My first real job interview was for a retail sales position at a brand new Cabela’s store when I was a sophomore in high school. I had held a few other minor jobs, but none that required a formal hiring process. I interviewed in the middle of the Minnesota winter, and still remember how shivering in the icy air masked my nervous jitters. I had spoken with my dad and my grandpa in preparation, but remained somewhat uncertain. There was a lot of competition, and kids from the surrounding towns were also vying for spots. I wasn’t sure how to make the best impression or how to manage the interview, and I feared coming across as inexperienced as I felt. Somehow, I got the job.
Chances are, you remember your first interview experience too. Were you nervous? Hopefully, it turned out well! In any case, I’m sure your second interview experience felt much different, because you had a better idea of what to expect. Consequently, you felt more confident and less uncomfortable.
“All things are difficult before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the goal of this post is to help you toward that same comfort and confidence relative to building your Personal Board of Directors. I want to provide you with a little insight on meeting ‘dos and don’ts’ so that you can put your best foot forward. There are five areas you should pay special attention to related to a meeting with one of your (potential) personal board members.
- What to Bring – These first suggestions should not come as a surprise: A pen and paper, and your written list of questions. I know I’ve mentioned this several times, but I cannot stress it enough: Come prepared to ask good questions and take notes. If my own insistence is insufficient, perhaps that of a well-known CEO will be more persuasive. Michael Hyatt is the Chairman and former Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson Publishers. He says, “Finally, when you are asking questions, take notes. It communicates tremendous respect for the person you are interviewing.” Also bring your wristwatch and some money. I’ll discuss the former in greater detail below. As for the later, it’s appropriate for you to be willing to foot the bill at the meeting. I’m not necessarily talking about dinner – I always meet over coffee. In truth, I rarely end up paying, but I’m always ready to do so out of gratitude for my (potential) board member’s time.
- How to Act – In addition to taking notes, take initiative. Define the direction of the meeting and demonstrate your intention to make the most of the time. Be careful not to monopolize the conversation – remember, you’re there to listen. However, it’s likely that your (potential) personal board member will expect you to set the tone, especially if it’s only your first or second meeting together. Your pre-prepared list of questions is your safety net. Use it to keep the meeting moving if things get slow.
- What to Say – Start by reminding your (potential) personal board member of your introductory email and why you wanted to meet together. Be sincere and succinct, and then give her a chance to respond. She may have a few clarifying questions based on your email. It’s ok to follow her lead if the conversation seems to be developing naturally. Otherwise, mention that you have prepared a few specific questions and move into the ones you find most interesting. Also, learn to be ok with silence. Once you pose a question, allow her time to consider her response. This also gives you time to think of follow up questions, as well.
- What NOT to Say – Steer clear of politics. This may seem obvious, but I’ve heard people mess it up, and I’ve waded in too deeply myself on occasion. Do not assume that you know your (potential) board member’s political persuasion or position on a given issue, unless that is one of the reasons you approached him. Otherwise, don’t initiate on this topic yourself, and steer the conversation away if your (potential) personal board member seems a little too unwary. If you don’t, you’re risking alienation and potential conflict. Note that this rule can be relaxed once you’ve laid the necessary groundwork and established a firm foundation for the relationship.
- Other Reminders – There are two final reminders. First, keep to your time. This is where that wristwatch comes in. You keep track of the time, and let your (potential) board member know when the amount you asked for is up – even if the conversation is going great. Let her be the one to initiate overtime. I recommend a watch because it’s easy to appear rude or distracted if you’re continuously checking your cell phone. Wearing a watch also connotes a higher level of maturity, especially if the person you’re meeting with is a baby-boomer, or older. Finally, always say thank you. Remember that her time is a gift to you.
I hope this post lends you a sense of insight and increases your confidence as you begin the process of building your ‘Personal Board of Directors.’ Be mindful of the five dos and don’ts noted, and you’ll avoid several significant pitfalls! If you’ve gotten this far, excellent job! You’re well on your way! The next post in this series will cover two critical questions you should make certain to ask before the end of the meeting.
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh post in a series dedicated to helping you learn to develop your own ‘Personal Board of Directors.’ If you found this post helpful, be sure not to miss the others – subscribe to this blog via the link in the upper right hand corner!
Leave a Comment: Are there any other important reminders I’ve overlooked? Are there any ‘pitfalls’ you’ve wandered into personally?