Be yourself

Jan 08, 2018

Do you have a job interview on the near horizon? If so, do your research, stay on topic, and don’t forget to wear a nice pair of shoes.

A close architect friend of mine recently needed my coaching for an interview he had scheduled the next morning with a developer. This wasn’t an interview for a project, this was an interview for actual employment. He wanted to change jobs and hadn’t formally interviewed in 27 years! I was amazed by how much he overthought everything. I know it’s true for a lot of people on both sides of the interview table. Interviewing makes most people nervous.

Here are the main points I shared with him:

  • Keep it simple. This is about finding out what this new employer needs and how it matches what you can provide. Keeping it simple in your mind will help you stay focused and confident.
  • Do your research about the company and the person with whom you’ll be meeting. Go in prepared to identify reasons why you like the company and would like to work there. Interviewers and hiring managers love it when they can tell a candidate has taken the time to learn about them.
  • Spend time before the meeting creating a bullet list in your mind (or on paper) of your specific strengths and skills. Help them know what and who you are: Are you a leader? A manager? A technical specialist? A rainmaker? A business-minded operational person? A communicative liaison or representative? A combination of the above? Obviously, the type of role you’re considering will help you know which skills to emphasize.
  • Ask the person “what exactly do you need?” That question is a good start and generates a conversation that sets you up to then talk about the strengths you could bring to their company.
  • Have an objective. Be ready to tell them why you’re there and what you’re seeking. You’re both hoping that your objective matches their need!
  • If it’s appropriate for the role, choose two or three projects that you’ve worked on that stand out for whatever reason; technically challenging, iconic, powerful learning experience, highlights profitability and successful time management. Whatever it is, have the descriptions ready and be specific about your role in those projects.
  • Be prepared to illustrate your strengths with examples.
  • Be yourself. To me, this is the most important thing of all. People like people who are easy to read and that is conveyed more clearly when you are being yourself. Confidence and an at-ease demeanor make the conversation much more comfortable for everyone.
  • Do not speak negatively of your current job or boss. Develop a positive way of describing why you want a change.
  • Listen as much as you talk during the meeting. The give and take of information should be equal.
  • Know when to stop talking. Sometimes nervousness causes people to ramble. It can be very difficult to stop talking for fear of silence. Knowing when to stop talking is a powerful communication tool and it shows confidence.
  • Stay on topic. Going off on tangents is a difficult thing for people to experience. You don’t want them wondering, what were we talking about? Where were we? This muddles your message and is a big mistake.
  • Look the part. Go with a neutral, polished look. Good shoes always help make a great impression.

Have a great time and show off your best self!

Chris Catton is Zweig Group’s director of executive search. Contact her at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.