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Ask These Questions to Ace the Job Interview

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Once you get an interview, the chance you’ll be assessed properly is remote. You can improve your odds 5-10X by asking “forced-choice turn-around” questions. For example, if the manager is asking a random problem-solving question a candidate can ask something like, “Can you tell me how this technical skill will be used on the job? Once I understand this I can give you some examples of how I’ve handled similar problems.”

To successfully handle these types of potential situations, interviewees need to be aware when they’re not being interviewed properly. Keep a look out for these clues:

The interviewer is clearly not prepared and asks a bunch of unrelated questions in rapid fire. The lack of follow-up questioning to clarify the candidate’s answer is a further indication the person has no idea how to interview.

The interviewer looks for facts to exclude you using box-checking questions like, “How many years of experience do you have in (skill)?

The interviewer seems distracted and/or unprepared and has not reviewed your resume.

The person doesn’t not have a good understanding of the job.

You can proactively eliminate many of these problems at the beginning of the interview by asking this question:

The job description is a bit unclear regarding the focus of the job. Would you mind giving me a quick overview of the job and some of the key challenges the person hired will be expected to handle during the first year? Then I’ll be able to give you an overview of some of my accomplishments that best relate to what you need done.

As the interviewer clarifies real job needs ask a few clarifying questions like:

–       What’s the current status of the project?

–       What resources are available?

–       Who’s on the team?

–       What are the biggest technical or business challenges involved?

–       What’s the timeframe for completing this project?

The interviewer will be impressed just by asking these questions. You’ll be invited back if you give an answer of a comparable accomplishment that best meets the company’s needs.

To prepare for this type of interview candidates should first put together a list of all of their strengths and weaknesses. For each strength describe an accomplishment that best demonstrates how you used it on the job. For each weakness describe when it became a problem and how you overcame it on a subsequent project.  Be as specific as possible as you prepare these descriptions. This includes the why, when, where, what happened and the before and after results. Describe the team with examples of how you collaborated with others. Be specific and includes dates, metrics and percent changes. The purpose of writing this down is so you won’t forget it during the frenzied atmosphere of the actual interview.

Before the interview practice describing these accomplishments using the Say A Few Words (SAFW) format for speech writing. This stands for:

– Say: Make an opening Statement.

– AAmplify the statement with some clarifying information.

– Few: Provide a Few Examples with specific details.

– Words: Conclude with a Wrap-up and summary of the accomplishment.

What I’ve discovered is that interviewers clearly remember the forced-choice and clarifying questions asked and the stories and examples provided. General statements about strengths without an example to back it up are quickly forgotten. As important is the length of the response. If it’s too long the candidate is viewed as long-winded and boring and if too short, not insightful enough. That’s why 1-2 minutes is a good length to practice.

You’ll know the interview is going well if the interviewer starts describing next steps in a positive and specific manner. If things are left up in the air with the standard, “We’ll get back to you,” response, don’t go away without some type of push back. Instead ask something like, “Given what we’ve discussed today, do you think my background fits with your job needs? If so, when do you think another meeting will be arranged and who will it be with? If not, is there something in my background you don’t feel fits your job needs?. Would you mind sharing that with me?”

The forced-choice questioning process will improve your odds of being accurately interviewed based on real job needs. Recognize, though, that these techniques will not help you get a job you’re not qualified to handle. They’ll only help you get a job you deserve to have.