Dear J.T. & Dale: I’ve gone on some job interviews, and the one thing they have in common is that the interviewer has a sheet of questions, sometimes a fold-out sheet. One interviewer said, “We know that you can do the job, but we have a list of questions from HR that we have to ask.” My point is that you don’t get to make a sales pitch to sell yourself. – Marco
DALE: Here’s why HR pushes for standard questions: Without a list to stick to, many hiring managers end up spending the interview talking about themselves. Further, it’s tough to compare candidates if each interview goes off in a different direction.
Without consistent information across candidates, the hiring decision comes down to “gut feel,” and most guts feel like hiring the person most like the person outside the gut, which is no way to optimize a department’s resources.
J.T.: So, expect to encounter lists of questions. Sadly, all the lists vary. Sometimes you can find an inside contact or use a site like GlassDoor.com to learn what kinds of questions they’ll ask, but for the most part, the best you can do is prepare and learn from each subsequent interview.
DALE: Speaking of which, I recently was helping my niece prepare to interview for a job she covets. I told her we’d do mock interviews, but to prepare for those, I told her the first resource to grab is a piece by J.T. that she boldly named “The Best Interview Preparation Tool Ever.” You get it when you register for the free articles at CAREEREALISM.com. You’ll find J.T. herself, on video, and a first-rate list of questions that will help you practice.
The interviewer still might throw in some offbeat topic you haven’t thought through. If so, just say, “That’s an unusual question… let me think.” If nothing comes to mind, you can always respond with a question: “That’s a tough one – have you heard any good answers?” Yes, you’ll be passing on that one question, but you’ll still come across as open and eager to learn.
J.T.: And what about it – did your niece get the job?
DALE: She got it, and she’s already started.
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