How To Guide The Interview

In my experience as a recruiter I have found that all too often candidates use a reactive approach to interviewing. In other words while they have a couple of questions they would like to ask, they tend to go into the interview with the intent to more or less “play it by ear” and try to answer what is asked. However, that is a very hit and miss way of doing things and without a structure or roadmap of what you want to accomplish during the interview you may not be able to get across to your interviewer why you are the right guy/gal for the job. So, to help you out a little bit in this aspect of the interview I would like to offer you a way you can have a little more influence over the direction of the interview and at the same time make it a more relaxed, conversational setting.

What I propose is a methodology of asking and answering questions that goes by the name Questions, Listen and Respond. QLR if used correctly can be a very effective tool to help you not only get the information you need to have to make an informed decision about a given company, but to also have an avenue through which you can get across to your interviewer/s why your skills and experiences are a match for what they are looking for and why they should hire you over anyone else. And in practice it works just like it sounds.

Typically I tell people to start by developing a list of five or ten questions they want to ask during the interview related both to what you need to know generally and what you know about what the company is looking for. These questions are sort of your route through the interview. You may end up taking a couple of side roads along the way, but they will serve as your primary focus and will give you a distinct path to follow. Now to put the methodology to use. Generally I tell people to start with general questions and work to the specific. So, you may start out with a question like “Tell me a little bit about the company overall and the way it approaches doing business”. From that you will (listen) get a kind of philosophical overview of the way the company sees itself. Well a good way to start the process of matching yourself up personally and professionally would be to respond to that information with a statement (if true) like “Well, that’s great! I am looking for a place that fosters that sort of environment. So, I think I would fit into you culture very well”. This little exchange has done two things for your. First it got you some information about the company that is important to you. Second you made sure they understand that you like what they have and that you think you would fit in. Next you might ask something more specific like” Tell me a little about the what you are looking for in terms of skills in the person who will fill this position”. The answer to this questions is obviously going to be a job description and it offer you an excellent chance to get across to them that you can do the job and want to be there. So, after listening to the answer you would respond with something like “Okay, so if I understand correctly you need someone who can do x, y and z. Great! I have spent five years doing pretty much exactly that and I really like what I do. It also sounds like it would offer me that chance to expand on my skills and learn some new things which is something I am really looking for in a new job”. Again you have gotten critical information you need to make a decision and have been able make sure they understand you are a match for their needs. And you can use this same format throughout the interview.

Now let’s say that the answer they give you is not quite as complete as you would like to have and you would like to get some more information from them. The easiest way to do that is simply to step off the prepared list of questions for a second and “piggyback” your next question onto the answer to your previous question. For example, you get a job description that says we are looking for someone to “x” but there are three different ways of doing “x”. So, you simply ask, “Does the company use a, b, or c way of doing things?” Here again if true, you would respond to this by saying something like “Oh good! That’s one of the methods I use. So , I should be able to hit the ground running for you”.  

Okay by this time I am sure you understand the mechanics of QLR. So let me point out what I think is the most important part of using this methodology, RESPOND. Why? Because if you don’t blow your own horn no one else is going to do it for you. The interview is your chance to make sure they know you are the person for the job and you’re only getting this one chance. Also bear in mind that your interviewer is not a psychic. They can’t read your mind. And you are going to have to clearly and proactively make sure that they understand that you can do the job, that you want to do the job, and that you want to be in their company. Another reason the respond part is so important is make sure you understand clearly everything they say. By repeating back a little of what they have told you you offer them the chance to correct you if you didn’t hear them correctly. Don’t make assumptions and don’t allow them to make assumptions either.

In closing let me offer this. In my 20 years of recruiting I have followed up on a lot of interviews and one of the things I have heard most often is that while an employer liked the candidate they weren’t sure if the candidate liked them. As a result they didn’t know whether to move forward with an offer or pursue a candidate who seemed more excited. So, don’t sit there like a stone leaving them to wonder.


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