[09.08.10]
27 great comments!

How To Promote A Conversational Job Interview

conversation, tips, job interview, ideasToday I get to share and answer a reader question. I have a number of these questions in my queue, but this one seemed to fit my needs today.  And I hope it fits yours.

It comes from Jeff.  A new member of the LinkedIn group and a reader of the blog.

Jeff’s question:

Can you share with me your thoughts on techniques that are useful in promoting more of a discussion format/style during an interview as opposed to a more traditional q&a format?

This is a great question.  And for me the conversational interview is almost always preferred over a style in which you (the candidate) are being hit with wave after wave of questions.

I say almost always because there are scenarios when the interview becomes too conversational.  You don’t learn anything.  And they have nothing to share with the interview team at the end of the day except “I liked her”.

Not very convincing, right?

I addressed this issue somewhat in a post during “interview week” last year called talking to the social and the serious.  Give that a read and let me know what you think.

But in many cases, there is real value in shifting the nature of the interview away from pre-defined questions and toward a conversation between two professionals.  Identifying issues, brainstorming, and allowing each party to show their true self.  Not someone who is posturing or playing a required part (“powerful hiring manager” or “hopeful candidate”).

To get back to Jeff’s question though . . .

1.  Try an early question. With some interviewers, you’ll know from the start that they are highly social, very serious or somewhere in between.  But early on (on the way to the interview room or prior to sitting down) you can learn a lot by asking a few early questions.  To test the water.  Something like: “how long have you worked here?”  “always in this department?”  “how’s your commute into the office?”  A simple question like this will tell you a lot.  If you get short and stern answers, you may have some work to do.

2.  Be ready to shift your strategy.  Especially if you get “serious” or “social”.  If you get “social”, you will need to be the one providing the structure.  To ask questions about the role and what that person feels the company is looking for.  And then following up with specifics about how you are a great fit.  Of course you’ll need to be social at the same time.  If you get “serious”, you may need to prove yourself early in the interview.  Answering questions with strong, short answers and following up with detailed back-up, examples and evidence of superior fit.

3.  Don’t give up. Of course you need to continue trying to connect with your more serious or traditional interviewer.  And you may find that after 15-20 minutes, the opportunity to ask a more conversational question will be there.  To ask “about the company’s biggest challenge” or “the company’s three biggest growth opportunities”.  Questions like these allow managers to talk about things that they know well or enjoy discussing.  And once that happens, it is more likely that they will get you involved or ask you a related question.  One that begins more of a true and relaxed back and forth.  You as consultant vs. candidate under a hot lamp.

And, in the end, if you get a lot of those serious interviewers you’ll have to ask yourself an important question.  Is this a good fit for me?  Will I be happy working here?

OK, now it is your turn.

What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of conversational interviews?  And how does a candidate turn a traditional interview into one that allows the candidate and interviewer to relax, exchange information and determine (for both parties) whether a good match is forming?

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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Categories: Job Interview Tips

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