It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in doing what we think we’re supposed to do and thinking it’s enough to get the job. We go into interviews thinking we just need to answer all of the interviewer’s questions correctly, pleasantly, and that there is nothing else to it. But that isn’t always the case. More and more hiring managers are looking to be wowed, looking for that interviewee who really stands out from the crowd.
Here are 5 ways to make sure you get your interviewer’s attention right off the bat—and hold it.
1. Kick off the conversation yourself.
Instead of meekly following your interviewer into a room, sitting down, and waiting to be asked your first torture question, why not grab the bull by the horns? Come up with a good ice breaker or—better yet—a question relevant to the hiring manager or the job you’re applying for. Start the conversation off yourself. Your interviewer will be surprised and probably delighted. Get off the tired script before you’re even on it.
2. Turn the tables.
If you do get on the script and want off again, look out for ways to turn the table. If the interviewer goes with the standard “Tell us about yourself” question, give her a few bullet points then pivot: “I hate to rattle on about myself. Can I ask you a question about your role here to make sure I’m focusing on details that are most relevant for you?”
Again, you’ll need to have this question already planned out. Next thing you know, you’re interviewer will be talking again. And you’ll be getting valuable insight and scoring listening points. Plus, hopefully you’re figuring out how to come up with a way to offer yourself up as the ideal solution to the company’s problems. All while sitting back and becoming more and more comfortable in the interviewing room.
3. Ask about company problem spots.
This only works once you get past the by-rote HR interview types and get to sit down with your potential supervisor. You need to figure out what the company’s biggest problem is—their pain, so to speak. Don’t diagnosis this yourself; that might come off as arrogant or insulting or presumptuous. Ask a number of excellent (and pre-prepared questions) that get your manager talking about challenges they’ve faced (couch these with compliments first, of course).
4. Learn the stakes of the problems.
Once you figure out what’s ailing the company, or just your manager and her team, it’s best to figure out what the consequences of this problem are. Start asking questions around the pain points. Don’t be a bully, and don’t be too transparent in picking things apart, but do get your interviewer talking so she herself admits just how much of a problem the problem is. Get nitty gritty with details. This also helps show your interest and expertise in the workings of the job.
5. Show that you're the one who can solve them.
Now you know what your manager’s biggest problem is. And she knows that you know. She’s going to want to ask how you would solve it. Pivot again! The last thing you want to do is rattle off some strategy that they have likely already tried to no avail.
Keep your brilliant solutions to yourself for the time being. Say something like, “I would certainly need to learn more first, from on the ground here.” Then go on to describe another, similar, but hopefully even bigger problem you tackled at a previous job. Set it up dramatically, make sure your interviewer knows the stakes were high, then describe just how you struck the final blow and solved the problem. She’ll be so dazzled, she’ll hardly make eye contact with the next few interviewees as she tries to imagine you slaying all of her dragon’s as well.
What’s most important to remember is that you are not a sheep. You do not have to be ordinary or follow any scripts. In fact, it’s almost always a better idea to stand out from the crowd. Be intelligent, respectful, extremely well prepared, but also your innovative, exciting self.
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