Vail Daily column: Interviewing the interviewer
Ryan Summerlin September 26, 2012
Have you ever noticed that during a really compelling interview on television, the kind that really captures our attention, the person conducting the interview actually listens way more than they talk?
Anderson Cooper, Barbara Walters, Dan Rather, Oprah Winfrey and other journalists and reporters all have this tremendous gift for getting people to talk and share their stories. I mean basically these folks have a great gig right? They get paid to combine their personalities with fantastic questioning skills.
And the things that they get people to reveal are truly incredible including life stories, tragedies, victories, heartaches, dysfunction and achievement. And all they did was ask questions that were relevant and connected to previous questions.
There are many times I find myself in the role of an interview coach. People looking for their next career move invite me to review their resume and help prepare them for their actual interview. And one of the first places I begin my coaching session is with this very concept of questioning.
Now you may say to yourself that I am just pointing out the obvious, of course the interview is all about questioning. But who is doing the questioning? If the hiring manager, recruiter, or interviewer is the one doing all of the questioning guess what? The interviewee loses.
Just as I pointed out that during those riveting television interviews the interviewer has the capability to get the other person to expose truths and other information not previously known or maybe it was known or assumed but now the interviewer gets the person to validate or dispel the rumors.
The same holds true when you are interviewing for a new position. Take the time to prepare a list of questions that you will ask the person interviewing you. Make sure they are researched, logical, and that you can connect them as necessary during the interview.
You see most people believe that they have to sell themselves in an interview. This is true, however it is the technique you use that will sell the potential employer more than any talk track that is used to brag or boast about yourself. We do much better when we remember that selling is not telling. Anyone can tell other people about themselves and all the things they have supposedly accomplished. But the game becomes so much more interesting when the interviewee becomes the interviewer.
Why is this position available now? How have you defined success for this role in the past? Can you provide an example of how someone has succeeded in this job function before? What elements of my resume do you believe matched what you are looking for? I can see on your website that the company just acquired one of your competitors – how will that impact this team or department? These are just examples, but I am sure you get the message and you will be amazed at just how much information that they will share with you. They will expose truths, losses, achievements, opportunities and so much more. All you have to do is ask.
Additionally, when you learn to make the conversation about them and their company, you will actually notice how much more are interested that they are … in you.
So if you have been in search for a new opportunity and the interviews are just not going your way, try something new and start interviewing the interviewer. I will just bet that you may have a different outcome next time. Now you still have to find the right time to share your story with more about your qualifications and experience, and that spot will become natural and obvious during the interview – just don’t jump to it. Remember that we have two ears and one mouth and we need to use them proportionally, so ask questions and listen twice as much as you talk.
I would love to hear all about any times that you can remember where you had an opportunity to interview the interviewer and what the results were at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s make this another better than good week.
Michael Norton is a strategic consultant, business and personal coach and motivational speaker, and CEO of www.candogo.com. He writes a weekly motivational column for the Vail Daily.