Tip: Don’t Argue During an Interview

serious businessman interview interviewing question
Image (c) shutterstock/ollyy

What is the real purpose of a job interview anyway?

In my view it is to make a personal connection with the potential boss that will result in continuing conversations.  The first objective of any phone or in person interview is to get another interview scheduled.  As there are multiple interviews required to obtain the right offer, there are many possible roadblocks to get through.

In a real job interview, the “boss” has already reviewed your resume and has made some assumptions that you can do the job.  The boss wants you to be the perfect fit so they can move ahead and get the job filled.

Sounds like a winning situation?  Not really.  There are many potential pitfalls.

Be prepared.  Research the organization, its competitors, strategy, web site, financial performance and comments available on blogs.  Look at the backgrounds of executives and employees on LinkedIn.  Always leave plenty of time to get there.  Dress appropriately for the industry and level of job.

Don’t worry about talking about your background in the interview.  Candidates either try too hard to sell themselves, or they are afraid of selling themselves.  Don’t worry about selling.  Don’t describe your last role in lengthy terms.  The boss does not care.  The boss wants to hear about what you can do in terms of their problems.  The boss wants comfort that you understand their company, industry, and strategy.  Your intelligent questions and curiosity about these issues will illuminate your capabilities.  And talk with a smile in your voice and be likeable.

Don’t argue.  A common issue is that a candidate has more experience than is required or is lacking a certain industry or skill set.  A boss might indicate a concern and your standard response is not to worry about this issue because you have such and such experience.  Wrong.  The boss is worried.  You have just argued with him and not listened to his worry.  The best response is to say, “You are right, I don’t have such and such.  I thought of that coming here.  Tell me more about your requirements and expectations.”  Whether the concern is culture fit, skills gap, money, industry mismatch, worry about relocation, or too long a commute, the best answer is validating the concern and talking about it.  “You are right” gets the boss to buy into solving the problem with you versus moving on to another candidate.

Don’t talk to long.  When was the last time there was a two minute commercial on TV?  Time your answers to be about 30 seconds to 60 seconds only.  Practice this and importantly, practice this technique for phone interviews.  Most candidates have no idea how long 60 seconds really is.  It is more than ample.  If the boss wants more detail, they will ask for it.

Finally, at most job levels, it is all about fit.  The boss needs to know about you as a human being.    The boss needs to know that there will be high degree of compatibility with you.  The boss wants to know that you will have the social skills to have conversations with customers.  It is fine to provide personal information towards the end of your first or second interview.  Mention that you are open to relocating if you that is the case, that you are married, and have two daughters.  Again, it will make you likable.

Here is a final reminder about “interviews.”  Be assured that all interactions in our working life are “interviews” and not just when you are looking to make a job change.  Talking to vendors, customers, competitor organizations, at trade shows, recruiters and social networking are all forms of interviews.  You are constantly being evaluated for your understanding of issues, your potential leadership skills, your ethics, your perspectives and your style.

No interview is perfect, but if you avoid the pitfalls you will have a chance at the second interview.  And that is what building a job relationship is all about.

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