In many ways an interview has similarities to an academic examination. Candidates have to answer a series of questions and are scored on the accuracy and detail given in their responses.
One major difference between an academic examination and an interview is that in most cases on academic examinations the examined individual knows how many points can be scored from each question. Interviews are not so kind. During my years in recruitment I have witnessed many cases whereby a candidate will major on a question which carries minor importance to the hiring manager. Often the temptation is to talk as much as you can about your strongest skills, this may not be what the client is looking for and has led to many well qualified candidates missing out on jobs that they should have secured.
What is the answer to this problem?
Firstly I would advise candidates to speak to their recruitment agent before the interview and ask what are the most important aspects of the job specification from the clients perspective? Clients will typically impress the two or three ‘must have’ qualities upon a recruiter in order that an accurate short list is produced. Preparing information around these aspects and being ready for these questions is a key to success.
Secondly I recommend that candidates aim to offer a concise accurate answer to each question containing some form of tangible information where possible. Finish each answer by asking if the interviewer would like a more detailed description of what you have just stated. Think of plenty of ways to phrase this invitation for an expanded answer so that you do not sound like a parrot.
Finally, learn to read the interviewers body language to help you to identify whether your answer is stimulating positive engagement or not. It is human nature to give away tell tale signs of disinterest, picking up on these can help you as a candidate to steer away from the subject in hand and move on to what is important to your potential employer.
There are many other considerations that you may take when deciding on how to approach each question and I have just skimmed the surface in this article. The most important thing to remember is that the interviewer’s desires and needs are your key to impressing them, identifying these factors and avoiding subjects of non interest will give you a great advantage.