Sometimes You Have to Throw Your Interviewer a Bone

by Brian Skory

I just read a Human Resource article that was alerting managers to the fact that they might be bad interviewers. And the fact is, many of them are. I don’t mean to criticize, but good interviewing techniques don’t always come naturally - they are often the result of reading lots of good articles on how to interview and lots of practice. But if you ever happen to be on the receiving end of a poor interview, it can be a little bit like being cheated. You had all kinds of value to present, and reasons for being a great fit for the role, but the interviewer’s questions just never gave you opportunity to present these. Likewise, the interviewer was cheated as well. Because he didn’t ask the right questions, your fit for the role is a big unknown in his mind, so he’s likely going to dismiss you and move on to the next candidate.

So, how do we make the best of an interview with an interviewer who isn’t asking the right questions? Answer the right questions anyway, even if they weren’t asked.

Although some interviewers try to get tricky and fancy with their questions, there are really only a handful they should be asking to put their minds at ease about the following:

  • Do you have the skills to do the job?
  • Do you have the motivation to continue growing in this position?
  • Will your contributions bring value to the company, whether through revenue generation, cost cutting, or contributing to efficiencies?
  • Will you be a culture fit for this company?
  • Are you more likely to bring drama or solutions to the party?

Ultimately, those are the things that are really important. So, if the interviewer's questions aren’t allowing you to provide those answers, then you’d better get to answering them anyway. Those are what’s going to stick in his or her mind and keep you on the radar as a likely good fit for the role. I recommend that you answer these questions on paper ahead of time, rehearse them, and bring them to the interview in a check-list of things you want to cover (including any questions you have about the company and the role). Yes, slipping them into the conversation will take a bit of finesse, but the results will be well worth it. And if you haven’t found an opportunity to insert these into the conversation by the time you are nearing the end of the interview, you can always utilize the “do you have any questions” portion of the interview to volunteer the information. For instance, you could ask:

  1. “How would you characterize the corporate or team culture here?” (The interviewer responds.) “Oh, that’s good to know because I think I fit in best with a culture that is…”
  2. “I understand that the baseline skills required to be considered for this role are X, Y and Z.” (The interviewer responds.) “Okay, I definitely have these skills (with some explanation) and I feel very comfortable that my experience with A will help me quickly come up to speed on B.”
  3. “What do you see as the trajectory for this role? Is it likely to advance technically? Is it likely to advance in terms of leadership potential?” (The interviewer responds.) “Oh, that’s good because I’m really looking to stay with a firm for a good long while and move into an XYZ role.”

We’d love to hear about your experience if you ever happen to have the opportunity to put the above into practice. And, as always, Stout Systems is always interested in hearing how your job search is going.
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