Dancing with the Interviewers

Dancing with the Interviewers

Interviewing for a job is like dancing with a partner.

As I have watched contestants perform on the television show “Dancing with the Stars”, I see that exceptional dance partners move in sync with one another, anticipating their partner’s moves.  

Interviews are successful (we get the job offer) when interviewers are convinced that job candidates:

  • Have the skills to satisfy the organization’s needs (know the basic dance steps).
  • Can build the relationships that are required to satisfy the organization’s needs (understands the movements of the organization).

Following are tips that could help you perform exceptionally at your interview dances.

  • Research the company and position thoroughly before the interview.
  • Seek first to understand rather than be understood.
  • Ask questions that “put you in the position” as a significant contributor or exceptional performer.
  • Ask questions that will lead the interviewer to believe that you will build effective relationships with key people in the organization and the interviewers if you are hired.
  • Determine if the interview is a how or who interview and respond accordingly.

You can conduct your pre-interview research by reading recent articles about the company and/or articles written or comments by the interviewer or the head of the organization or function. Tap your network to gain information on the situation, needs, and challenges the company or interviewer is facing. Utilize your network for connections to individuals who work in the organization, know the decision maker, or serve the organization (How Many “Scouts” Are You Engaging in Your Job Search?).

Your research will provide indications of the needs of the interviewers or company. Ask questions during the interview to confirm the needs. Think about the last time a salesperson convinced you to make a significant purchase (car, appliance, etc.). Your visit to the showroom or store indicated your need. The salesperson asked you questions to confirm your needs before communicating how the product could satisfy your needs. Individuals will tune you out if you communicate information that they do not want or need. Again, seek first to understand rather than being understood.

Visions can be a powerful tool for you, especially when you create the vision. One of my favorite questions for placing yourself in a position is “If you hire me, what I would have to accomplish in the first 3-6 months to make a significant impact on the organization?”

Series of questions that indicate you will build effective relationships if you are hired include:

  • What are the most significant challenges and issues I will have to address if you hire me?
  • Who are the key individuals with whom I will work or should consult to help me address the challenges and issues?
  • What are the expectations of the key individuals of me if I am hired?

“Pepper” your exchanges with the interviewers that will relate your accomplishments to the organization’s challenges or needs. For example, state what you accomplished when you faced:

  • Working with limited resources.
  • Convincing skeptical business partners to support an important initiative or project.
  • Having to motivate staff or team members who were experiencing low morale.

Your statements of your accomplishments should be concise and brief. State the results, the benefits the organization realized, and the measures you took.

How interviews focus primarily on whether you have the skills and capabilities to satisfy the potential employer’s needs. Who interviews focus on your ability to fit into the organization. In how interviews, interviewers tend to probe information on your resume, especially your qualifications and experience. Fitting into the organization is your personal chemistry versus the chemistry or culture of the organization. Who interviews focus on factors such as your management or work style, your approach to getting things done, and even personal information such as your interests. One indication of who interviews is when the interviewers sit next to you rather than having a table or other physical separation between the interviewers and you or seat you among the interviewers rather than across the table. Watch for clues. You will lose the interest of the interviewers if you keep dwelling on your professional qualifications when the interviewers wants to know “Will we be able to work with this person?” If the interview music is calling for who steps, don’t get out of sync with the partner by taking how steps.

Look for clues to understand the dynamics of the interview team and the decider, the key decision maker.

  • Who leads off the interview?
  • To whom do the interviewers constantly make eye contact when they are asking questions or making comments?
  • To whom do the interviewers look for nods of approval?

Leverage your exit after the interview is completed to strengthen your candidacy. Continue the interview dance until the music stops. Let the interviewers lead and you respond accordingly.  If you encounter the person who coordinated the interview, thank that person for his/her efforts.

Within 2 business days after the interview, send individual messages to each interviewer. Do not send a single message to all the interviewers. Tailor each message to the questions asked or comments made by each interviewer. Refer to something that the interviewer and you have in common such as a common interests, alumni of the same school, or membership in the same organization. Expand on information that was discussed during the interview such as sending articles on solutions you discussed, best practices, or techniques you have used to solve problems or overcome challenges the organization is facing. Express your appreciation for the interview and your desire to join the organization. If there are position requirements that were emphasized during the interview, reinforce you candidacy by relating to accomplishments that support your candidacy.

As a general rule, I do not suggest that you call for the status of the hiring decision. The decision maker will make the decision according to his/her priority and their comfort with the selection process. Calling to check the status may weaken your negotiating position when an offer is extended. Calls may suggest that you are in urgent need of the offer and very eager to compromise.

Most of all, remember the job search formula.

Are your interviews leading to job offers?

How well are you dancing with interviewers?

Have you mistaken who interviews with how interviews and vice versa?

Are you experiencing uncomfortable moments of silence during interviews?

What interview suggestions or tactics would you like to share?

What aha moments did you experience while reading this article?

I invite you to share your comments, experiences, and suggestions. This helps me provide information that may help you address your career opportunities and challenges.

Fields of Success offers complimentary coaching sessions. Visit the Contact page on the Fields of Success website to schedule a session.

Next week’s article will cover the final step in the Personal Selling Process, “Close”, and will summarize the process.

Linwood Bailey is a career coach and the author of The Business of Me: Your Job … Your Career … Your Value. The Business of Me provides a career management process and information designed for today’s business professional. Since 2008, Linwood has enabled business professionals to manage their careers. Linwood, the been there coach, provides innovative career management solutions derived from his 34 years of experience managing functions and people in multiple industries, regions, and corporate cultures.



Founder, Fields of Success, LLC

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