Some Helpful Advice About Embracing the Give-and-Take Nature of an Interview was originally published on College Recruiter.

Some Helpful Advice About Embracing the Give-and-Take Nature of an Interview

— Article by Audrey Spina, the Assistant Director of Career Services at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts. 

Though a job interview represents a discussion between an interviewer and a job seeker, the prospect of controlling the direction of the conversation can represent an intimidating prospect, especially for first-time interviewees. Confidence is good; you want to be sure that the interview session covers the right bases regarding your experience, qualifications, and potential. You also want to ensure that your own questions about the hiring organization and the position they’re looking to fill are answered.

Assertiveness is seen as a plus. But being perceived as a potential hire who is overly confident or viewed as too assertive, or even pushy in steering the conversation, could give the interviewer the wrong impression.

What are some of the appropriate ways that a first-time job candidate can emphasize mutual engagement to take control of the direction of the interview?

First of all, meticulous preparation before the interview is imperative for job seekers aiming to excel in the interview process and foster a sense of mutual engagement. By proactively researching the company’s mission statement, values, objectives, ongoing projects, and other key details, candidates can seize control of the dialogue exchange.

Assessing the alignment of these elements with their own experiences and beliefs is crucial. As a job seeker you should consider: Do the company’s endeavors resonate with your past accomplishments? Do its values mirror your own principles? Is organizational culture and management style conducive to your professional growth and satisfaction? Have you engaged in informational interviews with any current employees to gain valuable insider knowledge about the company’s operations and workings?

Approaching the interview with a mindful attitude not only showcases assertiveness, confidence, and knowledge in the right ways but also transforms the interaction into a collaborative exchange rather than a unilateral interrogation. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you.

What does this demonstrate to the hiring manager? Employers are incredibly risk averse; the success of company profits, goals, and returns rests on its ability to hire workers who understand connections between their past and current responsibilities and skills to the role they’ve just applied. Conducting prior company research demonstrates a candidate’s thoughtfulness and intrigue, enforcing the connection and needs between you, a single team or department, and the company at large.

According to NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers), teamwork and collaboration continually rank among the top 10 skills employers value on candidate resumes and cover letters because employers want team players to stimulate overall company growth and excellence.

When is taking control of or attempting to steer the conversation not acceptable? In the exchange, avoid interrupting the employer while they’re interviewing you or asking a follow-up question, use active listening skills to respond in full to their questions, and ensure you’re making that connection between yourself, your values, your past/current work, and your skills during questioning. Perhaps most importantly, avoid presenting as defensive or dismissive. A protective stance will shut down your listener and most likely won’t lead to a second, third, or final interview in the hiring process.

Remember, good communication requires listening, response-back, appropriate body language–depending on specific contexts such as location, country, and culture, for example–and relevant, on-task information. A helpful question to ask yourself before leaning in and speaking up to help guide the discussion: Am I providing information that makes sense in this conversation or does it feel out of place? Make sure that your answers to each question, and topics that you may offer up to help steer the discussion, align with the argument or the example being made and that it represents an appropriate response in the context of the interview.

Finally, always conclude the interview by posing thoughtful questions, ones that extend beyond basic information easily locatable on the web, to maintain the equilibrium of the discussion and underscore the mutual evaluation inherent in the process.

By College Recruiter
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