In today’s blogosphere littered with self-help articles and how-to guides, finding the right piece of interviewing advice can be both exhausting and elusive. So what’s the single most important piece of interview advice that I can give?
MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND THE QUESTIONS
Sound simple, right? Not so much. Even the most dedicated planner may find him or herself caught off guard by a clever question. It is not a good feeling to reflect back on the interview thinking I should have answered their question differently…or mentioned this…or I completely forgot about that! Rather than giving a long-winded, meandering response to a tricky question, your first instinct should be to take a pause and try to understand why the interviewer is asking that question in the first place. In addition, you want to know what they are seeking in a good response. How do we find this out?
CLARIFY THE QUESTIONS
While some people have been coached to be the interviewee, most have never been trained to take on the role of interviewer. They are busy, they barely had time to look at your resume and, while they have an idea of what they want, the reality is they’re most likely winging it. So what does that mean for you? You need to steer the interview.
Here are three examples of how to do just that:
Clarify Vague Questions
Many times the first question is something open-ended like the all too familiar “Tell me about yourself.” How should you approach a question with so many different ways to respond? Should you focus on something technical like your achievements? Should you hone in on your personality and overall fit? What you should do is counter these kinds of prompts with clarifying questions. This will enable you to tailor your response to get to the root of the question and why it’s actually being asked. Try this next time: “Do you want the 30-second rendition or should I walk you through my resume?” Pay close attention when they provide you with their answer as this will clue you into their personality type and provide insight as to what type of response they are looking for. Do they value conciseness? Are they concerned with elaborative details?
Give More Examples and then Ask Them to Pick
In those instances where you’re asked to give an example of a challenging situation that you overcame or a project you’ve worked on within your field, you should counter to show you want to customize the answer to be relevant towards the position and its needs. Offer short snippets of three great examples, and ask your interviewer which one they want you to expand upon. In this situation, by providing multiple examples, it establishes that you have the requisite experience being sought and it allows you to hone in precisely on what they are looking for in an ideal candidate.
Always Ask Questions
Never leave without asking questions. Generally, people, including your interviewers, enjoy talking about themselves. That person has been in a room listening to others talk about themselves, and, ultimately, they’ll be deciding if they want to work with you. In order to build some genuine rapport, ask them what attracted THEM to the company/role? What makes them want to stay? What do they like the most? What do they like the least? What goals are they looking to achieve short-term and long-term? And most importantly – what problems/challenges would they like this person to help them solve and what does it take to be successful here? Make sure you truly understand the role you’ll play and make sure that they understand how you will serve as an asset in helping the organization accomplish its goals.
Do not let yourself enter post-interview regret over things that were left unsaid or questions that could have been answered better. Pause, take a breath, and allow yourself to unpack open-ended questions by asking clarifying questions, offering multiple examples, and by querying the interviewer to gauge personality type and fit. Following these steps will not only help you steer the interview but will also position you as a stronger, more memorable candidate.