Aug
05

Take Charge of Your InterviewRobert Priddy

Taking charge of your interview is based on your ability to get the interviewer to tell you what to say.

Most of my clients have a few jitters when it comes to an interview. As I was coaching a client recently and offering words of encouragement she commented, "It's easy to practice interview with you Bob because you lead me into the answers." 

I paused for a moment and this was my reply... It's not about leading you into your answers as much as it is about forcing you to answer more succinctly, which in turn forces me, the interviewer, to ask more questions. This is the secret to controlling an interview, but perhaps more importantly, to facilitating a great interview, which I would define by your ability to:
  1. Clearly understand the most important questions that need to be answered.
  2. Provide the right answer to those important questions.
  3. Say only what needs to be said without digression
The secret is this. First, lean to speak in vignettes, that is short but complete bursts of information that are around 30-60 seconds in length. Occasionally you may need to expand on that, but keep the organization the same with a beginning, a middle and an end. Consider it this way, the statement of a problem, how the problems was successfully addressed and the result of the problem's resolution. 

So, for example, you're asked to describe your management style. 

"I see management's responsibility as one part teaching and education and one part inspiration. Whereas I may or may not be able to provide direct instruction to a staff member, I see it as my responsibility to make sure each member of the team has the training and educational resources to be constantly improving and growing in their ability. If I can directly provide that instruction, great, but if not, I need only be a facilitator to show my commitment. However, I must also set the example by showing staff how I am learning and growing in my abilities and my knowledge as well. In the past, by creating that culture of constant development and improvement, I've been able to not only accomplish the goals placed before me and my team, but I've also garnered great respect from my staff and helped many of them advance very successfully both in the organization and in their careers." 

There, in 156 words or about 52 seconds, I've stated a philosophy or style, explained a purpose and illustrated an outcome. I've also now hit the ball back into the court of the interviewer. She may ask me to describe some of the staff development initiatives I've taken or to elaborate on some other element of my response, or she may be completely satisfied with my answer and move to a different line of questioning. 

The second secret is this. I've learned that management style or approach is likely important in the organization. If I'm asked to elaborate on some element of my response I'm learning more specifically and more emphatically that some specific element of management style is most important. And next, if the question is closed and we move on, then I'm fairly confident that I've answered correctly in terms of a desirable organizational approach to management. 

The third secret is this. If I'm asked to elaborate on a part of my response, I should do so with facts rather than opinions - to the extent I am capable. Then, follow up with a direct question about the organization and how it handles, values, etc, that issue.

For example, if I'm asked to elaborate on my approach to staff education, I might say, "I have conducted numerous classes on SUBJECT X and with this result." Or, I might say, "I always have one staff member attend an educational program on any new SUBJECT MATTER introduced to the group to become the team expert." Once answered, I can then ask, "Is staff education seen as an important management responsibility here?" I can then further ask how it is managed, funded, etc... all contingent on the importance my interviewer places on her response. 

So, by sticking to the subject and answering succinctly without digression and critically listening to how my statement is received, I'm able to understand what is important to the organization and then to double-down with my follow up responses to make sure I'm saying just the right things and asking the right questions. Practice this process in a mock interview with a friend or spouse. What you'll find is after a bit of practice, your interviewer will be unknowingly leading you to address the issues he/she wants you to address and you'll be providing just the information they want to hear. 

Following this process will put you in control of the interview in a positive and informative way. Being in control isn't about being pushy, it's about being inquisitive and responsive. 

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