Interviewing with Different Personas

Everyone has their go-to interview tips (including us, duh). Arrive (or log on) early, prepare good questions, send a follow-up thank you note, etc. we’ve heard them all…

But here’s something different: have you ever received advice on interviewing with different personas? You know, different people in different departments with different job titles.

Ahhhh, something new.

The interesting thing about interview advice is that is tends to “blanket” the situation. But how on earth is that possible? Every opportunity, company, and person is different. Something that works for Scenario 1 won’t necessarily be effective in Scenario 2.

This is where the concept of “personas” come in.

If you are in sales or marketing, you probably understand the concept of a “Buyer’s Persona”

In a nutshell, it’s basically creating a made-up person with specific traits; including personality, challenges, interests, and motivators. You can even create one for free and play around with the idea!

Personas are a great tool for life in general; basically at any point when you need to sell, negotiate, or collaborate with someone to accomplish a goal. So why not use them during your interview process?

Let’s set up a scenario:

You’re a software developer interviewing for a Senior Software Engineer opening. Your interview process looks like this: phone call with HR Manager, meeting with Development Manager, and phone call with CTO.

So. How would you approach this?

When speaking to HR:

This is your time to sell your interest in the company. You’ve done your research (hopefully) and you’re ready to share with them why you are genuinely excited to be a part of their company and mission. HR doesn’t know how to code an app from scratch (although you’d like to think so) so hold off on anything too specific about the role, unless explicitly asked. Save that for the manager conversation. Emphasize WHY you want to work there and more importantly, how you can contribute to their goals and growth.

When speaking to your direct supervisor:

Here we go. Time to get techy (or salesy or whatever you do). This interview is going to be focused on hard skills, metrics, accomplishments, and role-specific scenarios. Be prepared to backtrack your current position, pull KPIs, and literally come up with a spiel for  “tell me about what you do in your current position”. It sounds silly but you’d be surprised by how many people can’t actually articulate what they do. But let’s be honest: you don’t really explain what you do everyday so it’s a good idea to practice and get those words out.

When speaking to leadership:

This part will vary per company. If you’re interviewing at a startup or smaller company, your direct supervisor may be part of the leadership team or C-suite. If we’re continuing with this specific scenario, speaking with the CTO would fall under your area of expertise (technology). Overall, the best approach is combining the previous two pieces of advice. As a leader, this person is going to want to know “Why are you here?” “Why are you interested in our company?”. They have an investment in the building the team and are going to be intentional about who they bring on, skillset or not. However, there’s a good possibility that they will touch on your experience, so don’t think you can forget your elevator pitch in the final step. You still need to sell yourself.

Aside from in-person interview, in these “weird” times you’re going to be faced with a bunch of interview situations, from one-way video interviews to online assessments and more. If it’s your first time navigating any of these scenarios, just know that you’re not alone. Removing the human factor from the interview process can be awkward and even nerve-racking but as long as you’re prepared, you’ll do great!

Preparing for your interview with personas is going to give you a huge leg-up on the competition, believe me. And if you are unsure of the best approach with a specific person, don’t hesitate to reach out to your recruiter (if you have one). There’s a high probability that they can give you tips and advice on how to impress your interviewer. They’ve probably worked with them in the past and can share everything from their go-to interview questions to their favorite sports team.

With that being said, our team is also happy to help set you up for success. We’ve been in your shoes before and it’s always nice to have support where you can get it!

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