Taking control of your next job interview

Take charge of your job interviews and reap huge rewards

First impressions count is never more appropriate than when you’re in an interview setting.  Traditionally, they are a chance to present your best self and impress the interviewer, losing sight of whether or not they are making an effort to impress you.

Things need to change, starting by taking charge of your own interview.  Forbes contributor, J.Maureen Henderson discusses this topic in-depth and says it begins with flipping your thinking. Ask yourself how the hottest, most in-demand candidate, one who had been head-hunted relentlessly for months, would treat this meeting. It’s not (only) about impressing the hiring manager, she says, it’s about using your face-to-face time to determine if this is the job for you. The interview is your shot at evaluating whether or not you want to work for this employer, so your approach to the interaction should be built around helping you to answer this question.

Henderson suggests three strategies to ensure you’re interviewing like a true boss.

  1. Make sure you’re connecting to the power players

You want to make sure the interview is conducted by someone who not only has the experience and skills to accurately evaluate your skills and experience, but who can provide relevant insight on company culture, answer role-specific questions you might have, etc. If the company has the tactic of pre-screening you by a junior employee, there’s no need to bang on the table and demand to see the CEO. Simply ask about the next steps involved in the hiring process and whether those include meeting your potential boss and colleagues. You want to make it clear that determining fit is critical to you and the only way to make that determination is by talking to those you’d be working with most closely.

  1. Pivot to your talking points

What format does the interviewer use when meeting you? Are they just running through a standard script, uncomfortable deviating from it, even when one of your answers fairly begs for a follow up?  Are the questions so generic that your gut tells you there’s no way anyone could get a sense of your true value from the answers?

It’s time to take control. Answer what the interviewer asked and then spin their bland enquiry to your strengths — “Here’s my experience doing A. I also think B is critically important in this role and here’s why.” Your goal isn’t to answer the interviewer’s questions better than all the other candidates, but to use those questions as a springboard to exploring what differentiates you from the others.

  1. Make your questions count

As time is limited, there’s only so much you can ask within the interview, so don’t waste time chit-chatting. If you’re serious about figuring out if this job is a good fit for you, ask questions that are to the point and shed some light on the company’s operations. If you’re interviewing at a place that you know has just undergone a round of layoffs, don’t shy away from addressing that. If this is a new role, ask about why it was created. You want to know if there’s been real thought given to how your work would integrate with that of other members of the team or if someone just complained long and loud enough that the firm finally decided to advertise for a new project manager to keep the peace. Don’t be combative, but be frank and curious.

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