Interview reality check

When you attend an interview do you tailor your response to what you think the employer wants to hear? Sounds like a trick question, doesn’t it? Of course you’re trying to impress the employer, but there is a big difference between tailoring your response to suit the situation and using standard buzzwords, phrases and ‘fluff’ to make an impression.

Your focus in an interview is to tailor your response to suit the job. However, if you focus on telling them what you think they want to hear you run the risk of it not working. It sounds rehearsed and is as boring to listen to as job descriptions are to read. You sound like many other jobseekers and therefore blend into the pack — instead of standing out.

You have to be authentic, honest and prepared to expand on every point.

Employers like hearing things about loyalty, a good work ethic, a willingness to contribute at different levels to meet goals, accuracy, increased sales, excellence in service delivery, an ability to work cooperatively in multi-disciplined teams, meet deadlines, etc, etc. These are all good, if you can demonstrate how. If you can’t then they’re fluff and you are not being honest.

Here’s an example. A candidate responds to a question about their ability to complete deadline-driven tasks with:

Yes, I am good at meeting deadlines; I always get the job done.

Fairly standard response, but the candidate thinks it’s a good one, because the employer wants a person who gets the job done. Imagine this response instead:

In my current role I meet daily, weekly and monthly targets. I block out an hour in my diary to work on these every day. Depending on my workload I am not always able to devote a full hour to it, but when I get to the end of the week, and especially the end of the month over 65% of the work is already done because of my daily updates; this enables me to meet those deadlines with ease. I am also a member of the tenders and bids team, which has honed my skills in meeting tight deadlines. I take this task seriously because a late bid, in my employer’s eyes, is akin to lost revenue. I actually implemented a system where we created a tender blue print, which means most of the information that goes into tenders is already compiled and kept up to date, reducing the time needed for each individual tender.

Can you see how, when candidates tried to give the employer what they thought they wanted to hear, it didn’t work? The longer answer not only provided more information and added credibility to the claim, but it was honest. These responses always pack more punch than the ‘generic, what–you-think-they-want-to-hear’ answers.

You can still give an employer what you think they want to hear — as long as you also give them proof to back it up and add authenticity to your response. Instead of focusing on the perceived ‘right’ answers, spend time before your interview developing examples to demonstrate your abilities, and rehearsing your responses.

By all means tell the employer what you think they want to hear, but do it with a good dose of ‘you’ included.


© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant


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