Five Interview Game-Changers Every Job Seeker Needs To Know
Via Forbes : You can’t walk into a job interview with the mindset “I want to answer the interview questions correctly and impress the interviewer!” Think about your interviewer’s day. He or she is overwhelmed the way we all are. Your interviewer might meet six or eight different candidates today. You are only one of those people.
You can’t afford to waste your opportunity by sitting in the chair like a good little Sheepie Job Seeker and giving “correct” answers to the interviewer’s questions.
Do you know what will happen if you treat your job interview like an oral exam at school? Here’s what will happen: your interviewer will leave the room and be somewhere else in his mind. It happens to the best of us. I remember trying so hard to stay focused on the poor job applicant looking at me with big eyes and giving mewly little dishwater answers to my questions, and failing.
My mind wandered, and your interviewer’s mind will wander, too.
Your interviewer is skilled at going someplace else in his mind while keeping his eyes focused on you so you think he’s in the room with you even when he’s not. You’re saying namby-pamby things like “I’m a hard worker and a fast learner” and he’s thinking “If I can get outta here at 4:30 I can just make it to the dry cleaner before they close, which I sure as heck had better do if I want to get that black suit I need for the meeting with the VP tomorrow, speaking of which, have I completed those slides?”
What will happen once your by-the-book job interview is over? Your interviewer will race to the dry cleaner and pick up his suit. He’ll forget he ever met you. Tomorrow, when his HR colleague asks “How was your interview yesterday afternoon?” he’ll think “Did I have an interview yesterday afternoon?” You will disappear from his mind, and your chance at getting the job will have evaporated.
You have to grab your interviewer’s attention and hang onto it. You have to change up the boring interviewer script. Here are five ways to do that.
Interview Game-Changer Number One: Kick It Off
Don’t follow an interviewer into his office or an interview room, sit down like a prisoner about to be interrogated and wait for the interviewer to kick off the conversation. You’re a person, and your interviewer is a person, so why don’t you start the conversation yourself — the same way you would in a less forced and formal situation?
As your interviewer greets you in the company’s front lobby or wherever he picks you up, lead off with a conversational question that you came up with in advance.
“So, Andy, I noticed on your LinkedIn profile that you got to Acme Explosives about six months ago — what brought you here?”
Don’t fall into the script “I’m Just Another Job Applicant.” Get off that script as fast as you can! Your interviewer doesn’t want to conduct another boring, traditional Q & A conversation any more than you do, so don’t force him or her to do that!
Interview Game-Changer Number Two: Spin the Table
You will spin the table and do your interviewer the favor of throwing aside the standard interview script when you use the first keyhole you are offered to start asking questions about the Business Pain lurking behind the job ad you responded to. You can spin the table whenever your interviewer asks you an open-ended question, for instance “Tell me about yourself!”
Interviewer: So Rachel, please tell me about yourself!
Rachel: Oh, sure — well, I grew up not far from here and I got my degree in English at State University and I’ve been working at Angry Chocolates for the past couple of years. I hate to bore you with my life story — can I ask you a question or two about the role you’ve got open here at Acme Explosives, to make sure I’m talking about things that are relevant to you?
Rachel: Your job ad says you need a Traffic Coordinator. That person will make sure your customers’s orders get shipped on time — is this a job mostly about interface between the Inventory team and your distribution center, or is there direct customer interaction, also?
Interviewer: Great question, Rachel. Here’s how our system works….
Rachel isn’t going to stop after one Business Pain-related question. Now that she’s got her interviewer off the interview script, she’s going to keep asking questions about the company’s Business Pain until she and her interviewer are deep into a discussion about problems and solutions. Her interviewer won’t forget he interviewed Rachel!
Interview Game-Changer Number Three: Let Your Manager Tell You What Isn’t Working
If you want to use the Pain Interview technique I’m describing here, you have to formulate a Pain Hypothesis before you walk into the job interview. You have to have an idea in your mind of what isn’t working perfectly in the department right now.
This technique works very well with your hiring manager — not so well with an HR person or company recruiter who isn’t as likely to have an understanding of the manager’s Business Pain. With those folks, you’ll have to stick to a more traditional interviewing approach. They are the first gate to cross. Once you get through that gate, you can dive into Pain Interviewing with your possible next boss.
Even though you’re going to formulate a Pain Hypothesis (examples: maybe this company is losing customers because their website is a mess and they don’t seem to have a social media presence; maybe this company is spending too much money on internal HR processes because they are ten years out of date and they’re not automated; maybe this company is in trouble because their products are too slow to launch), you can’t spring your Pain Hypothesis on your manager.
It’s insulting to say “Looks to me like you have a problem!” You have to ask Pain questions, instead, like this:
“It’s impressive what you all are doing here. How are you finding your way through the world of social media marketing? That’s been a challenge for a lot of companies.”
“It’s so exciting to hear about your new facility opening up. How are you finding the process of staffing that call center and training the new recruits?
Let the interviewer tell you what the pain points are — don’t diagnose your manager’s pain for him or her!
Interview Game-Changer Number Four: Ask About Consequences
You are already way ahead of the game and out in front of anyone else who might interview for this job once you get your manager off the script and get him talking about Business Pain. The next step is to ask your manager about the consequences of those pain points.
It is very easy for a hiring manager to believe that he or she holds all the cards and has all the power in the hiring equation. After all, they ran an ad and many people responded to it. That must mean that the company has all the power, right? Nope!
The company has pain. The only person who can solve that pain is someone who understands the pain, so when you show up and start talking about the manager’s most uncomfortable pain points, you lift yourself up to a higher level than a run-of-the-mill job-seeker can do.
Now you have to ask your manager why solving the pain is important, like this:
Interviewer: So anyway, that’s the size of it — we’ve hired 42 call center agents and they’re in their third week of training, and it’s going well. We had to dismiss two people — you know how it goes…
You: For sure. That’s a pretty good average, actually. They go live on the phones in how many weeks?
Interviewer: Five weeks. We still have to hire 24 more people.
You: And that second group will trail the first group of recruits, in a second wave of training?
Interviewer: No — we only have the one wave. We’re backfilling. It’s a work in progress.
You: But your call volume suggests that you need 42 plus 24, so that’s 66 live agents on the phone five weeks from now?
Interviewer: That’s right. We’re under the gun.
You: And are there other call centers that can pick up the extra volume if you’re not fully staffed and ready by then?
Interviewer: Not really. We have our marching orders.
You: So you’d be looking at longer hold times –
Interviewer: And unhappy customers — let’s not go there!
You have to get your manager emotionally in touch with the Business Pain he’s going to hire you to solve. Don’t keep the conversation academic and theoretical. Make it real. Make it gritty! That’s how you’ll get past your manager’s facade and shake him into the realization that he cannot afford to make the wrong hire!
Interview Game-Changer Number Five: Tell a Dragon-Slaying Story
You can have a great conversation talking with your next boss about his Business Pain, but you have to prove that you not only understand your manager’s issues but have solved the same or a similar kind of Business Pain before. You’ll do that by telling one or a few Dragon-Slaying Stories.
Dragon-Slaying Stories are powerful stories about times when you waded into a bad situation and solved it. Have your Dragon-Slaying Stories ready before you get to the interview! Practice telling them to yourself in the mirror or telling them to your cat.
What if the interviewer wants you to solve his problem for him, right there in the job interview? Don’t do it — you will deflate the balloon of expectation and hope that you’ve just spent the better part of an hour inflating, if you give away your best ideas in the interview.
Your manager will forget all about you and only remember your ideas. You know this is true if you’ve ever seen a hiring manager pull out a pen and start scribbling while you’re talking in a job interview. Instead of the solution, you can give your manager your process to move to a solution, like this:
Interviewer: So you’ve done a great job of naming my problem. How would you solve it?
You: I’d come in here and learn a lot more about it, for starters. I’d interview you and another half-dozen people here to understand what isn’t working exactly and what you’ve tried so far to resolve the problems. If we’re talking about speed-training customer service reps, I’d be thinking about air and water.
Interviewer: Say what, now?
You: Air and water. Most of what we typically teach customer service reps in their initial training goes in one ear and out the other. They can’t retain it all, and neither could we if we were in their shoes. They need air and water at first — just enough information to do what’s required of them one day one, and then a little more air and water to get them through day two.
They’ll learn fastest when they have to ask questions to handle their customer calls, so to supplement your instructor-led training, I’d think about having roving trainers walking around in the call center. I would design scripts and tools for those trainers and job aids for the call center agents, plus a lot of fun stuff and rewards and incentives to keep everybody feeling good and feeling relaxed.
Interviewer: So give me an idea of what these “air and water” messages are.
You: They’re going to be different for you than they would be for any other Customer Support Director. I’d have to get insights from you and the people who take customer calls in your other locations. We’d design the ramping-up process together.
Interviewer: So we should talk again.
You: If my approach sounds like a good one to consider, then by all means, we should talk again.
You are not a sheep or a lemming. You are not a dishwater job-seeker, but a vibrant and creative person with your own spin on things. Don’t disappear in the interview chair — use these five Game-Changers to grab your hiring manager’s attention next time and never let it go!
Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace.
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