Always be interviewing

Even if you are 100% happy right where you are.

I have been interviewing. And by interviewing, I mean going on coffee dates.(Welcome to poaching practices in the tech world.)

And I have learned so much.

Yes, interviews can be time-consuming. There’s prep work, polishing, not to mention what can feel like endless scheduling. But they are also potential gems — not just because of the obvious upside of landing a new gig, but because they’re unique learning opportunities to better understand your industry and where you fit in it. Even if you’re not actively looking for a job, you should be interviewing.

What you stand to gain:

A lesson in how to run a company. How does the founder think about recruiting, hiring, and company culture? How old is the average employee and what does work-life balance look like? What are some recent company challenges (product, market, people) and how were they handled? Think of this as an opportunity to write your own NYT Corner Office piece.

What the competitive landscape looks like - through someone else’s lens. If you’ve done your homework you know who the major competitors in the space are, but how does the company you’re speaking to see themselves fitting into the current competitive landscape? What are the buzzwords they’re using? Who do they consider their biggest competitors to be? Do you agree?

Apart from imparting company and industry knowledge, interviews teach you a lot about you.

They are a great barometer for understanding things like:

What the market thinks of you. You quickly learn which of your skills are in demand, and which are being glossed over. Sometimes you don’t know what your greatest asset is until you see people’s eyes light up in person, or hear about problems you know you have the skills to solve.You may also learn you’re missing a key skill that can benefit both you and your current employer in the future.

What you do and do not want from your next gig. It may be a specific increase in responsibility, it may be a lateral move for a better cultural fit. It may be perks that are most appealing, it may be equity. Maybe team size trumps title.You likely have a sense of your preferences already, but interviews further clarify them. Exercise patience and see where the patterns emerge.

You may also learn (or reaffirm) how very happy you are in your current role. Sometimes you forget how good you’ve got it until you start to shop around. Prepping for the “greatest accomplishment” question forces you to reflect upon what you’ve accomplished at your current job and all you’ve yet to do there. If you like your job already, that can be hugely motivating and encourage you to take on more responsibility and swing for the fences. Excellent news for you and your current employer, who gets a rejuvenated you back in the fold.

How you relate to people, and how your story resonates with others. (And where it doesn’t.) Personal branding. Crafting your online identity. Sound familiar? There are dozens of articles in the blogosophere on the importance of “storytelling,” but most miss a simple yet important point: how your story resonates is as much about your audience as it is about you. Interviews are prime learning ground for understanding non-verbal cues, practicing thoughtful listening, and recognizing which parts of your story are most compelling (and why).

Which brings me to part 2: You should be A/B testing your interviews.

We in the startup world speak fondly about the benefits of rapid iteration and the importance of data-driven everything (marketing, product development, investing etc). I’d wager that there are similar benefits in applying a data-driven approach to interviewing as well. More on that in part two, here.

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Author, Listen Like You Mean It. UX researcher, TWTR, PINS, etc. I write about the intersection of technology + society + personal growth. ximenavengoechea.com

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Ximena Vengoechea

Author, Listen Like You Mean It. UX researcher, TWTR, PINS, etc. I write about the intersection of technology + society + personal growth. ximenavengoechea.com