A few weeks ago a new manager position in my department (Reporting) was announced.  This new manager would be overseeing the Reporting team that would support a new department that was created when two others were merged together.  Being in a support role when two cultures are being merged is never easy.  Lots of shifting priorities and lots of opportunities for failure.  Difficult, but also very exciting… if you can figure out how to make it all work.

The opportunity was made available to everyone in my department, and eight people, including me, applied.  All of the folks that applied are strong reporting analysts… and great people to work with.  Competition was going to be tough.  I updated my resumé and sent it in.  A few days later, I had the first interview.

I’m not the kind of person that prepares a ton for interviews.  Sure, I think about it a bit, but mostly I just try to get myself in the right frame of mind.  Part of that is how I present myself.  I had been told that even though this interview process was for inside candidates only, we should come in dressed in more formal attire.  Sure, I have dress shirts and dress pants, but it wouldn’t hurt me to have a few more so I went out and picked out a few along with some ties to match.  Honestly, I think I spent more time on my wardrobe than I did on actual prep for the interview.

The first interview was set after hours, so I was all dressed up with nowhere to go for the day.  I worked at my desk and suffered the slings and arrows of my workmates as they needled me about the new clothes and the interview.  They were great and kept me grounded, which is probably what I needed.  About 30 minutes prior to the interview, I started to get nervous.  Throat was getting dry and I could sense the butterflies in my stomach.  It was definitely showtime.

I walked into a conference room with about seven people in it.  Most of the managers in my department, plus the director.  They’re a fun bunch so it wasn’t very intimidating, but they’re also smart so you never know how deep the questions are going to get.  I recalled my very first interview at ye olde online retailer, and how tough some of the questions were.

I sat down and was handed a sheet of paper. On the sheet of paper was a description of what the director was looking for out of this new manager, and below that there were a number of scenarios that I should try to cover in my interview.  I was told to read it, think about it and respond.  I had brought a notepad with me so I immediately started taking notes about what I might want to say about it all.  I was being given an opportunity to form my thoughts so I took it.

One thing became clear to me almost immediately, there was a thread throughout most of the scenarios.  The thing that unified them was communication and relationship building.  Realizing that, I knew exactly how to respond to the group assembled before me.  Having been part of a support team that was heavily involved in both communication and relationship building at USA Today, this was definitely within my bailiwick.

I gave a longish monologue on the scenarios, tying them together with the thread I’d found.  There were a few followup questions, and I answered them as best I could.  I know I could have probably answered better in a couple of instances, but I don’t think my answers were bad… just unrefined.  The really tough questions are the ones asking to relate a specific experience.  I can definitely think up examples, but I’m not always the best storyteller so I have to constantly watch out for those moments when I go off on tangents.

As the interview was winding down, I only asked one question that I remember.  I asked the manager currently supporting one of the departments being merged what the situation was like in that department.  I had thought about some other questions, but none of them seemed all that important in the end, and I didn’t want to waste interview time with them.

After all the interviews had been conducted, I learned that I had been chosen as one of two candidates for the next round of interviews.  Apparently, my threads sewed it up for me.  (Ugh… that’s bad…  threads and sew… I can’t believe I just wrote that.)