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How the questions you ask at interview can make a massive difference
03-Sep-14
If you have recently secured an interview, then your mind has probably been working overtime with:

Researching the company, what to wear, how to get there, being on point with your all your achievements and how you will ‘sell’ yourself and preparing answers for all those tough interview questions you anticipate. You may even have some pre-prepared questions you want to ask.

All of that is critical, but if everybody else is doing exactly the same thing how do you plan on standing out from other candidates?

Are your skills and experience going to be enough to secure a job offer, given that other applicants may have a similar background?

Typical Interview format

Having spent many years working in recruitment, I have noticed that the format of the interview has not changed very much; generally you get invited to interview if you meet the criteria for the role. The interviewer(s) will then tell you about the job/company, go through your CV, ask you questions and then towards the end will ask if you have any questions. What happens if the interviewer has already covered off your questions? What if they have already explained the training opportunities and gone into detail about the duties, working hours, promotion opportunities etc? Do you just smile sweetly and say “No you have covered it all”? Or dig out a few lame questions, just for the sake of asking something?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a fat lot you can do change the format of the how interviewer wants to run the show, but if you just utilise the same old outdated format and responses yourself, then your chances of getting the job become increasingly random.

Upping the ante

There is a way of increasing the odds in your favour to nail the interview, to be a standout candidate and secure a job offer.

In order to increase the odds – you have to ask well-crafted questions – throughout the interview and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone.

An interview should be a two way process, a conversation and it is as much about you finding out if the job is right for you, as you are for them.

Maybe you feel a little uncomfortable jumping in and just asking a barrage of questions from the get go, and that is very understandable - so always ask their permission first:

“I’m keen to find out how good a fit I would be for this role – would you be comfortable with me asking questions as we go along”.

You may be the best candidate on paper; your qualifications, skills, experience may be spot on but the only reason you are going to get the job is if the interviewer thinks you would fit in, if they feel they could work with you and if they like you. Otherwise all hiring decisions would be based just on your CV.

All hiring decisions are made emotionally.

They may be backed up logically but the relationship and rapport you have with the interviewer is the key to swinging it in your favour. You can build a rapport pretty quickly by reflecting their body and verbal language, copying the way they breathe and by asking well thought questions.

Visualisation Questions

Use questions to get them to see you already working in the role

“How would you see me fitting in with the team”

This is a really powerful type of question and goes a long way to shortening the recruitment process and building a rapport with the interviewer, it also eliminates any ‘fob you off’ responses.

Concern Questions

Many candidates I speak to will tell me that as a closing question, they will ask if the interviewer has any concerns about them and invariably the interviewer will say no; leading you into a false sense of security. In some cases that will work, but in most cases it is easy for the interviewer to give you an answer you want to hear, without any need for confrontation. Then when you don’t hear back from them, you are left pretty clueless as to where you went wrong. Wouldn’t it be better to get any concerns out in the open, early on in the interview so that you have a fighting chance of overcoming them. You are already going to have a fair idea of what they are likely to be concerned about before the interview so you can address this. It could be something like:

“What concerns are you likely to have about the fact that I haven’t got direct industry experience/lack the right qualifications/have moved around a bit?”

Now you in the driving seat and in complete control. The key is to be specific about the concern. If they turn around and say it’s not a stumbling block, then you will find that they are more likely to reveal what their real concerns might be if any

Important note

Whenever you ask questions it’s very important to let them answer at their own pace and actively listen to them. You learn more by listening than you do by talking and a good listener is always perceived as a good relationship builder.

Want some examples?

For some examples of great interview questions which can be used for any type of role please send me an email zandy.houghton@midas-selection.com or add me as a connection on linked in. uk.linkedin.com/in/hvaczandy/