How to Interview Well So You Don't Get Lowballed

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Bella had just completed her pediatric residency and was pursuing two roles in teaching hospitals requiring clinical and academic responsibilities. Both held great career promise for different reasons. Prepping her for Role A first interview, we developed a long laundry list of needs and wants. Beside the typical compensation basics, here were three of her must haves:

  • One day--quiet time--dedicated to admin and research.

  • A private office.

  • An assistant.

Unless you’re in the heady waters of the C-Level or come with credentials that walk in the door before you do, it’s rarely advised that candidates--in any industry--use the first-round opportunity to make demands or express deal breaker constraints.

Bella had those creds but she did none of that. Instead, she held what we call an “interest-based” conversation in which she used simple open-ended questions to test the waters of her must haves. Like so:

“I’m curious, how do you all find the quiet time you need to do admin and research?” The answers the interviewing doctors gave revealed that most had private office space, but that space was a premium.

“I am grateful to understand the reality here. Given my role in the delivery of our first year goals of X and Y, how difficult might it be for me to advocate for space, or for that matter an assistant?”

The result of her inquiries lead to an initial offer that included a private office and one day of admin time. The assistant was tabled to a “future negotiation” that ended up not being a negotiation at all. After six months on the job Bella’s boss confided that she was worried about “burning out her best and brightest” and requisitioned an assistant.

Now imagine this case study with your specifics. Your industry. Your talent. Your role.

What do you really need to be successful?

  • Job search assistance for your partner as a result of your move across the country?

  • Remote work?

  • Flex?

  • Tuition?

  • Business class travel?

Whatever your must-haves are, use Bella’s open-ended questions as a template for discovery. And while we’re at it, don’t leave any interview without asking questions that help you assess a company’s culture and behavior around the goals and expectations of the role and your future with the company. Here are a few scripts for the road:

“If I should get the job, what are the most important milestones or metrics by which you would evaluate my performance in this job?”

“What specific projects or deliverables would you prefer to have handled, say three months from now, after this new person starts — such that you’d be completely happy with the person you hired?”

“What is the typical career path for a person in this role, after doing a great job in this position?”

“I’m curious if you can describe how people have moved from this role into others in the organization?”

“What professional development opportunities and resources are available in this role?”

Upshot: Don’t skimp on preparation and you won’t put must-haves in a “someday” limbo.