Interviewing: The Right Question

11 Apr

by: Jessi Galloway

“Every interaction is an interview”Mickey Miller

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘interview’? Maybe you think of job applications, human resources, investigative journalism or even research. You’re absolutely right, but what about something as mundane as everyday interactions? Are these too, in themselves, a means of interviewing less obvious than the others?

It is my strong belief that interviewing is a skill important to any career, especially in jobs that require well groomed communication and investigative skills. You might not think of yourself as an interviewer, but look at it this way: “Every interaction is an interview.” -Mickey Miller

Miller, a organizational communication professor at Murray State University, was implying  that every interaction we have, rather it be as straight forward as an interview with HR or as abstract as getting to know your coworkers, is a chance to build rapport with those around us. Apropos of this idea, I’ve developed four key components of good interviewing skills.

1. Go beyond the simple “yes” or “no” question

While one word questions have the their purpose in the work place, it won’t build a relationship. Rather than ask someone “are you” or “have you“, ask “WHY.”

Just the other day I was interviewed for a internship with the Omnicom Group. (For those of you who are not familiar with the company, Yahoo! Finance lists it as “the world’s #1 corporate media services conglomerate.” Pretty intimidating, right?) Part of the process was the interviewer going through a list of cities where I could potentially be placed. I was prompted to answer with a simple yes or no response if I would be interested or capable of relocating to that area.

This particular part of the interview served a very basic function, but it didn’t answer why I chose those cities, it gave the interviewer no insight to why I would fit those locations. Why’s answer what drives a person and motivates them. It moves the relationship deeper and requires the answerer to give more.

The interviewer understood this and followed up his initial question with, “Why did you choose those cities?” I was then able to explain the job market research I had done and the current housing cost compared to the affordability with my expected income. The interviewer was impressed to say the least, which brings me to my next point.

2. Do your research before the interview

Never go to an interview without having done some basic research about the company and that particular market. Be prepared to answer question relevant to current industry news or trends, the company’s clients or even question that will expose you if you didn’t read the companies history tab on the website.

If you know the name of your interviewer, check out their LinkedIn profile and follow the companies professional profile. My job field is in PR and Marketing, so I subscribe to publication like PR Week to get industry news. Don’t stop there. Many companies do market research that can be found on their websites, which is a great place to find what sort of interest that company is invested in. Check out press releases and find out how that company talks about themselves and what they are doing to create impact.

I mentioned earlier some questions are meant to expose and weed out those who are less serious about the job. Never go to an interview without thoroughly reading the about tab on the company website. HR departments may ask you anything ranging from “How do your values match up with that of the company’s” to “which of our clients/projects attracted you to the position.” It’s not only for job interviews, but any formalized Q and A session.

Take, for example, a journalist interviewing a person for a story. Your subject is taking valuable time out of their day to speak with you. If you ask a question that is considered public knowledge it might result in the end of the interview and refusal of future communication. You don’t want to return to the office only to tell your boss not only did you fail to get the interview, you also ensured that no one else on that staff would either.

Luckily, social media has made our jobs much easier. Check out their LinkedIn profile, Facebook interest, even what they tweet about. Know not only about them, but what they do. You don’t want to interview a football coach and ask, “what’s a down” or interview a public relation CEO and say, “that’s kind of like advertising right?” If you want to be taken seriously as a interviewer, show them you are credible.

3. Don’t be afraid to move off script

Most interviews will start off with a basic script of questions developed from the research done in step three. However, that doesn’t mean you have to stay on script. Keep in mind it’s a guide, not a mandate. If you get wrapped up with a preconceived idea of how the interview is suppose to go, you might miss vital information.

Last summer, at the conclusion of my internship, my mentor invited me to sit down with her to discuss my progress and to give me a chance to ask her any question I might have about the industry or the current job market. One of the questions I asked her was the very generic “How did you get started in the industry?” Come to find out her career start was much different than where she ended up. Her journey took me by complete surprise. I had a whole host of preplanned questions, but instead I took my own advice from step one and asked “Why?” I was rewarded for this curiosity, because her response opened my eyes to a whole new set of possibilities in my own career.

Really listening to others. Not only their words, but also if they sound frustrated or if they light up when they talk about a certain subject. These cues will help you take the conversation deeper if you find avenues that the other person feels strongly about. Not everyone is a open book. There is as much power in what is not said, than the words themselves. This bring me to my next and final point.

4. Don’t be afraid of silence

Recent research done by the Harvard Business Review shows that introverts have the potential to make better leaders due to their ability to listen. Culturally we have been condition to view extroverts as natural leaders, however, recent speculation has been made that introverts listen more carefully making them more receptive to other’s needs. I mentioned earlier not everyone is an open book. If you’re in a position of power, more than likely your subordinates are going to sensor their interactions with you. This holds true in a newer relationship, as well. Be patient, listen, and watch what their nonverbal communication says just as much as you listen to the actual words.

I’ll admit that this is the step I struggle with most, but after putting it to practice I find that by remaining silent just a little longer than I normally would others are more likely to fill that gap, reveal a little more, go a little deeper. Don’t become uncomfortable with silence. As an interviewer silence encourages the interviewee to reveal more. As an interviewee, be conscious of ‘just saying something’ to fill the silence.


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