What They Did Right DURING the Interview

A week after interviewing candidates for a job opening, I noticed that some individuals were more memorable. I recalled the substance of some conversations better than others.

Several candidates were able to effectively differentiate themselves because of what they did during the interview. Here are some of the ways they separated themselves from the rest of the pack:

They were appropriately REACTIVE.

The best conversations came when candidates were not focused on providing the “right answers.” Rather, they responded to my questions by providing genuine, authentic and transparent answers. They demonstrated they were reactive in the following ways:

  1. They allowed me to set the pace of the conversation. They would slow down to elaborate when I requested more information. They would also pick up the pace when they sensed they had shared adequate information.
  2. They responded to my questions without rambling with answers to questions I did not ask. They listened carefully to what I asked and then reacted by providing thoughtful, transparent answers.
  3. They reacted to my body language or looked for other clues to make sure they were getting their message across. At times, they even asked for immediate feedback to ensure that they had appropriately addressed the questions I asked.

They were appropriately PROACTIVE.

The best interviewees instinctively knew when to take the initiative. They understood when to volunteer new information and they were quick to clear up potential confusion. They skillfully broadened the scope of our conversation when it was relevant. Here are some of the ways they were proactive:

  1. They assumed the responsibility for making sure I connected the dots between their qualifications and my needs. They did not leave it to me to convert their features into benefits. They took the initiative to help me answer the “So what?” questions about specific items on their resume.
  2. They inserted stories or anecdotes into the conversation to illustrate key points they were trying to make. Through their stories, they created vivid pictures that helped me to envision them being successful in an actual work setting.
  3. They made sure I understood the impact they could have. Some of the best candidates took the initiative to conclude the interview with a strong “closing statement” that summarized who they were, why they were right for the job and how I would be more successful with them as part of my team.

They were appropriately INTERACTIVE.

Up front, I told the candidates that the interviews would not be an interrogation. Rather, they understood that they needed to be fully engaged if we were going to have a productive conversation between two people who valued each others ideas. Some of the ways they were interactive included the following:

  1. They asked good questions. I place very high value on the types of questions people ask. Good questions tell me how much an interviewee has prepared, how engaged he or she is in our conversation and how eager he or she is to become part of the team.
  2. They knew when to listen and when to speak. There was give and take. The best interactions came when we had good volleys, much like tennis players who keep the ball in play for an extended period of time.
  3. They acted as consultants helping me to select the right person for my job opening. They did not come across as salespeople trying to convince me to make the right decision by hiring them. Rather, they interacted with me and genuinely wanted to help me think through the hiring process so I could find the right match, regardless of whether they were the final candidate ultimately chosen. (That takes tremendous self confidence!)

Those who performed best during the interviews were those who knew how to balance being reactive, proactive and interactive. In the next blog post, I’ll outline what those individuals did right after the actual interview to differentiate themselves.

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