Career Advice, Interviews

How to Control a Job Interview Once the Door Closes

You have spent hours and hours preparing for this all-important interview.  You want this job and you want to work for this company.  The big moment is here and then this happens….

The interviewer is a few minutes late and you have been looking at her pictures and books as you wait for her to arrive in the office.  She comes in, shuts the door as she apologizes for being late.  She shuffles through the papers on her desk as she mumbles something about seeing your resume here earlier today but doesn’t know where it went. After a painful minute or so of this, she looks up at you and says, “Oh, we don’t need your resume, I want to know who you are without it anyway.  So, where are you from?”

The voice in your head is saying to you, “This is not the way it is supposed to go.  I want her to see my resume and to dig in and talk about what I have accomplished. What am I going to do?”

This is an hour you cannot afford to waste and you need to take control of this interview and leave the interviewer blown away with how accomplished, smart, confident and enthusiastic you are. The question is ‘how?’

  • Don’t Worry, Remain Confident: The first thing you can do is to recognize the situation and express that while unfortunate that she won’t have the benefit of using your resume to understand the highlights of your career and achievements. Let her know that you would like to walk her through your experience and that she is welcome to stop you with any questions.
  • Summarize Career Highlights: When telling your story, keep information concise and punctuate your unique experiences, attributes and qualities. This is your chance to control the conversation that the misplaced resume and ill-prepared interview created. Give it your best elevator pitch, highlighting the areas that you want the interviewer to dig into further. If you do this you will have taken control of the interview.
  • Don’t Dominate the Conversation: You don’t want to dominate the conversation with your monologue just because you have the floor. If you are not getting asked at least six (6) questions in an hour interview then you are talking too much. If you get asked over twelve (12) then you may need to expound on your answers as you don’t want the interviewer to feel like she/he is having to pull teeth to get something out of you.
  • Prompt Key Interview Questions: It is quite appropriate to help guide the next question by teasing it out with the answer to your prior question. Leave an answer dangling with something that will likely spur another question you want asked, for example: “And not only was I able to achieve what I just outlined for you, I was also asked by the President of the company to lead a special project on his behalf which utilized a whole different set of skills and capabilities for me….. ” What is the logical next question you are about to be asked? “What are those skills and capabilities that you learned you now have?” Or something like that. The interviewer just walked down the path you wanted.
  • Learn from Politicians: Most often, you’ll notice that politicians never answer the question asked, they respond with the answer they want to give. We find it annoying because we see it over and over, but it works. Be careful that it doesn’t come off as if you don’t listen or are too controlling, but rather carefully construct a response that makes an interesting point and is relevant to the question or opportunity. You only get an hour or less in an interview so you have to make the most of that time.

What happens behind the closed door of an interview is anyone’s game.  The interviewer may want to talk exactly about what you want them to discuss or randomness may set in and they want to talk about sports, vacations, children, politics, business gossip, university or people you have in common.  While on the surface these are all fine, but if these conversations steal your hour to leave a strong impression that you can deliver and achieve, then the interview must be taken back under control by you.

Remember that interviews can be unpredictable so be quick on your feet, express what’s important for the employer to know and beyond everything else, stay on your message.