Truth be told, an interviewer is never paying full attention to you in an interview. He/she has many other things on their mind as they work their way through their own set amount of interview questions within a set amount of time and have to manage all of that with someone sitting across the table from them who is eager and ready to go.
Yesterday I conducted three interviews with candidates for a CEO position and none of the three addressed the concerns I had about managing the time, keeping the day on schedule, or being able to gather the information I needed. Why didn’t they? Because they weren’t thinking about that aspect of the interview. But had they, they may have found that their time and mine was much more productive.
Here are three easy ways to take control of the interview and at the same time take the burden off of the interviewer so they can pay more attention to you:
- Start the interview with this question: “How much time do you have for me today?” This sets the stage so you now know that what you thought was going to be a full hour is really 45 minutes (or better what you thought was an hour can really be 90 minutes if it goes well). After hearing how much time the interviewer has you can then follow up with, “I really appreciate you taking this much time with me and I promise I will get out of here right on time.” Once this is said, the interviewer feels like the pressure is off and you have given them the license to later close the interview gracefully. If within the interview you feel like time is being wasted and drifting, you can always follow up with a glance at your watch and say, “I want to be respectful of your time and it appears we only have XX amount of minutes left”. This gives him/her a gentle reminder to get back on track.
- Ask up front: “What’s the most important thing you would like to learn about me today?” This ensures that even if the interview wanders the interviewer will have gotten from you what they really wanted to achieve.
- Ask at the end: “Is there anything you didn’t learn about me today that I didn’t give you?” This question ensures that if the interviewer lost track of their subject and their time, you have given them a way out to figure out how to go back to a prior subject that now feels awkward to follow up on their own.
With these three simple questions you can manage the interview, take off the pressure from the interviewer, and ensure that you get across what you wanted to achieve.