What is the subject of an interview? Most people say, I am. This makes sense because the interviewer surely wants to know about the interviewee. Why should the company hire this person (lets call him Bob), as opposed to someone else?
However, is the subject of the interview truly the interviewee? Not necessarily.
There is a silent subject - and that is the job itself. The job is why the interviewee is there. The job represents the problem that they are looking for someone to solve. The interviewee is only interesting to the interviewer to the extent that he or she solves the problem that the job represents.
But if this is true, then why doesnt the interviewer simply open the interview with an in-depth description of the job itself? Some enlightened interviewers actually do. Most, unfortunately, do not. As a rule, one should not over-estimate the skill level of the person conducting an interview.
The Mystery Job Description
How about a recruiter? A recruiter calls and says, Bob, Ive got a terrific opportunity for you to look at. How much does the recruiter typically understand about the core needs surrounding the position? Unless the recruiter has a long-standing relationship with the organization, the chances are not high that he or she is well informed about the position.
How about Bobs network? Lets say he was recommended to ABC Company by an old colleague. How much does Bob know now? It depends. If Bobs contact works at the company and is well positioned, valuable information may very well be available. In most cases, however, Bobs contact is either not with the company or does work there, but is not in a position to have an insiders perspective on the role.
In addition, its a buyers market out there. A buyer is the company, Bob is the seller. With resumes stacked to ceilings in HR and resumes by the millions circulating online every day, companies can afford to be very picky and thus, hidden criteria are established. For example, Mr. Hiring Manager (HM) is looking for someone with a passion for employee development. Loves to train, mentor, raise the skill level of everyone around him. Why? Because the last manager, while talented, had a difficult personality and this made the office atmosphere uncomfortable. Mr. HM is looking for a replacement who combines both the skills of the previous manager, but with a personality that matches the company culture.
Is Mr. HM going to volunteer this analysis to Bob at the start of your interview? Not likely, nor should he. Because the moment he identifies the key, Bob will turn it. People?, Bob responds, Why, I am great with people! My direct reports love me. In-directs too! And Bobs competition will respond the same way.
In summation, Bob has walked into an interview without a job description that truly captures what the company is looking for, and must answer questions without the intangible fit criteria that in a buyers market ultimately decide who wins and who does not.
The Solution: Do not worry about what the other side wants to hear until they tell you. Bob is not a mind reader, but he can paint a self portrait. Bob may not know what the core needs of the job are yet, but he does know the value his skills and experiences have brought to organizations. His portrait will feature vibrant colors, strong composition, and backed by a sturdy frame. Tell me about yourself is an opportunity for Bob to present himself in the best possible light.
So why doesnt Bob just ask up
front what theyre looking for? Such a response could sound like this: What
aspects of my career would you like me to talk about: My early work in
operations, my supply chain experience, or my more recent general management
responsibilities? While this approach may seem logical, however, I would
not recommend it for the following reason: Answering a question with a
question, particularly the first question in an interview, creates of a tug
of war and and does not establish rapport. Tell me about yourself is a red
flag that they did not really study Bobs resume. By asking what the
interviewer means by that Bob puts him on the spot. Catching the
interviewer unprepared will not help his cause.
Remember: Never over-estimate the skill level of the person interviewing you. The vast majority of interviews are conducted by people who may be skilled at what they do for a living, but possess very little, if any, professional interview skills. While it may seem that you are the nervous one, the other side is not comfortable either. The interviewer is meeting with a stranger who could be important or irrelevant to the company, and there is pressure on the interviewer to get it right.
Four Steps to Success
STEP 1: Provide a thumbnail
STEP 2: Share your primary
STEP 3: Provide examples of
your primary benefits
STEP 4: Turn the conversation
Make Your First Answer Count