The Conversational Job Interview

Job interviews have to be the toughest way to get to know a person or a company. It’s not a whole lot different than looking for a potential mate at a bar. Everyone’s dressed up and ready to dole out clever words. What are the chances you’re going to see the true picture?

I wrote this article for people on both sides of the interview desk. It should help you have a conversation rather than a stilted, superficial Q and A session. 

A Job Interview Is a Two-Way Street

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. -Alice WalkerCuriosity is the best antidote known to man when it comes to overcoming jitters so that you can get down to the important stuff. It works because it requires you to focus on something other than yourself.

Think about what you want to learn during the interview. A resume tells you nothing about a candidate’s approach to work or interpersonal skills. A job ad tells candidates that a company is hiring but it doesn’t say why. Use your curiosity to turn interview questions into real conversations.

Interview Content for Job Seekers and Interviewers

Try out the questions below; they’ll get you talking about what’s most important. I’ve included tips for both interviewers and job candidates underneath each one.

  • What does your manager need to know about you in order to help you produce your best work and enjoy your job?
    Interviewer: The response will demonstrate applicant’s level of self awareness.
    Job seeker: Differentiate yourself from other candidates and set yourself up for success by sharing this information with your interviewer.
  • Tell me about a defining event in your past — either professional or personal — that affects the way you work today.
    Interviewer: This question will help you understand the candidate’s approach to life and work better and more quickly than any other single question.
    Job seeker: Let your hair down a little. Show that you’re on a growth path by revealing something you learned that you take to work with you every day.
  • Think back in your career to a time when you worked with someone you found energizing. Would you tell me about that person? What did he  or she do that made you feel so good?
    Interviewer: Did he learn new habits that continue to serve him?
    Job seeker: Sharing a positive story shows you’ve invested time to understand work relationships.
  • Think back in your career to a time when you worked with someone who sapped your energy. Tell me about that person. What did he or she do that made you feel that way? What were your coping strategies?
    Interviewer: Notice whether the candidate understands the role she played in the relationship. Did she find ways to improve the situation or did she take a victim stance —  innocent and wronged?
    Job seeker: There are difficult people in every workplace. Show that you know how to proactively stoke your morale even in the face of less than perfect conditions.
  • What are you looking for in your next employer? How will you know when you’ve found the right opportunity?
    Interviewer: The candidate in front of you should be assessing you and your company against a list of criteria he thought about in advance. If he can’t tell you what he’s looking for, he may not be in a position to fully commit to your opportunity.
    Job seeker: Before you walk into that interview, make sure you can answer this question. Above all else, avoid the lame duck response: 
    I’m looking for a place where my skills will be used to the fullest.

Yuk! You might as well walk in wearing a 1970’s polyester leisure suit.

Click to Tweet  > Avoid the one job interview line that sounds like a 1970’s polyester leisure suit

Bonus Question for Job Seekers

Be sure to ask why the position is open. Ask the interviewer to tell you what he or she knows about the last person who was in the role. What made that person successful or unsuccessful? This information will help you make an informed decision about the role.

2 Replies to “The Conversational Job Interview”

    1. Hi Meetu, I sure do have questions for candidates to ask the interviewer — and I wholeheartedly agree with you. Candidates need to have their own list of prepared questions to show their interest and to help them make an informed decision.

      Here’s a link to an article that contains sample questions for candidates to ask the interviewer.

      Thanks for leaving a question here!


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