Make it a conversation.

That’s it. That’s the most important thing. Make your interviewer Joe have a good time; make your interviewer Joe enjoy himself in interviewing you. Make your interviewer Sally have something that she can say back at home to her spouse about how her day went. Make something you say able to be repeated by your interviewer Marcel at a cocktail party.

Make it a conversation.

Well, what do I mean “make it a conversation?” Specifically, I mean:

These may be a lot of bullet points to remember, but you don’t need to remember them. All you need to think about is “How can I make this into an interesting conversation?” I work with clients frequently on interview practice, specifically the interview start.

Two specific tips:

1) How to start the interview in a fun way

  • Ask the first question. Intrerviews follow a path of inertia once they get started. If the first question is to you, you’ve alredy turned the tides into a routine interview. So ask the first question. Ask about the company. Ask about the specific position. Learn something from the answer, and then address what you have learned in some of your follow on questions.
  • Be curious. You don’t know everything. No one expects you to. Ask for clarification when you need it.
  • If boxed into answering first, clarify the question to create a sense of back-and-forth.

2) How to have a conversation within a question

  • Clarify the question. If you’ve been asked something and you don’t want to fall into the routine, “Interviewer asks, interviewee answers,” then clarify the question.

    Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you’ve shown leadership.”

    YOU: “Would you like that to be in some recent experience or my overall largest example of such a time?”

    Interviewer: “An example from your current job would be great.”

    YOU: “Ok…”
  • “To answer this, could I first ask you a couple of things about [the position, the work environment, the projects]?”
  • Respond to conversational invitiations. Sometimes your interviewer Reggie may take an important call, and then after hanging up, may say, “That was from Operations. We’ve announced that we’re looking to buy a new plant.” Respond to this. Feel free to ask, “Is that good news or bad news?” Be open to these parts of the conversation.

2 Comments

  1. Posted Tuesday September 11, 2007 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Senia, this is great advice. The only problem is that most people do their jobs everyday but never describe it to themselves in an organized manner starting with the most general points and working down to the details.

    So when you ask them questions they have to start thinking on the spot which makes the conversation dull.

    The key in any interview is to come in knowing your main assets and having examples to back up your claims of expertise.

    In an interview you’re being cross examined and the stories are the evidence you are bringing forward.And the evidence can easily be called a story.

    They shouldn’t be dragged out and the have to have a clear point: illustrating an important aspect of your background.

    For instance, when you interview a project manager you have to see if she has the ability to resolve differences among team members. A candidate in an interview should immediately offer and example and tell the story in a concise way.

    The problem > solution process > results model works well.

  2. Posted Wednesday September 12, 2007 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Agreed, Recruiting Animal, that coming in knowing your stuff and telling great stories – just rocks.

    I also want to give everyone who reads this blog AN EDGE – a something that another candidate for the same job may not have.

    And that’s the knowledge that the interviewer wants to have a good time. If the interviewer feels good while interviewing you, then she will likely feel better TOWARDS you as a candidate as well (there are many references about recency bias and emotional contagion which can lead to the conclusion that emotions are often transfered onto the people in the immediate situation – i.e. if I’m happy in a conversation with you, I may think that being around you makes me happy).

    So telling the people reading this blog that they can have some edge is my goal. One edge that I’ve discovered is making the interview into a conversation.

    Recruiting Animal, just to emphasize, I completely agree about the great evidence stories and about knowing your stuff.

    Thanks much!