Job Interviews: What employers really want to know (Part 1)
If you have felt like a job interview is unnecessary torture, it may be because you haven’t considered the goal. What employers really want to know is that you are able do the job, want to do the job and will fit with the rest of the team. And since you also want to know that you’ll be able to do the job, want the job and will fit with the rest of the team, it behooves you to prepare for the interview with this in mind. If you have vetted the company and the position before your interview, you’ll do a better job of demonstrating those key points. With that information front of mind, you can use the interview to confidently tell the employer what they really want to know.
Don’t get thrown off by an indirect or hypothetical question.
You may wonder why interviewers don’t just ask direct questions to find out what they want to know. Simply put, some questions aren’t asked because they can lead to legal issues down the road. Other questions will only prompt obvious, rehearsed answers. So instead, interviewers may ask unusual or hypothetical questions that may seem like “trick” questions. Don’t allow yourself to get thrown off by an indirect or hypothetical question. Instead, work more on understanding why they are asking it and tell them what they really want to know.
The interviewer is listening carefully to interpret your answer.
An example of a simple question is “How many days do you think a person should be sick?” They really want to ask “How reliable are you?” But they can’t ask you about your past attendance record because it isn’t pertinent to this job . If they asked “How many days will you be sick?”, you couldn’t know. The interviewer is listening carefully to interpret your answer. So instead of trying to state a “correct” number of days, beat the interpretation game altogether by saying what you intend to do. An acceptable response is “I don’t know about others, but I take very good care of myself and I’m in excellent health. I intend to be working unless I can’t function or am contagious (assuming you’ll be working on site).” Your answer leaves the interviewer with a positive sense about your reliability, which tells them what they really want to know.
Be prepared to answer a question that could abruptly put you off.
You may be thinking that a question about attendance is no big deal. So let’s try something more complicated and address other questions that could catch you off guard. It’s in your best interests to be prepared to answer a question that could abruptly put you off. Although it would be great if all interviewers were better prepared and avoided asking clearly off-point questions, you can’t assume that will happen. Not everyone involved with employment interviews does it for a living or has the skills to do it properly. In some cases, they may be asking what they really want to know, but is inappropriate to ask. Keep in mind that at no point will it serve you to argue, even if the interviewer asks an inappropriate question.
Help the interviewer recognize when they have gone off course.
An inappropriate question could be about your race, religion, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, childcare arrangements, chronic illnesses or disabilities (unrelated to the job), etc. If asked a question of this nature, you can calmly reply with “How does this information relate to this role?” Hopefully, this response will stop them in their tracks and help the interviewer recognize when they have gone off course.
Tell them what they really need to know vs what they asked.
A question can also be stated like it is only casual conversation. Don’t get sucked into discussing topics that that leave your answers open to interpretation. Pay attention and listen for what they really want to know. As an example, the job you are interviewing for requires travel. The interviewer asks you if your spouse or partner will object to your being gone for days. Instead of a literal answer, you can respond with “It sounds like you are concerned about my ability to travel. I traveled for my last position, and I’m totally able to handle the required travel indicated in the job description.” The key here is to tell them what they really need to know vs what they asked.
The previous examples should have helped oil your brain. It will take a little bit of time and practice. Take time to consider their intent to make sure you are ready to provide appropriate answers. We’ve covered a few of the typical types of questions. Next month we’ll dig into tougher questions. Stay tuned for more tips on what an employer really wants to know.