Have you ever left an interview frustrated because you never had the opportunity to emphasize your greatest talents? The unfortunate reality is not everyone in the hiring process has the authority to hire you, but they do have the power to screen you out.
Most interviewers start out by introducing themselves and some initial small talk. If possible, ask the interviewer questions about themselves (for example how long they have been with the company). When you allow someone to talk about themselves, they like you more, without realizing why.
Most candidates wait until the end of the interview to ask questions. I’m suggesting you differentiate yourself by asking relevant questions during the interview. Conduct your research in advance so you understand how you will interact with the person conducting the interview. Research their LinkedIn Profile and Social Media Presence for any common denominators. You could also download the chrome extension “crystalknows” that provides you with a mini disc profile of the interviewer.
When the formal interview begins, you are at the mercy of the person conducting the interview. However, when you ask questions, you are in control. Your questions can reveal the priorities of each interviewer. They also allow you to stress your confidence in your ability to do the job, as well as your high level of interest.
Throughout the interview, when words like challenge or advancement are used, ask the interviewer for their definition of the word. If you do not clarify your understanding of words used, you may assume it is your definition which could be incorrect, which might change your response.
Each person in the interview process wants to hire the person who will provide the company with the greatest return on their investment while helping to achieve company goals. Just imagine the initials WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) tattooed on their forehead, because all they care about is how you can benefit them, or the company, more than other executives being interviewed.
Your goal is to advance to the next step in the hiring process. It is critical that each person begins to envision you in the job, so you do not get eliminated from consideration.
Most interviewers will ask if you have any questions and the answer to that question is always “yes.”
Next, let’s review some of the more revealing and best questions to ask during an interview which you will personalize and prepare in advance. When questions are not prepared, they often become self-serving, which should be avoided.
The individuals involved in executive-level interviews have a vested interest in who is hired, based on their position and level of interaction. A great question to start with is: “What do you see as the greatest challenge the person you hire will face?” When they reveal the challenge, you now position yourself as the solution. Whenever possible, give specific examples of where you faced a similar challenge in the past and how you resolved it.
Each time you are interviewed by an additional person, this is another first interview. Often information is not shared from one person to the next. The question I mentioned above is a great question for everyone involved in the hiring process, because their answers will differ. You want as many individuals as possible to envision you in the job.
This is a must-read for anyone responsible for hiring great talent!
Another effective question is “What is most important to you, in the person you hire?” This question is effective because it shows you care about their opinion. Their answer will often reveal problems they have experienced in the past or anticipate in the future. Often their answer gives you insight into their core values or soft skills needed to succeed in their culture
You then want to think of the talents you have that were not addressed during the interview. This is where planning your questions in advance really pays off. Prior to the interview list your 3-5 greatest accomplishments and the impact they have had on past employers. Interviewers will assume you will have similar impact on their company. If you did not have an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, prepare questions that will give you the opportunity to address them.
For example, if a company has mentioned that they need projects to come in under budget you could ask, “What are some of the reasons you feel projects have come in over-budget?” Listen to their answer and then provide specific examples of achieving goals before deadlines and under budget, explaining the impact on past employers. Interviewers will assume that you would be able to provide them with similar results.
Even at executive level positions there is often a disconnect with the job requisition and the performance objectives which is how you will be evaluated in 6–12 months. It is extremely revealing to ask, “What are the top five performance objectives for this position?” This answer is critical to your success and guarantees that everyone agrees with how you will be evaluated. It also clarifies what you must accomplish to be deemed successful. If you have achieved similar objectives, you would then provide examples and the impact they had on past employers.
One of the best questions you can ask is the following, “I’m very confident in my ability to do this job and I’m very interested in working for you and this company. However, what’s most important is what do you think. Do you feel I have the experience and credentials needed for this job?” You then stop talking and wait for this person’s response. Normally, you will hear compliments and what they liked about your experience. However, if you hear the word “but” whatever follows that word is the reason you may be screened out. It is now your job to overcome all objections or concerns.
Respond by first validating their statement, “I can understand why you may feel that way, let me explain why that would not be a problem.” You then need to give specific examples where you have strengths in areas this interviewer sees as weakness. Even if they wanted someone with 15 years of experience and you have ten, you could respond, “I have been promoted more than anyone else in my ten years and feel I have crammed 15 years of experience and accomplishments into my 10 years. Other than years of experience, what other concerns do you have?” You now must overcome the concerns if you want to be forwarded to the next step in the hiring process.
Lastly, when the interview is ending, it’s important to ask several questions including: “Where are you in the interviewing process?” “What is your target date to fill this position?” “What is the next step in the hiring process?” “Where do I rank with the candidates you’ve interviewed so far?” “When should I follow-up with you, if I don’t hear from you?” These are closing questions and show a high level of interest.
When you plan your questions in advance you will reveal information your competition doesn’t have and as a result you will conduct a more successful search and advance in your career.
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