In my 20 years as a full-time executive recruiter, I've prepped more than 3,000 candidates on how to do a better job of interviewing. I discovered that those who actually applied these techniques got significantly higher rankings from the hiring managers than those who didn't. Here are the points that stand out year after year as the most important.
1. Take Control of the Interview Early
Most interviewers are not as prepared as they should be, nor as competent. Yet they all have a vote on who gets hired. Some ask overly technical questions, some make instant decisions, or bounce around asking questions that are irrelevant.
In these situations, candidates must take matters into their own hands by forcing the types of questions that are asked. For example, if you're a strong project manager and the interviewer is asking irrelevant questions, take control by asking something like, "Based on what you've said, it seems like there's a lot of system implementation work involved in this position. Is this true?" Wait for the reply, and if the interviewer agrees, describe something you've done that's comparable, including a detailed example.
Asking these types of forced-choice questions will ensure you're assessed properly.
2. Give Two Paragraph Answers
Assessing verbal communication skills is a big part of the interview, so how you answer questions is as important as the answers themselves. Forget the short 20 to 30 second answers. Interviewers get aggravated if they need to pry information out of the candidate.
Instead, most of your answers should be about one to two minutes long. Start with some type of general opening statement, then provide specific details, including dates, your role, the challenges faced, and what you accomplished. Add a hook at the end to keep the conversation going. A hook is a question like, "Is that what you were looking for regarding [topic]?"
Here's a video with more details on how to practice answering questions this way:
3. Prove Every Strength With a Specific Example
General statements about strengths, like "I'm a real problem-solver" or "I'm a strong team player," are meaningless and quickly forgotten.
However, you'll receive a different reaction entirely when you prove these statements with an actual example of an accomplishment that best demonstrates the strength. Hiring managers remember the accomplishment and, based on the details provided, conclude on their own if the candidate possesses the ability they're seeking.
Come up with an example to prove each of your strengths, then practice answering "The Most Important Interview Question of All Time" before your next interview.
4. Convert "Having" Into "Doing" to Frame Your Answers
When opening a new job requisition, I suggest recruiters ask hiring managers to describe how the specific skills listed are used on the job. For example, 10 years of advanced high speed servo control design experience converts to: "Lead the field testing of reusable rocket engine systems."
Candidates can ask the same question when the interviewer seems to be posing generic, technical questions. Of course, you still have to prove you can do the work required, but at least by determining the actual need, the proof is relevant.
This type of approach also helps the candidate better understand what the work is all about and if he or she even wants to do it.
5. Ask Meaningful Questions to Demonstrate Your Insight and Company Knowledge
The best questions are developed by being prepared.
As part of this, review the LinkedIn profiles of everyone you'll be meeting, review the other jobs the company has posted, and read as much as you can about the company, its strategy, and how the job you're interviewing for fits in. This will give you a great foundation for asking meaningful business-oriented questions and demonstrating the depth of your preparation. Both are essential if you want to stand out as a special candidate.
6. Use a Trial Close to Determine if You're in the Game
If you're not sure how the interview is going, ask another forced-choice question like, "Based on what we've discussed, are there any areas where you're unsure if I have the skills or experience to handle this job?" This is called discovery, and this type of question will not only demonstrate your confidence but also your ability.
Getting an interview is tough enough. Don't assume you'll be properly assessedonce there. Instead, take the default position that you'll need to take matters into your own hands by practicing and mastering the tips above. While they won't help you get a job you don't deserve, they will help you get one you do.