Saturday, January 16, 2010

Defensive Interviewing

"No one can offend you without your permission." -Eleanor Roosevelt

During your job hunt, you will come across an interviewer that rubs you the wrong way, maybe on purpose or maybe with their naturally grating interview techniques. Your job as an interviewee is to keep your cool, even if you want to walk out in the middle of the interview or start becoming obnoxious in return. If you maintain your cool, the worst thing that will happen to you is not getting the job or maybe being in a bad mood. However, if you blow your top you open yourself up to being labeled unprofessional and then who knows what will happen (whatever it is, it likely won't be good).
    Here's some thoughts on how to play good defense during an interview:

  • Downplay assaults on your character. When someone challenges your integrity, drive, passion, or anything else about you, just let it go. Your interviewer doesn't know you well enough to make qualified judgments about you, and no one likes a judgmental prick anyway! Either the interviewer is trying to rattle your cage, test your resolve, or just isn't an effective interviewer. After all, interviewing is an opportunity to sell the company to job seekers, and being a jerk of an interviewer does the opposite.

  • Get your interviewer to tell you about their background. The more you know about an interviewer's past, the more you understand the frame of reference they come from. A Harvard MBA is ambitious, an entrepreneur didn't make a good employee somewhere else, someone from a disadvantaged background had something to prove, etc. If you can identify with them, your chances of giving relevant answers goes way, way up (assuming you know what's relevant of course).

  • Answer a question, then ask a question right back - you've earned the right (and then shut up and listen!) The more your interview is a meaningful dialogue the less you're a pushover. Engage your interviewer, don't spit out answers you think they want to hear. I promise you that your interviewer wants to get to know you, and spitting out stock answers to lame questions doesn't accomplish that.

  • Listen. Does your interviewer talk too much? They like to talk about themselves, haven't prepared for your interview, don't understand what you do, or don't know how to be concise. Do they not volunteer information? Perhaps they are intimidated by you, guard their secrets carefully, or are just bored.

  • Ask upfront if there's a specific goal this interviewer has in mind. Just because you are talking to someone technical, don't assume you will be asked technical questions. You'll be a lot more targeted if you say, "Is there something specific you'd like to learn about me from this interview? I'd like to be as relevant as possible to your needs."

  • Dress nicely. You don't need a suit and tie for every interview, but it's harder to find something wrong with you if you're looking sharp.

  • If someone asks you a question that seems random - and one this isn't inappropriate - just do your best to answer it. If you are struggling to understand the relevance, after answering ask politely how if the job involves the subject matter of the question. If you get a puzzle question involving pirates and gold coins and you fail to see the relevance, just have fune with it.

  • Figure out what the 3-5 most obvious holes in your background on. Ask friends and professional peers what stands out on your resume as a potential flaw or black mark. You'll quickly figure out what you need to explain. Maybe you'll want a good answer to your lack of education, a time gap in your work experience, or why how you ended up going from construction to basket weaving and back to construction.

  • Keep your answers to 60 seconds or less. Assume your interviewer has a short attention span. I know I sometimes forget a question I've asked if the interviewee rambles on too long, and then I get focused on the fact that the interviewee talks too much.

  • Most importantly, have fun. An interview can be grueling, so just do the best you can! Everyone likes talking to someone who is calm and wears a smile on their face.

1 comment:

  1. Your articles are very informative and helpful for job seekers. I appreciate your efforts.