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How to Make Your Job Interview a Conversation

Posted By: Lionel Simmons on November 7, 2022

illustration of two women in a job interview having a conversation

Contrary to what many believe, a job interview is meant to be a two-way exchange. Treating it as an interrogation or a chance for the candidate to deliver a monologue isn’t going to help hiring managers make a wise decision in the long run. A job interview is an opportunity for both the candidate and the company to show what they have to offer and how they can benefit each other.

This is especially important if you’re interviewing for a professional or managerial role. Companies should be prepared to sell the opportunity and the company to top candidates, and candidates should be prepared to sell themselves and show why they’re the best fit for the role.

As a leading executive staffing agency, we encourage clients and candidates to have a two-way exchange to get to really know each other better. Our advice to candidates: Answer every question as comprehensively as possible and respond with a related question or statement. This is especially useful when asked a generic or “unanswerable” question.

Here are a few ways to do it.

Question: What Makes You Unique?

Hiring managers are highly selective when filling professional positions, and rightly so. This question is just one way of determining whether you’ll be the right fit for the job. This means you need to show them how you stand out by highlighting your top selling point in your answer and adding a follow-up question to back it up. For example:

Answer: I really enjoy learning new things, and I seek new opportunities to learn.

Follow-up: Does your company have a professional development program?

This answer shows you’re dedicated to your professional growth and want to learn how the company can help you achieve your goals. It also facilitates the two-way exchange.

Here’s another example:

Answer: I am not afraid of failure; it is essential to experimenting, succeeding and growing.

Follow-up: Has your company ever experienced a serious business setback and emerged from it in a much better position?

This answer communicates your ability to make the most of difficult situations and learn from them. It also allows a two-way exchange, showcasing your desire to learn more and reassuring the interviewer that you are truly engaged in the interview.illustration of two people talking during a job interview

Questions: Are You Married? How old are you? Do you have children? Do you have any health problems?

If a manager asks any of these questions, you should think twice about the company because the manager has some deeper issues that raise some red flags. These types of questions may violate Title VII because they can be used to discriminate against women or people with disabilities who are seeking employment. That said, always be a professional and take this approach:

Answer: Well, I assume you are most interested in how I create a balance between my work and my personal life. I am always willing to do my part for a special urgent initiative, and I think in the long run it is in the company’s best interest that employees have a good balance in their lives so they can maintain perspective and be productive.

Follow-up: How do you ensure your staff maintains a healthy work-life balance?

This answer shows your commitment to professionalism while subtly setting boundaries for work-life balance. It also prompts the company to showcase how they take care of their employees’ well-being. 

Question: What Is Your Greatest Shortcoming?

Nobody wants to admit to their biggest weaknesses, and yet this is a question almost all interviewers ask. The key is highlighting your strengths while discussing your weaknesses and ensuring the latter aren’t traits that would directly impact your performance in the role you’re interviewing for.

Answer: Well, you may be familiar with StrengthsFinder and the 34 natural strengths it measures in an individual. My top five natural strengths are [list five strengths]. All the other 29 natural strengths are, therefore, by definition, my 29 shortcomings. I work well with others whose natural strengths complement my shortcomings in the same way my strengths complement theirs.

Follow-up: What are the top traits or skills you feel the ideal candidate should have?

This answer and the follow-up show self-awareness without sounding like you are boasting about yourself or dodging the question.

Brookwoods Group is a Top executive search firms helping companies find the perfect-fit professionals in Houston. If you’re looking for a new position in an executive role, apply here. We are also a Marketing staffing agency austin helping companies find the right professionals to work on a contract basis for a set amount of time or to complete clearly defined projects.