Being able to properly conduct yourself in an interview is detrimental to ensuring you land the right job or make an offer to the perfect candidate. After being interviewed countless times and interviewing contractors and potential employees I’ve learned how interviews can quickly dissolve into an improper hour of questioning and judging one another instead of being what it should be- a conversation among professional individuals with one common goal in mind- to get the right candidate through the office doors and on the team.
After being on both of the sides of the table I’ve picked up a lot of tips and tricks to acing the interview process and have gathered my top 10 tips that can help you make the next interview a success.
If you’re the interviewer:
Be sure to ask a variety of questions such as: “Name a time when” “Can you tell me about” “Define this word for me” “Let’s go through this scenario and tell me how you would handle it”. When you “shake things up” by changing the types of questions you ask, you’re not only going to get a variety of answers, but you’re able to test the ability of the candidate to switch topics and think on their feet.
Be vague and don’t prompt them for an answer. Don’t be completely specific when asking a question, you need to see where someones mind naturally gravitates to when answering a question, versus, essentially “coaching” them into the right answer. If you eventually get the answer you’re looking for, but have to prompt the candidate to get to that answer, it means that whatever you were looking for is not a train of thought or skill that this candidate naturally has, or has demonstrated enough before. If they ask you to elaborate or clarify- come back with “I’d actually like to see what your interpretation of that question was”.
Ask more questions that stick to their character, not their competency. Most things you’re looking for can be trained for, a candidate can always take a course on how to become a SCRUM Master, write code, or learn about a system, but you can’t train for character- and the bit of character that you can “train” for requires a much larger investment of time and effort than taking a class on writing .NET code (can you tell I’m a #womaninSTEM by all these examples?!) Questions such as- “What was the worst project you were on and why” “Name a time you did not work well on a team” and “Define a great leader” give you insight into what makes or breaks success for them, how they handle bad situations, and their interpretation of teamwork. (Grab more of my must ask interview questions here)
But be sure to sprinkle in competency questions along the way. Of course, you typically don’t want to start from scratch with someone on a knowledge base, so switch it up by asking some competency related questions to get an idea of how real the words on their resume are. Questions such as “I see on your resume you listed X as a skill you’re strong in, walk me through how you use that skill and what it means to you” or “I see you’ve worked on several Waterfall style projects, where in the Waterfall process did your work begin and end?”
Avoid asking the dreaded salary question until you are ready to make an offer. For many candidates, they dread this question and want to avoid discussing salary until absolutely necessary because they’re not only worried about providing too low or too high of a salary range but they also fear that they could lose out on the offer by giving the wrong kind of numbers. This also puts everyone in a generally awkward position when it comes to the interview, so avoid bringing up anything regarding salary until you are ready to hit the negotiation table and talk with your potential new employee about what your company can do for them.
If you’re the candidate:
Always take a moment to breathe before answering. Even if you know the answer completely, and are confident in what you’re saying, filling in the empty space before your answer comes to mind completely with “umm” or “uhh” gives room for doubt on your competency. For me, sometimes when I need an extra moment I’ll do one of the following a) Take a sip of water as they’re asking the question- it gives you an excuse to pause before answering b) clear my throat- again, great excuse to pause c) say “Oh that is a good question” or “Wow, I’ve actually never been asked that before”, but of course, only use those if it is true! or d) just pause for a moment and say “I wanted to clarify my answer before speaking and *insert answer here* “
Never answer a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question with just a yes or no. Always give examples and supporting information to your claim. If you’re asked “Are you familiar with XYZ methodology?” Reply with “Yes, of course. I actually just recently used that methodology on my project for ABC and implementation of *insert specific skills and tools here* was detrimental to the success of it.”
Don’t be afraid of answering a question with ‘no’. Hey, we aren’t all perfect and we don’t know everything, no matter how much we wish we did. If someone asks me if I’ve ever implemented a certain type of change, or used a certain tool I simply say “I haven’t had the opportunity to do that before, however, I’d love to learn more and would like to add that to my personal development plan.” This works for multiple reasons- you’re being short and sweet and HOPEFULLY avoid the awkward “gotcha!” situation, you’re stating that you’re wanting the opportunity to learn about that topic, and, you’re showing that you take learning as a priority by saying how you would like to add it to your personal development plan.
Always ask your own questions. In all of the interviews I’ve conducted the ones that didn’t resonate me were always the ones where the candidates never asked a question back. By asking your own questions you’re showing that you have interest in learning more about the position, that you’re engaged, and you have a chance to talk about what is important to you. Some of the most important things to ask about:
“When your employees hear the word ‘trust’ do they think of COMPANY? If so, why? how has the company created a culture of trust?” Chances are, if the leaders at the company are interviewing you and they can’t give specific examples of how the company has created a culture of trust and give specific examples, there is a high chance that either their team doesn’t communicate up, or there is no trust.
“What are some specific examples of how diversity and inclusion is an important factor to COMPANY?” The reason behind this question is pretty self explanatory- if they don’t know how diversity and inclusion is important to the company, it very well might not be something that is important.
Do research on the company and ask about that. You’re showing that you are actively interested in this company by asking questions that are about the company, and are asking informed questions. Some examples you could ask: “I noticed that last quarter your stock rose XYZ points, how does this role in this company attribute to the success of the stock?” or “I love COMPANY’s brand beliefs, XYZ belief stood out so well to me, and I was wanting to discuss how you interpret this teams role in fulfilling that belief?”
Share below- what do you believe made your last interview a success or a failure? Which of these tips are you going to implement next time you’re sitting at the table?