An Interview is Seldom a Beeline

Written by Steve Prisco on . Posted in Blog

You can feel it in your gut when an interview goes bad, and as an executive search consultant, I hate to see a talented person implode.  What I’ve learned is that interviewing is like flying an airplane.  Planes never travel straight from point A to point B: they reach their destination by making constant course corrections. Here’s how you can do the same.

Know yourself.  You have a personality that is either generally fixed or generally flexible.  With a fixed personality, you tend to be self-critical and judge your answers as you give them.  You start to think, “I’m not sure if I’m connecting.”  Then you think, “I’m getting rejected.”  Then you lose focus and head down a slippery slope.  If this sounds like you, ask your recruiter for coaching.  With practice, you can learn to adapt when an interviewer gives negative signals.  

Plan ahead. Inadequate preparation is the No. 1 reason interviews go off course.  You need to do the basics to look and sound great:  research the company, ask your recruiter about the people you’re meeting, know how you want to present yourself.  Then prepare for the gentle probe that can feel like rejection:  “Why do you think you’re so good at that?” Make sure you have examples to substantiate your claims.   
Recognize trouble.  Pilots trust their instruments; you need to trust your gut-level feelings.  You can lose your way in an instant, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong for the job.  It may simply mean that you gave an incomplete answer.  Assume the problem is situational. Watch your interviewer’s body language and facial expression, stay in the moment and, above all, don’t panic.
Self-correct.  Show that you are actively listening and buy yourself time by asking a question.  “Are there additional details that you might find helpful?”  “Is there something more specific that would give you a better sense of how I did that previously?”  Then respond based on what you hear.  You may just need to provide a few examples to make your point. Or you may need to change direction. Once you’ve prepared, interviewing is 100 percent about listening, being flexible and malleable.
Recover. Don’t repeat the same mistake over a full day of interviews.  If the day’s first interview doesn’t go well, close that door, take what you learned and anticipate how you’ll handle the next interview.  Your interviewers will debrief with each other, so if one questions the depth of your answers and another thinks you gave great examples, you can still make a good impression.
Interviews don’t go exactly as planned, but constant course corrections can help you navigate turbulence and land the job.
By Steve Prisco

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