During Job Interviews, Present Yourself as a Learner

job_interview_learningFacilitating a career class for recently, I heard the following:

“In my field I’m an expert. When I interview I make sure to let the interviewer know how much information I have about the job. Often, I know more than the interviewer. I don’t get a call back. I think they believe that I am trying to get their job. What do I do?”

Does this sound familiar to you?

How proud he is of his expertise. How passionate about his profession. I applaud this person for taking the time to read technical manuals and study his field. I found him to be well-dressed, polite and articulate. So why does he has have trouble finding a job?

What do employers want?

While many employers really do want the knowledge base that this man has, more importantly they concentrate on the underlying skill.  And the ability to learn!

business_interviewNot, has he mastered the past, instead can he learn from the past to solve the problems of the future? Not, does he know what is in the manual, instead can he apply what he has learned to satisfy the customer? Not can he prove his knowledge to his boss and clients; instead, can he listen to their needs and develop solutions?

With on-line manuals that change frequently, it’s not the knowledge you carry in your head, it is your ability to convince an interviewer that you can listen, learn and apply your knowledge to develop new solutions to ever changing problems.

An interview is the time to focus on the company rather than on your own expertise.  Do the questions teach you something about the problems the company and their customers are trying to solve? Can you take your knowledge and apply it to the company needs? Are you using the interview to learn?

Are You Listening to Your Interviewer?

Listening is a characteristic of lifetime learning.  It is important to show your interviewer that you are not of fixed mindset but open to new processes, new skills, new challenges.

Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford University, refers to this as using a growth (vs. fixed) mindset in her book Mindset. Relying on already acquired knowledge and proving your expertise is holding on to a fixed mindset – “I’m an expert.”

Listening and acquiring a new understanding of the issue and then applying the knowledge that you have is using a growth mindset. It is a way to show the interviewer both your knowledge base, your ability to listen and your ability to learn in order to help the organization move forward once you obtain that job.

“If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.”

Sir John Templeton

Related video (Carol Dweck discussing mindset):