More Learnings from Interviewing

As an actor, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is that “when you walk into the audition room, you aren’t just auditioning for a role, you’re auditioning for the director.”

This is really speaking to the fact that sometimes there are factors outside of your control that will prevent you from landing the part. The director is going for a certain look. The director already has another actor in mind. The director wants the character to tap dance (in a non-musical), and you’re a beginner, at best (yes, this has actually happened to me).

But just because you don’t get the role, doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impression on the director, who may keep you in mind for a future project. And it doesn’t mean you didn’t gain valuable learnings from the audition — areas you’re particularly strong in and opportunities to improve your skills for the next audition.

And the same can be said for job interviews.

I recently had an interview for a content manager role. And while it didn’t turn into an offer, I still got some valuable lessons that will help me in my future interviews.

“What are you hoping to grow into or gain from this role?”

This was an interesting question to get, and to be honest, in the moment, I didn’t have a great answer.

I’ve spent a lot of time refining my narrative about my career history, this sabbatical and why I’m looking to pursue content-related roles. But I haven’t put much thought into what my path looks like once I do land a content marketing/management role. 

Part of that is just unfamiliarity with the typical path in that specific field. In which case, I just got a new homework assignment — learn more about these types of roles, people who do this type of work, and what a typical career in content marketing and management looks like. 

Learning: Be prepared to talk about where you’ve been, but also where you want to go.

“Tell me about a time when you made content decisions based on results analysis.”

Ok, ok. This question was obviously very specific to this particular role, but almost any interviewee can expect to be asked to give an example of a project related to the role.

And I was wholly unprepared. Rookie mistake.

Now, I was prepared with examples and anecdotes about managing content production projects. And to be fair, the job description did focus on that type of work. However, I should have paid attention to the job responsibilities and requirements that were further down the list, and have work examples ready for those.

Learning: Be prepared to speak to every single bullet point in the job description.

“Do you have direct experience working on SEO projects?”

Ah yes, this was the question I was afraid I was going to get.

Again, this specific question was related to the role I was interviewing for, but it reminded me of a common thing that can happen when applying to and interviewing for a job: there may be a duty included in the job description, and it’s sometimes difficult to determine how big a part it plays in the role.

For this role, it was search engine optimization. The job description mentioned doing keyword research to help identity potential content topics. And under experience, they asked for some familiar with search engine optimization best practices. However, they also mentioned that the content manager would work cross-functionally with SEO, which led me to believe there was a team that really specialized in the nitty-gritty of SEO — particularly technical SEO — and that as the content manager I would just need to be familiar enough to best implement their recommendations.

And I did take some online courses ahead of the interview to brush up on the most up-to-date best practices and techniques.

But during the interview, it became clear that the hiring manager was looking for someone with more direct, hands-on SEO experience.

And perhaps, there’s not much else I could have done. It’s not like I could suddenly just take on and complete an SEO project.

But knowing that this could possibly be a question, I could have had a better-prepared answer, proving that while I didn’t have examples of SEO projects I’ve worked on directly, my combination of knowledge and related experience would allow me to get up to speed on the type of work quickly.

Learning: Even if you think a particular duty or skill is just a small part of a role, prepare for it anyway!

While I didn’t move forward with that particular role, I did get the feedback that the hiring manager really enjoyed speaking with me and that they’d be in touch if any future opportunities became available.

Again — you’re not just auditioning (or interviewing!) for the role, you’re auditioning for the director.

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