Interviews are intimidating. Preparation can alleviate some of the stress, but it is difficult to pre-empt the interview style you will face once inside the ‘interrogation’ room. And an interview should never feel like one is being cross examined. Candidates need to convert the Q and A quiz into a productive conversation by personalising their performance and leave a lasting impression.
Every interviewer should have two goals when shaping their interviews; make the candidate feel comfortable, and extract a full understanding of the candidates capabilities. However some interviewers lack experience and confidence and find security in a structured and objective Q and A style interview. This may not allow your character and full repertoire of abilities to shine through so why rely on your potential employer to set the scene when you too have the ability to influence the conversation?
When initiating relationships in business, we all need an ice breaker, some small talk if you like. You need to express yourself in a genuine manner that allows your individuality to shine through. Having a few preamble questions ready can help to break down that awkwardness two parties may feel when forced to meet for the first time. Kind of like a blind date! Before you even reach the interview room you may make mention of how stunning their offices are and ask where the inspiration for the design came from. Not your typical “How has your day been?” question, but that’s great. You want to stand out from the crowd. When you ask the unanticipated you capture ones attention so naturally they become curious to learn more about you. It’s a great way to get them to toss away their script and get more personal with you.
Of course you want to demonstrate your respect for your interviewer, so allow them to lead the conversation. And most importantly, listen! Subtle points made intentionally or unintentionally may allow you to inject your knowledge of the company. But if not immediately, use your non-verbal cues. Demonstrating self-assurance, maintaining eye contact, leaning towards the interviewer and using your usual hand gestures will help to put the nervous interviewer at ease. You too will appear relaxed and a natural conversation will soon flow. These are all basics that will allow your character to shine through and when the interviewer sees that you are approachable and engaging, you will make a more powerful impression.
Scenario based questions are a natural fall back for interviewers who find comfort with structure and they are great at prompting you to explain how you would perform in certain situations, but don’t stay within the hypothetical. Relate your real life accomplishments to that same situation. For example, if asked how you would manage a grievance with a customer whose product was faulty, don’t give a fictional response. Respond by saying, “Can I tell you about a time when I was able to turn an upset customer into a beaming repeat patron?” Actual performance with demonstrated positive results is what the interviewer is seeking, even if their interview style doesn’t readily draw that response out of you. And always stay focused on your past actions. So many of us make the mistake of responding to interview questions by saying, “Well, to overcome that situation we decided to…”. While the interviewer may be impressed with how your current employer overcame a challenge, they ultimately want to know the role you played in making a successful difference.
Ideally you will want to inject your industry knowledge into the interview. If your finding the questions are too formal, take the conversation from the stilted, unnatural tone to a more considered and interesting discussion. For instance, if asked the standard, “Why do you want to work for this company?” inject a few questions yourself. Enquire about the company’s community involvement and relate it to your own philanthropic experiences. They will see your values align. Question how the company overcame strong market challenges from competitors and note opportunities present to break into overseas markets. They will notice your savvy, in-depth market knowledge and passion to propel the company forward. And instantly you begin to dictate the flow of the conversation through your questions. Naturally your passion will shine through too and this is when the conversation takes on a personal touch. It is also when the interviewer realises that they need someone with your drive and experience on their team.
It’s a fact that some interviewers and interview styles do not allow candidates to ‘sell’ themselves in the best light. Yet if you know how to subtly take control of an interview, you can soon persuade the company to sell themselves to you. And the best way to get your interviewer excited about you is for you to tell them all about you! Don’t rely on their checklist of questions to bring out your achievements. Drive the conversation yourself! Take that boring Q and A and turn it into a conversation by asking your own questions! It’s as simple as that.