that it never hurts to be over-prepared.
During brief, yet formal introductions, I asked my interviewee what name they preferred to go by. After introductions were made, I then explained, “Let me give you a background about why I’ve decided to pursue team dynamics during collaboration.” I explained that “team dynamics” may include: technical language, information vs. knowledge, sharing, valuing, perceiving and interpreting information and working with different personalities or behaviors. I then introduced my audience as first-to-five year professional graphic designers and explained how I’ve decided to explore the gray areas between visual learning and verbal learning during collaboration. At this point in the interview, I spent one full minute explaining the context of the interview. This helped to provide the interviewee with what to anticipate, before the discussion began.
I prefaced my first question, “Well, I’m just going to dive right in,” in order to set an informal tone to help ease the transition of formal introductions. My first question was the easiest because it was the most broad and general in terms of any business environment:
1. What components of team dynamics are the most or least critical when determining the success of collaboration?
The interview started fluidly and I could tell that my interviewee was highly versed in the interview process. In doing so, I wanted to make the most of my time by listening, while being sensitive to the pace and flow of the conversation. As the interview progressed, I realized that by the end of the third question, there may have been a slight disconnect in the flow of the interview. I likely may have been listening and taking notes too intently. Instead, I resorted to a question that was not on my top list, switching to a question that refocused the interview back to a casual setting, by asking:
4. What has been the most rewarding project that you can recall, within the past year?
The interview was re-energized and my interviewee’s tone became much more candid and I started to realize the dynamic – I’m asking a highly creative person to spill their beans about something that’s very personal to them. In doing so, we reached of moment of laughter and comparing notes about the collaboration process with “difficult situations” or more specifically, working with outside vendors. We discussed what it’s like when we realize that we’ve overlooked a minor detail that happens to have larger-than-life consequences. At this moment in the conversation, I was eager to keep the conversation alive, while revisiting my list of more challenging questions.
In The End
Keep in mind, I’m talking to the creative director of a NY firm – time is short. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to land the interview and was reassured about the nature of business versus academia. In business, there is little to no time to evaluate everything, and instead instinct (gut feeling), pressure, stress and scrambling are normal conditions. However, my interviewee commented that “it’s good for me to do this on occasion, as I need to keep my mind active outside of work as well.” Last, but not least, my final question was to ask about arranging another interview, to which my interviewee happily agreed.