Forever interviewing: Why it pays to keep your interview skills sharp

Jul 25, 2023

5 mins

Forever interviewing: Why it pays to keep your interview skills sharp

You’ve emerged victorious from numerous rounds of interviews and finally secured your dream job. A wave of relief washes over you. The most challenging hurdle has been crossed, and now it’s time to get down to business. However, unless you foresee a lifetime tenure in this very role, interviewing remains an unavoidable part of your professional journey, be it for progression within this company or a transition to another. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect; honing interview skills is no exception. Indeed, some career gurus advocate for continuous interviewing—even in the throes of job satisfaction.

To learn more about the benefits of regular interviewing and why you should never get too comfortable at work, we spoke with Senior Recruiter Aislinn “Ace” Haggerty. She shares why you should keep the interview train rolling, how it helps you stay in the loop on what’s happening in the job market, and how to regularly interview without compromising your current job.

The benefits of interviewing year round: practice makes progress

Everyone knows the nervousness that can happen before an interview; if it’s been a while, it could be enough to rattle your confidence. The best way to combat it? Get comfortable with interviewing by doing it often. “[Regular interviewing] keeps you practiced in confidently telling your story.” Haggerty begins. She points out that by interviewing regularly, even when you have a job, you lessen the added stress of needing a new role. “When you interview without the urgency of having to find a job, you start to tell your story more confidently, and you can begin to refine it.”

Going into an interview with confidence has a ripple effect of benefits beyond landing the job. With the stakes low and your story perfected, you give yourself a better platform for negotiation. “When you don’t need a new job, you can better advocate for yourself, judge the opportunity more objectively, and determine if it’s the right role for you.” Haggerty points out.

She continues, “My father always told me: ‘The best day to look for a job is the day you start one.’ I used to think this was callous, but over time, I realized he meant that situations, jobs, and lives can change overnight, and it is wise to keep your options open.”

How should you tackle regular interviewing?

Even if you love your job, there’s no harm in seeing what’s out there. Regular interviewing doesn’t need to be formal; sometimes, it can just look like a conversation.

However, Haggerty notes not to let it become a free for all where you’re willing to talk to anyone about anything. It’s critical to know what you value, what’s a ‘yes’, and what’s a ‘no’. “I am the kind of person who is open to most conversations about a potential role. I have a few hard and fast rules against types of corporations, industries, or job structures that are ‘no’s for me, but beyond that, I believe that most conversations are worth it,” she mentions.

Haggerty also says to keep in mind that even if a conversation doesn’t lead to a new job, it could help expand your network and help keep your options open. “Whether or not an initial conversation leads to a job, it does lead to a new connection and a wider network. Even if it’s not the right role for you, it could be perfect for a friend,” she says.

The most valuable reason to interview regularly

When you stay at the same company for a long time, you might develop blinders to what else is out there, how other places operate, and what you could be missing. Haggerty believes regular interviewing is a crucial way to stay on top of your market value and industry trends. “If you go several years without interviewing, you may have no idea what the change in value is for salary, benefits, or flexibility,” she begins.

Regular interviewing prevents you from getting stagnant and complacent so that you can stay in the loop of what’s happening in your industry. “[Regular interviewing] keeps you knowledgeable on what to expect and what to negotiate for when you are ready to look for a role, and you get familiar with the natural ebb and flow of demand on particular roles; this becomes very helpful in knowing when the best time to make a move is,” Haggerty states.

“An interview is not a promise—just because we go on a date, it doesn’t mean we’re going to get married.”

Are there any ethical concerns about interviewing when you’re not actively looking for a job?

If you’re loyal to your company, regular interviewing might feel sneaky and like something you’re doing behind your employer’s back. It could also feel wrong to waste a recruiter’s time if you aren’t invested.

According to Haggerty, being honest and upfront is the best route, and will work to your benefit. “Saying you are ‘not actively looking but open to conversations’ is a good sign to most recruiters. We’re looking for someone who is doing well and happy in their role and looking to elevate to the next step,” she affirms. And keep in mind, the recruiter or the person interviewing you is coming with that same energy, too. As Haggerty puts it, “An interview is not a promise—just because we go on a date, it doesn’t mean we’re going to get married.”

So where do you draw the line? Haggerty says to stop at two interviews if you have no intention of moving forward. “Politeness and responsiveness go a long way even if you are declining. And if not right for you, recommending a friend or colleague is a great way to soften that blow,” she says.

How do you balance regular interviewing with your current job commitments?

With working from home being the new normal, there’s no need to suspiciously extend your lunch break for an interview. Haggerty says you can use this to your advantage to interview without letting your responsibilities in your current job slide. “This is one of many reasons I’m a huge fan of remote work. Every employee should be able to fit interviews into their schedule within reason,” Haggerty says.

Again, she notes to be mindful of someone’s time: yours, the recruiters, and the time of your current company. “If you are not actively looking, I recommend a call or video chat so that you’re not taking time away from your current job for one you’re not certain about. If a company insists on all in-person interviews and you’re not actively looking, I would politely decline.”

Key takeaways: why you should be interviewing year round

Interviewing year-round is advantageous for many reasons, but it does require a proper approach and the right mindset. Here are the main things to keep in mind when interviewing year-round.

Follow your instincts. Regular interviewing doesn’t necessarily mean saying “yes” to every single opportunity that comes your way. “Several of the jobs I’ve ended up in have been because of jobs I’ve said no thank you to,” Haggerty notes.

But don’t shut yourself out, either. Cast your net wide and keep your mind open when it comes to having conversations about new opportunities. Haggerty says, “I recommend my coaching clients begin exploring options widely, practice networking and telling their story, and follow their intuition on how the conversation feels until they find the one that checks all the boxes.”

Lead with honesty and integrity. Be upfront about your intentions. Let the interviewer know if you’re not actively seeking a new role. Remember to be respectful of their time (and yours!) and cap yourself at two interviews if it’s not going to go any further. Work interviews in between the responsibilities of your current role, and don’t take time away from your current company to network.

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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