Change Your Tactics:
Most candidates rattle off their life story, going through every job they’ve had since they delivered papers in Junior High. Not only does this fail to help you demonstrate subject matter expertise in an interview, it bores the interviewer to death. Worse yet, it wastes valuable time for you to interview the company and make an impression as a leader. If you could take control of the interview, would you try a different tactic?
So how do you interview the company?
- Ask questions – Lots of them. Especially ask questions where you already know the answer, based on your research. For instance, let’s say you’re a Director of IT, interviewing with a public company that stated in its last 10Q that they plan on growing 25% per year. Could you ask “If your President predicts 25% annual growth, how does that affect IT systems? Are your internal systems prepared to handle that growth? What implications does that growth have on IT, on IT security?” Alternatively, you could ask “what bottlenecks exist that could prevent or delay 25% growth?”
- Know the answers before you ask – Of course, you’ll want to make some advance guesses to the answer, so that you can next comment “Oh that’s interesting, I solved that problem at Company X by doing Y”. Do that 2 or 3 times, and you’ve uncovered a company’s top initiatives, problems, and risks. Better yet, you’ve subtly shown that you’ve been there and done that. All of a sudden, you’re the leading candidate, because you’ve shown foresight to anticipate the companies issues….and, by the way, you’ve already solved their problems for prior employers.
- Regain control – If the interviewer tries to gain control of the interview, take it back. Answer the question very quickly, don’t go into details, and quickly ask a related question back to the interviewer.
Let’s say you get a pat interview question (hiring managers use these as filler, HR use these because they don’t always know detailed technical questions to ask) like “What’s your greatest professional challenge?” As long as you’re not going for a job in PR, you could answer something like “Public speaking – I’m taking classes to improve. What are the companies (or department’s) greatest challenges?” Or “I see that industry reports project a downturn in your markets. What is the company doing to prepare? What implications do those plans have on department X? If you aren’t able to pull off this strategy, what’s plan B? What are the implications if this strategy doesn’t work?”
Of course, you’re not going to ask these kinds of detailed questions of HR, unless you’re interviewing for an HR job. So what do you take control of an interview from a HR interviewer who asks “Where do you see your career in 5 years?” Here’s a time when can work to answer a question with a question. Could you try… “It depends…where do you see the company in 5 years?”
In an interview you can own it, and set the tone of your leadership…or let the interviewer own you.
Which do you think will work better for you?
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