We counsel candidates to prepare for interviews by doing research on the company history, finding out who the leaders are, looking online for connections they might have with them, talking to people the company knows and who know them, and sharpening their question answering skills. But how much preparation do the people conducting the interviews do? It varies widely. Is there no way to plan for an interview gone awry because the interviewer isn’t prepared? Yes there is! Here are some tips to keep your interview on track, and even help out if you notice the interviewer struggling.
Excuse me, who are you?
Encountering an interviewer who has not yet reviewed your resume is frustrating but it can be overcome. ALWAYS come with extra copies of your CV and offer one right away if you think they don’t have a copy. Offer a moment for them to review it, and be ready with a brief review of who you are and why you’re there. Don’t take it personally. You’re trying to solve a problem, not make it worse by showing annoyance. For example: “Here’s my resume. I’d be happy to go into more detail as it relates to this position as soon as you’ve had a chance to review it.”
It’s nice to make friends but you’re there to interview for a job!
Sometimes candidates tell us that they spent 75% of the time discussing a shared hometown, hobby or school. They’re not sure how the actual interview went. When a strong personal connection occurs, it can be an asset but can also distract. Be aware of how much time you spend shooting the breeze, and bring the interview back to a professional discussion about the job at hand. There is nothing wrong with changing the subject in order to keep the interview on track. “That’s great, but tell me, why is this position open?” Or, “this has been fun but tell me, what makes someone succeed in this position here?”
It happens sometimes. An emergency occurs and the interview is interrupted. The interviewer’s phone rings, they can’t help themselves and answer. Your job is to make sure that you get the interview back on track as soon as you can. Be ready with questions or answers, speak up and don’t let an awkward silence ruin your interview. “We were just talking about __. Here’s what I think…”
The best candidates are not only well prepared, but they can adapt to unexpected situations that arise during the interview.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.