When I think about the best interviews I’ve had over the years, on both sides of the table, they had one thing in common: It felt like a great conversation.
Great conversations have an energy all their own. There’s a connection and a back and forth that feels natural. We’re fully engaged and it feels like a collaboration in getting to know one another, rather than a test where one of us is performing.
How does this happen? Well, this is the sort of “magic” that relies on both sides showing up prepared and being authentically themselves – which can be a hard balance to strike. Too much research and practice, for example, can result in sounding rehearsed and even fake. Not enough can leave us stammering and grasping for an answer.
If you’re the job hunter in this scenario, I have a suggestion: Consider the power of your own questions. I’m not talking about questions you can find the answers to on the company website (BAD!). I’m talking about questions that go deeper.
There are two ways you can add your questions within the interview:
- You can pivot at the end of one of your responses and ask the interviewer something related to their question, e.g., “I’m curious how this organization likes to handle that sort of interaction with a client?” Or, in response to a question about a challenge you faced at work, you could ask, “What’s the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?”
- You can ask a question back before you respond. Say they ask, “Tell us about a time you made a decision independently.” Before answering, you could collect more information, “Are you looking for a time when my supervisor or colleagues weren’t available for consultation, or for a time when I simply used my resources and collected enough information to make a decision on my own?”
And remember, conversations can be enhanced, by beginning your answers differently and using transitional phrases that let the interviewer know where you are in your response. Don’t simply repeat the question. Vary your responses in a way that expresses enthusiasm, “I love that question!” or if your style is more reserved, “I appreciate you asking that…” To signal you are coming to a close you can say, “the result was…” or “I felt good about the way I handled that…”
An important caveat – I don’t recommend this approach for a screening interview, or a first interview of several rounds, because generally your time will be limited.Give these a try – in an interview, or simply observe them in regular conversation. It can really make a difference!
Cheers to your career!