How to turn a job interview into a conversation

It seems to be ingrained in many people that job interviews are something you need to do well at – you need to impress, you want to show your best side and hopefully you will progress to the next round.  And I wouldn’t disagree. So prepare accordingly (and read my previous blog Interview tips).

What most people tend to forget is that an interview is the main opportunity to do your due diligence on the company, the job, the culture and your potential future boss.

Remarkably, most people are judged not by the answers they give, but by the type of questions they ask. If you have conducted interviews, have you ever said about a candidate “She asked all the right questions”?

There you go, someone stood out because they asked good questions, because they really wanted to know whether this opportunity is right for them.

Therefore, in preparation for an interview, tell yourself that by the end of the meeting, you need to have gathered enough information to decide whether you want to go forward to the next round.

So what do you need to know?

I guess a starting point is the company culture. Questions like:

How are the company’s results communicated with the workforce?
What is the dress code?
Are you aware whether colleagues socialise with each other outside of work?
Does the company hold team events?
Does the company support a charity, if so which one and how?
If I asked one of my future colleagues to describe the company culture, what words would they use?

To find out more about the job itself and your potential boss, you could ask:

If I were to join the business, what would your expectations be of me during the first 3 months?
What do I need to have achieved in the first 6 months? And in the first year?
What obstacles or bottle necks can I expect to encounter?
Are you aware of any ‘problems’ within the team I am about to manage or join?
What support can I expect from you? And how much autonomy?
What background, experience and skill sets would the ideal person for this position have? (Check where you fall short and ask whether that is an issue)
How open is the company to my learning and development?
Why is this position open? And, if appropriate, where did the previous incumbent fall short?
What made you decide to join the business and what are your plans for the future?

The thing to remember is that no one likes to be interrogated, so you will need to practise the art of conversation so that the interview feels like a two way stream of information and rapport is developed along the way. Frankly, if the interviewer does not want to have a conversation or just wants to stick to their set questionnaire, you really should ask yourself if this is the right business for you.

Happy to help you prepare, just ask me!

Maarten Jonckers