Change management interview

Nailing a Change Management Interview

Published on 21st July 2021

Ambition’s change expert, Paul McCann, partnered with Change Manager and Consultant, Jane Waterson, to dig into exactly how to ace your change management interview.

The full video of their chat via live webinar is available below, and here is a blog summarising their discussion.

To ace a change management interview, there are basically two things you need to get right.

Firstly, outstanding preparation.

Secondly, you need to ace your interview.

Let’s deal with both of those subjects in order!

Preparation is everything

Like the old saying goes,

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”.

Preparation for an interview falls into two broad camps:

  1. Understanding the company and who is interviewing you.

  2. Understanding the job, your experience, and how you’re going to bridge between the two.

Firstly, you need to get across point one. Here goes…

Seek to understand as much about the people interviewing you as possible:

- How long have they worked at the company, their academic background, their interests outside of work (if possible to find).

- Can you find any shared ground?

Understand the company:

- Look at their balance sheets / annual statements.

- Look at their press statements and news in the media about them.

- Read their values statements and other material about their purpose / approach to business.

Understand as much as you can about the culture of the organisation:

- Glassdoor is a good way to do this, as it’s not media or propaganda. You can hear what other people who have engaged with the company say about it, straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

Other tips:

- LinkedIn stalking who is interviewing you is a good thing. It shows you are keen and that you are prepared. Maybe even send a connection request before or after, saying hi and looking forward to it!

Specific change-related things to understand:

- Understand change culture of the organisation. Have there been any changes to the leadership team? Any negative news?

- Understand any relevant market trends. For example financial institutions have a lot of regulatory change going on due to the Royal Commission – the same applies to the energy sector.

- Look at other similar project or change professionals who work at the company, check out their backgrounds. This can give you an insight into that company’s approach to running change.

Key Takeaways.

Being prepared is the secret to success. Seek out knowledge about who is interviewing you and the company.

Connect the dots! Weave together your values and experiences with the shared values of the company .

Build relationships with the hiring manager through shared interests or common ground. Not only will this help you be successful in the interview, it’s one of the fundamental building blocks in being successful in change management.

How to remain credible while selling yourself

These are big questions. In the full video, Jane and I break this down step by step.

If you’re in the change space and are applying for a new role, there’s often a gap between your skills/experience and the level of the job you are applying for. Typically people aim a level or two up when they job search. For example, Senior Change Analysts may be looking to step up into a Change Manager role and may not have worked extensively on end-to-end change strategies before. People are often not sure how to bridge this gap. The good news is, that’s very achievable. It’s heavily linked to preparation, which we have broken down into a three stage process:

  1. Understand the job and the competencies required to do the job.

  2. Understand your relevant skills and experience when compared to the job description.

  3. Work out the gaps and how you will bridge this using transferable skills.

Understand the job description and the competencies/skills required.

Look at the job description and understand the core competencies required for the job you are applying for. Make a list of the critical/essential requirements and break it down into competencies and deliverables. Competencies will be things like communication, stakeholder management, organisation, prioritisation et al. Deliverables or tasks will be things like change impact assessments, communication artefacts, designing training material et al.

Understand your relevant skills and experience when compared to the job description.

Compare/contrast between your own experience and the skills you have shown. Prepare based on this. Come up with examples of your own skills and experience and make sure you know it well. Being credible and showing integrity is owning what you have done and the skills you have.

Work out where the gaps are and how you will bridge this.

This all links to Transferable Skill and Growth Mentality. Change management is entirely agnostic and works across everything. It’s a skill set job. Skills you have shown in previous roles can therefore apply for other ones. This is where Transferable Skills come in. Here are some simple steps as to how to identify these:

- Connect the dots between the competencies required for the job and where you have demonstrated those skills before.

- Look at job adverts online and work out where the skills you have apply to the competencies in those jobs.

- Your previous experience may be transferable as well. For example, you may be interviewing for a role delivering a specific ERP system. You may only have experience delivering a different type of ERP system. Don’t fear, as the skills required to deliver both systems are the same, and one IT system is similar to another. It is usually just different language or jargon involved.

- Change management is a people-focused job and career; you’ve probably been working with people in your career already, so will likely have lots of examples where you’ve been showing the skills required in change.

Questions to ask yourself about your experience to help understand your transferable skills:

- Did you help people with new processes or system?

- Did you help your team with training?

- Did you document any new processes?

- Did you manage difficult communications with people?

If you’ve done any of these things, you will have already been showing the transferable skills required to work in change, or to step into a new change role.

Growth mentality.

Position yourself as someone who wants to learn, grow, and is committed to the path you are taking. Understand your own personal story or journey and why this has led you to this interview. This can separate you from other candidates (along with the commitment and preparation piece).

Key Takeways.

Remember everyone who is in change management has started somewhere. Everyone has a ‘previous’ life and career, which is entirely transferable to the ‘new’ world.

The key is preparation. Prepare examples based on the competencies linked to your own experience and skills, using the structure listed above.

Growth mindset - the goal is to demonstrate to the interviewer that you are someone who has passion and the ability to learn new things quickly. Preparing solid examples of where you have done this is a great way to bridge gaps.

Nailing your interview

Alright, you’ve made it to the big show. The interview. Now you want to smash it out of the park in either person or via video-conference. Jane and I recommend you use a very simple approach to do this:

  1. Understand the two types of interview questions.

  2. Use the CAR or STAR approaches in your answers.

Firstly, there are two types of interview questions.

Competency.

Close-ended. Aimed at understanding how you have demonstrated a relevant skill/competency.

Biographical.

Open ended. All about understanding you, your journey, and why you’re interested in the job.

Secondly, the way you answer these questions stays the same.

  • STAR approach: Situation, Task, Action, Result, or the

  • CAR approach: Context, Action, Result.

You can use either, as they are pretty similar but I like CAR. So simple and uses one less letter.

Context.

Imagine the interviewer knows nothing about you or what you have done as a change professional. This section allows you to paint the picture / set the scene. You want to explain the following:

- What your job title was, who you reported to and who you were working with.

- What were you working on – what specific project, what was the goal, who was it impacting.

- The stakeholder group you were working with.

- As much qualitative and quantitative information as you deem necessary.

Your context section should be relevant to the question asked.

Action (or responsibilities).

Steps you took, things you did to solve a problem or deliver an outcome, such as:

- Ways that you managed stakeholders.

- Actions you took to overcome problems.

- Change deliverables you delivered i.e. change impact analysis, process maps, communications documents/artefacts.

- Difficult or challenging conversations you’ve managed.

Results (or outcomes).

All the measures for return on investment you or the project (or both) have delivered:

- Cost savings.

- Efficiencies created.

- User satisfaction.

- User uptake.

- NPS score increased.

Key Takeways.

No matter what type of interview question you get asked, link it back to CAR or STAR…. You can trust the structure – embrace it!

Be concise and don’t ramble. Every minute of an interview is vital and this is your shot!

Don’t forget context or outcomes. A typical mistake people make is to tell stories that focus on actions only.

What about if you get nervous?.

Firstly, that’s not actually a problem. In fact, it’s a good thing. It shows you are engaged and want to be in the interview.

Top tips to solve nerves:

- Have some simple questions prepared in the event there are awkward silences.

- Breathing techniques are really useful – such as the Wim Hof Method. These are amazing to settle nerves before an interview.

- Remind yourself it’s totally cool to have some nerves… in fact, this is a good thing. It shows you’re excited about the role!

Questions about change methodologies.

Take a fit to purpose approach when deciding what Change Methodology to talk about. The best methodology is the one that fits to the example or situation. Don’t speak in the theoretical or sound too ‘textbook’. Ensure you are linking your examples of change methodologies to where you have demonstrated it in real life. Link the usage of ‘technical’ terms in a methodology to colloquial ‘real life’ language.

How to take feedback.

This is pretty simple. Just be open to feedback after interviews. This is absolutely critical to help you improve, as it’ll shine the light on the things you’ve done well, along with where you could have improved.

Two golden rules:

  • Ask for feedback.

  • Listen to feedback.

If it’s not possible to get hold of feedback after an interview, the self-feedback loop is important. Think about:

- What you did well,

- What you could have improved,

- What you would do differently next time.​

You can watch the full recording of the webinar here:

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If you would like to discuss this topic further please contact, Paul McCann.