Understanding Interviewer Questions and Techniques
Before you jump into the interview, it is crucial that we first take a step backward and try to see the interview purely from the interviewer’s point of view.
What is he looking for? What does he want? What qualities, skills and experience is he looking for?
If you can discover what he really wants – and match those requirements one-by-one, you’ll be amazed at how smooth and successful the interview can be.
Let’s not kid ourselves.
You can know all the tricks of the trade. Be an expert in every aspect of interview psychology. And even have the prettiest, hand-printed resumes – it really won’t make the slightest difference unless you have the actual skills and ability to do the job advertised.
This is any interviewer’s first objective: to ascertain if you have the ability to successfully carry out the functions you will be given if you get the job.
But during the interview, it is not only essential that you inform the interviewer of your qualifications to do the job, but that you can prove it to him there and then.
It is one thing being able to actually do the job – but quite another thing being able to convince the interviewer of this reality in a positive and enthusiastic manner during the brief span of an interview.
In fact, this ability is the key difference that separates the winners from the losers.
Let’s take an example.
Mr. Joe Ordinary is going for an interview for the position of computer programmer. The company is looking for a hardworking computer programmer who will help them develop a new software program.
The interviewer asks Mr. Ordinary, “Can you do the job?”
Joe Ordinary smiles: “Yes I can…….. It should be good……very interesting….looking forward to it……”
Now notice the difference when Mr. Joe Winner is asked the same question.
He knows he must not only tell his interviewer that he can do the job but prove it in such a way that the interviewer will not believe him but be excited by his potential.
The secret is, in fact very simple: for every skill you list, always recall an incident in which you successfully used that skill.
Paint a picture in words for the interviewers so that they can actually see you using this skill in their mind’s eye.
Before we get back to our computer programmer, let me give you this example:
Anne Malone desperately wanted the job of manager at her local florist shop. During the interview, the owner said she was looking for someone who was hardworking and very ambitious to look after and build up the business.
Most applicants would have said, “Yes, I’m determined and will definitely strive to increase your turnover and profits. Yes I can do it…..definitely.”
Anne, however not only made a similar statement, but she backed it up with a real-life practical example.
She brought her statement to life.
She recalled her part-time summer job in a florist shop when she was a student. She told the story of how when she started the job, she noticed that the shop looked ‘run-down – that it lacked ‘sparkle’ and a sense of ‘freshness’
So she told the interviewer how she went to the shop’s owner and how she managed to get her to agree that when she worked in the shop over the weekend, she would get an extra commission for all the extra customers she could attract to the shop.
So the following weekend Anne used her own money and managed to persuade her family and friends to help her re-paint and re-fashion the shop and deliver a single fresh free flower to every house in the surrounding area. And the shop’s sales blossomed.
Can you now see the difference between just saying to an interviewer ” I can do the job” to actually bringing such a statement to life.
And that’s how Mr. Joe Winner answers his questions. When he is asked can he do the job -he not only confirms his ability but he backs it up with personal examples of how, for example he programmed similar software for other High-Tech companies. In fact for every skill he lists he backs it up with personal examples. He paints vivid word pictures.
Yes, this seem simple.
Yet in the thousands and thousands of interviews, I have sat through the vast majority of people will simply answer such questions with a bland ..”Yes, I’m confident I can do the job… and leave it at that hoping the interviewer will be happy with that.
He may be happy but will he be impressed? After the interview will you stand out from the other candidates?
Remember: every time you detail a specific skill that you can contribute to the business don’t just make a bland statement, “I can do this and I can do that” – always back it up with personal real-life examples. Paint a picture of yourself putting these skills into practical and profitable use so that the interviewer can see this picture in his/her mind.
And, of course, always bring with you any documentation (neatly assembled in a smart folder) that will add weight and substance to your claims. Extra references, awards or prizes, for example you may have won or articles and reports that you may have written that stand out.
Proving that you can do the job is the essential first step of the interview and the interviewer’s first and main concern. Before he proceeds to the next stage of the interview, he will want to be sure in his own mind you are capable of doing the job. It is your job to convince him.
The interview proceeds.
The tone has changed. It has become more open, more relaxed. The original awkwardness you felt is beginning to dissipate. The interviewer is now happy that you at least have the necessary ability to carry out the basic requirements of the job. Now he’ll want to know more about you. After all, he and his fellow colleagues may be spending a lot of their lives working with you.
So he will now try to find out if you are personally suitable for the job. He’ll start to focus on trying to ascertain what type of person you are.
To do this, most interviewers will try to see how you measure up under the following headings.
Desire / energy: Do you seem energetic? A person who gets up and does things with enthusiasm. Do you seem the type of person who wants to get ahead – who’ll make a real difference?
Confidence / determination: Do you seem a relaxed, friendly yet confident person? Someone who’ll be able to get on with others? Also someone who’ll stick to a task until it is done.
Independent. What the interviewer is looking for here is someone who can be a team player and follow the directions of his supervisor but yet still have the maturity to be able to work unsupervised and direct and motivate herself. The employer is looking to see if you have this balance.
Motivation: Are you the type of person who wants to do well. To get ahead. To impress with your professionalism. To innovate. To build.
Power of communication: Have you the ability to mix and get on with people by communicating clearly and effectively. Will you be able to take extra responsibility in the future and be able to lead and motivate people through effective communication skills?
Likeability: Do you seem a friendly, OK person. This does not mean that you have to be perfect or the most popular person around. They just want to know if you are a friendly and easy person to get along with. Someone who will add to their existing team and not disrupt it.
How Professional Are You?
A new stage of the interview now starts to emerge.
The interviewer has now got to know you even more. There is a definite softening in the atmosphere.
An embryonic personal relationship seems to be developing between you and your fellow interviewers and you notice most of your pre-interview tension seems to have gone. You begin to allow yourself to relax a bit more.
The interviewer, too seems ‘more human’. At this stage, he is convinced you have the skills to do the job; he likes you; he feels you are personally suitable and he finds it easy to communicate with you.
In his own mind, he is now beginning to see you not as an interviewee but as a potential employee.
For the interviewer, this is an important turning point. And he’ll now want to take an even closer look at you from a professional business point of view.
He’ll want to make sure that you’ll be an asset to the firm, that you’ll act in a professional manner and be loyal, reliable and trustworthy and be committed to the company.
As you speak and answer his questions, he’ll now be trying to evaluate you under the following main headings.
Reliability: Do you seem honest, reliable. Someone who will do an honest day’s work? Someone who is straightforward and has enough respect and pride in themselves to always want to do a good job.
Honesty: Do you seem an honest, trustworthy person? Someone whom they can have full confidence in? Someone they could leave the keys to lock up at the end of the day?
Dedication? Do you seem hardworking and dedicated? Someone who starts a project and finishes it? A starter and a finisher? Someone who does not look for excuses to cover up failings and moans about everything?
Communication: As discussed earlier under personal suitability, are you the type of person who can get on with and communicate with all levels of the company from the tea lady to the M.D.?
Commitment: The interviewer is trying to judge if you got the job would you commit yourself fully to it?
For example, what would you say if you were going for the job as a middle- manager and the interviewer asked you: “As an employee, would you clean the floors?” What the interviewer really wants to find out here is how committed you would be to the team – how willing you would be to roll up your sleeves and do whatever is necessary to help your team get the job done.
Don’t only answer yes, but make sure you also give a personal example of a similar situation where you helped out to back up your answer.
The Last Check?
Let’s see how the interviewer’s thought processes are operating now.
He’s happy you can do the job and that you are personally suitable. He’s also confident that you’ll get on with most of the staff and that you have all the necessary professional commercial qualities that he requires from his employees.
You almost have the job!
The interviewer is now beginning to visualize you as a future colleague. Someone who he will be working with and someone he will possibly be responsible for managing.
All during the interview, this question will be at the back of the interviewer’s mind. How manageable will you be? The last thing a manager wants is an employee who he thinks might cause trouble in the future and cause him sleepless nights!
And so a lot of his questions will be aimed at helping him come to a considered judgment on your ability not only to work alone unsupervised but also on your ability to work with others. He will also want to judge your ability to take direction and criticism not only when it is honestly given but also when you may be treated unfairly.
The interviewer/manager knows that a lot of the time, in the real business world things go wrong, people make mistakes, deadlines and commitments are broken and tempers are ignited. The interviewer wants to consider how you might react to such circumstances?
So be aware of these questions when they arise and the real motivation behind them. Also when you sense such questions are being asked treat it as a positive sign that the interviewer is seriously considering you for the position.
What we have presented here is only a very general outline of the interviewer’s possible thought processes as the interview progresses.
Each interview is unique and it’s structure and tempo will change and adopt to accommodate the different personalities involved.
However, it is very helpful to be aware of the key stages of your interview and to have a deepening understanding of what your interviewer is really looking for when he asks you certain questions.