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Changing positions? How should you prepare for it?

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Question: “I have an interview for an executive assistant to the city manager, which is an excellent opening for me. I would like some input from others on questions that may come up in the panel interview, pointers, questions I should ask and any web sites that may be helpful. I know what to do after the interview, but it’s always the before that I have trouble with.”


Do your homework. Go on the website, read everything the City Manager does, look at the set up in the office, read everything about the city - you will gain your questions from there. Good Luck!

Be prepared to answer questions that make you define your potential value to the organization. They already know your technical skills are acceptable because they wouldn't be interviewing you if they weren't. Tell them how your skills relate to their work and how you can make the organization better.

Be prepared to describe circumstances where you faced obstacles and overcame them...where you made an error and had to correct it...where you worked on a team and contributed something specific to it...where you managed a significant project and brought it to successful completion.

You will be asked to discuss your most significant weakness. Identify it, then say specifically what you do to overcome or compensate for it.

You will likely be asked where you see yourself in five years.

Keep in mind that you are also interviewing the city manager. Don't presume to take control of the interview process, but ask the city manager about her working and management styles, then describe how your styles fit well with hers to accomplish the mission. Ask her what she is specifically looking for in an assistant, then (assuming her expectations suit you) tell her how you will meet them.

Make eye contact frequently. Don't ramble on and on. Know when to shut up.

Also be prepared to answer questions about why you want to leave your present job. You do not want to say anything negative (nothing about not making enough money or personality conflict with your supervisor, etc.) Be positive; you like your present job, but you feel the need to explore other opportunities becaue (fill in the blank). The two previous posts are excellent as well. Working for a city manager sounds pretty exciting to me. The only possible downside: city managers have contracts with the cities they "manage" and if the city decides not to renew the manager's contract, you may be without a job unless you have civil service status. When you research the city site, find out how many city managers the city has had, and how long they held the job. This could be valuable information as you go through the interview process.

I have worked at a few positions for a City. If it isn't a City that you know a lot about, check the newspapers. See what issues are going on (budget, environmental . . . ). You would be in the thick of that. Also, you would most likely be working a lot with perhaps City Council Members, the Mayor and most definitely the public (taxpayers). You would be in a very key position that could be very challenging. I found it difficult in certain City positions to work with the public because they are the taxpayers. But that is just my personality. Some people have a more extrovert personality and really thrive on that. I enjoyed my time at the City. Good luck to you!

I agree with many suggestions listed above. Please do your research on your local government. It would be good to know the names of the Mayor, the City Council Members, and important topics of interest in your community. Be prepared, attend a public session of the City Council one evening and see what's going on in the community. During the interview, can you imagine how you would impress them if you were to compliment the City Manager on the great presentation he/she gave at the meeting or comment on the article where he/she was quoted?! That would make you stand out above the rest of the candidates. Also, afterwards, send a thank you note to the person that you interviewed with. It's one more time that the person sees your name cross their desk and it can really make a good impression (good manners never go out of style). Good luck!

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