Three Key Ways to Drive Your Next Interview

Author: Ellen Mullarkey

I’ve worked with wonderful talent at Messina Group Staffing for over 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot — and I mean A LOT — of interviews. Today’s job seekers can access more information, tools, and training for interviews, and that’s great! However, a world facing the impacts of an international pandemic has new rules. 

As we’re facing more and more remote interviews — and even fully digital onboarding — our interactions feel more removed than ever. It feels harder to make a genuine connection when you’re not in the same room.

However, whether you’re near or far, in person or online, via phone call or Zoom meeting, I’ve found that there’s one critical question that can make or break your interview success:

Who’s in the driver’s seat?

If you’re looking to snag the next great gig, it had better be you! Interviewers want great talent, and you can position yourself for success by simply being straightforward and strategic. It’s time to stand out!

Check out these three key ways to make sure you drive your next interview — and don’t find yourself blinking like a deer in the headlights. 

Make Sure the Answer is You.

While saying the right thing is technically your main role in an interview, it’s equally important to remember to listen. This is your opportunity to find out what your potential employer needs: what are their main problems? How do they plan to fix them? What have they tried in the past?

At the end of the day, you want to make sure that the solution to the problem at any company is, naturally, hiring you!

Here’s just how you do it: 

  1. First, ask a smart, difficult question directly. What is the biggest challenge in this job, and what are some of the company’s goals? Is there anything in the job description that requires extra focus or work? In the next year, what kind of success would the team like to see from this position?
  2. Listen carefully to the interviewer’s answer. Tune in to goals, problem areas, and major pain points. Let the conversation flow naturally, and take this opportunity to pick your interviewer’s brain a bit. How do these challenges apply to your experience, strengths, and expertise? Think about specific, personal examples.
  3. Respond with a specific, focused solution: surprise, it’s you! Talk about a time when you addressed similar themes. Be sure to show, and don’t tell: use real, compelling stories that paint a picture of your past success. Position yourself with just the right insight and experience for the job. 

Take a Deep Breath.

Some of my interviewees have felt that it’s their job to fill the silence in a room, and that’s just not true! A thoughtful pause is always better than putting your foot in your mouth, and focused listening provides you a chance to really get a feel for the other person — not to mention the job. 

Take a deep breath. Ask questions naturally. Pause if you need to think. Be intentional and focused. Resist the impulse to let your mind skip ahead to prepare the next answer; being genuine is so much more important than being quick. Listening is a full 50% of a great conversation, and your interviewer will notice if you’re holding up your side of the chat.

Question Bad Questions.

I’m sure you’ve already been asked a question that was far too broad. It happens in most interviews, and it’s an easy way to get distracted. The next time you get the classic, “Tell me about yourself,” or, “Describe your experience,” question, take control and meet it head-on.

Meet the question with another question.

It’s up to you to set the parameters and spark an interesting conversation in this case, and you can do it in a few different ways! Ask your interviewer, explicitly, where they’d like you to start, or how much detail they’d find helpful. Ask, point blank, “Absolutely! What would interest you?”

Always remember that interviews are about having great conversations with other people. Be comfortable, enjoy yourself, and don’t be afraid to control the chat’s direction yourself. It’s there for the taking!


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