I have spent an extensive amount of time in my career as an interviewer in college admissions as well as in executive recruiting for some of the best companies in the country. I soon became aware that interviewing can be a nerve wracking experience for both the interviewer and the applicant. Most candidates never think that the hiring official on the other side of the table may be just as uncomfortable about the interview. In some cases, the company official who is conducting the interview may be new to the interviewing process, never properly trained to interview, or is simply not suitable for interviewing candidates.
While it is important to focus on the fundamental concepts of interviewing, such as researching a company, understanding the interviewer’s background, professional attire, thank you notes, etc., candidates who are also prepared for a conversational interview are more successful. Many candidates naturally think it is their job to answer questions during an interview and take a reactive approach to responding. As I work with high school, college, and professional clients, I immediately shift their perspective to understand that it is their responsibility to make an engaging, productive conversation in the interview.
Candidates who take a proactive approach by preparing two to three talking points in key areas are more capable of facilitating a conversation. Practicing a few talking points in advance will keep things simple and manageable. It will also alleviate a candidate’s stress level because the talking points have been thought out ahead and the candidate will not be preoccupied about the type of questions that may be asked of him/her.
The following are examples of talking points that a candidate can prepare in advance in order to make the interview conversational:
* What are your unique abilities as an applicant?
* Reasons you specifically applied
* Key activities or accomplishments that you would like to highlight
* Major experiences that will ensure success
* Specific questions about the company
* Questions about the person(s) conducting the interview, especially if they have a LinkedIn profile that may detail their professional experiences
The time will fly by in a positive way for everyone when an interview is conversational. Additionally, it creates a more relaxed setting for a candidate and the person conducting the interview. A candidate who recognizes that it is his/her responsibility to make the meeting conversational, stands a much better opportunity of being distinct and advancing in the interview process.