Interviews: Be Prepared for 2-Way Q&As

Q.  I went into an interview last week well prepared to discuss my strengths and weaknesses and career goals, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened. Almost the entire time with three different people consisted of them asking me what questions I had about the company.  They, in turn, answered those questions and asked follow up questions based on my responses.  They said I did “fine”, but it was disturbing since I knew a lot about the company, but I didn’t give much thought prior to the interview about what questions I should ask them.  Assume this is a new interview technique? Just want to forewarn others.  -LM

A.  Most interviews today have become converstions where you are expected to participate in the questioning process.  While you should be prepared for 100 potential interview questions, employers increasingly want to engage applicants in a conversation where they elicit deeper insights into what makes you tick. 

You definitely need to go into the interview prepared for the basic questions:  Describe your strengths and weaknesses, why do you want to work here, what are your long-term career goals, why do you want to leave your current position (assuming you’re employed) and what questions do you have for me?  As you discovered, the last question trips up many applicants.  Some go in prepared with one or two possible questions, which you learned is no longer sufficient.  Multiple thoughtful questions demonstrates that you’ve done your homework. 

Start your questions with an icebreaker:  “I notice from LinkedIn that you’ve been here for three years.  Describe your decision to come here and what differences you’ve found between this company and your previous employer.  Describe the company’s culture and your management style.  Fast forward a year and let me know how would you describe success should I get this job?  Besides engaging questions, be sure to research competitors.  Demonstrating an understanding of the competitive business environment and major players will impress interviewers. 

While it’s important to come to an interview with good questions, don’t forget the 12 factors ensuring a successful interview.  It’s no longer possible to “wing it” with an interview.  Do your homework–devote the time necessary to fully research the company or agency and those with whom you will be meeting.

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