I get reminders of that often when speaking with my son. He is 20 and therefore I know nothing. During our drive-by visits (which is what I call them because he comes and goes so quickly) I might ask him a question and his response is completely out of the blue.
That is when I look at him and ask, “Did you even hear the words coming out of my mouth or just answer based on what you thought I was going to say?”
That’s when it hits him that I might have said something different from what he was expecting.
I’m a mom, I do that sometimes. Gotta keep him on his toes.
I swear the child hears me the same as Charlie Brown’s teachers. *sigh*
It is not an uncommon phenomenon. We as adults do this all the time. While we might be able to get away with it in our family lives (to a degree) it can be a complete disaster during business building or job searching.
In an interview most people are prepared to be asked the “canned” questions – tell me about yourself, what are your strengths/weaknesses, why are you looking, why do you want to work here, blah, blah, blah.
But that is just it – we treat it as the blahs and therefore give it no credibility, thought or proper attention. The questions may be canned but that does not mean your responses should match the blah-ness.
Yes, I made that word up, go with me here.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot for a moment. If you were to go to 10 interviews in a row and 9 asked the same blah questions but one asked something different – which interview would you remember?
Out of all the candidates an interviewer is talking to – don’t you want to be the one that is remembered?
Yes, you should have a general idea of what you want to say; however you should adapt it to the situation, the individual and the environment. Make it fresh, relevant and as interesting as you can.
During an interview years ago I noticed several pictures of children on the credenza of the man who was interviewing me. The kids looked about the same age as my son at the time. When he asked about my weaknesses I responded that I guess it would depend on who you were asking, according to my teenager I have many. He immediately smiled, readily shook his head and said “I can relate to that!” and a wall came down. I then went on to provide a business response.
Sometimes the questions catch you off guard and the response may be a negative but you still have the opportunity to shine. When I first re-entered the working world after staying home with my then toddler I was interviewed for a secretarial position by a gentleman who was 86 at the time and had no plans of retiring.
He also was very used to things being done “the old fashioned way”. He asked if I knew shorthand. I hadn’t done shorthand since I was in high school! That was back in the day of electric typewriters – boy am I showing my age here.
Anyway, I this was an important question to him – I didn’t want to blow the opportunity just because I could only remember one shorthand symbol and I wasn’t going to lie. So I responded that I had a three year old and have learned to write very quickly.
I got the job. I also weaned my boss off electric typewriters and carbon paper for computers and printers.
The point is listen to what is being asked as though it is the first time that question has been posed to you. Take a moment before responding then respond directly to that person, for that situation, for that moment.
Allow yourself to come through even in the most dreaded or repeated questions and you will be the one they remember – and want to speak with again.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW