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Ivy exec Blog Spotlight - Taking Control of the Interview

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Ever get all excited for an interview, only to be frustrated that it didn’t go as well as planned? Maybe your experience wasn’t portrayed in its best light, or your many accomplishments weren’t valued.

How can you avoid this outcome, and take control of the interview?

It’s really not that hard….partially it’s how you approach the interview, and partially how you employ some interview tactics.

Change your approach:

So how do you change your approach to gain control of an interview? Stop being defensive – most job candidates take a defensive interview stance and answer questions that the interviewer asks. The stronger candidates go on the offensive…they interview the company.

So take a strong offense in your interview approach. As a candidate, interview the company to see how the fit is for you. Get a feeling to see will your skills will be valued? Do you see a mentorship relationship with anyone you’ve interviewed with? Does the company “feel” right? Can you succeed here? Does the company’s management style and culture fit your personality comfortably? Is there growth potential for the company, and for your career?

Change your tactics:

Most candidates rattle off their life story, going through every job they’ve had since they delivered papers in Junior High. Not only does this not help you demonstrate subject matter expertise in an interview, it bores the interviewer to death. Worse yet, it wastes valuable time for you to interview the company and make an impression as a leader. If you could take control of the interview, would you try a different tactic?

So how do you interview the company? Ask questions – Lots of them. Especially ask questions where you already know the answer, based on your research. For instance, let’s say you’re a Director of IT, interviewing with a public company that stated in its last 10Q that they plan on growing 25% per year. Could you ask “If your President predicts 25% annual growth, how does that affect IT systems? Are your internal systems prepared to handle that growth? What implications does that growth have on IT, on IT security?”

Of course, you’ll want to make some advance guesses to the answer, so that you can next comment “Oh that’s interesting, I solved that problem at Company X by doing Y”. Do that 2 or 3 times, and you’ve uncovered a company’s top initiatives, problems, and risks. Better yet, you’ve subtly shown that you’ve been there and done that. All of a sudden, you’re the leading candidate, because you’ve shown foresight to anticipate the companies issues….and, by the way, you’ve already solved their problems for prior employers.

If the interviewer tries to gain control of the interview, take it back. Answer the question very quickly, don’t go into details, and quickly ask a related question back to the interviewer.

Let’s say you get a pat interview question (hiring managers use these as filler, HR use these because they don’t always know detailed technical questions to ask) like “What’s your greatest professional challenge?” As long as you’re not going for a job in PR, you could answer something like “Public speaking – I’m taking classes to improve. What are the companies (or department’s) greatest challenges?” Or “I see that industry reports project a downturn in your markets. What is the company doing to prepare? What implications do those plans have on department X? If you aren’t able to pull off this strategy, what’s plan B? What are the implications if this strategy doesn’t work?”

Of course, you’re not going to ask these kinds of detailed questions of HR, unless you’re interviewing for an HR job. So what do you take control of an interview from a HR interviewer who asks “Where do you see your career in 5 years?” Here’s a time when can work to answer a question with a question. Could you try… “It depends…where do you see the company in 5 years?”

In an interview you can own it, and set the tone of your leadership…or let the interviewer own you.

Which works better for you?

Article written by Phil Rosenburg. Originally posted here.

About Ivy Exec

This article was inspired by the Ivy Exec Blog. Ivy Exec is a career resource partner of AESC/BlueSteps - a highly selective, invitation-only career site founded by a team of Columbia MBAs to address the unique career needs of top executives. Ivy Exec is a trusted recruiting tool used by companies such as JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Google, Prada, and other upper echelon firms looking to hire high-calibre executives.

Ivy Exec has agreed to provide the AESC and BlueSteps community complimentary All-Access membership should you be approved to join. As an All-Access member, you will have access to over 17,000 international job listings, industry intelligence reports, and the option to build a profile searchable by over 600 leading companies.

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