The truth about interviews

It’s a common misconception that an interview should have a question-answer structure. Take my word for it – I’ve been working in the recruitment industry for over 30 years now. Having met literally thousands of candidates over this period, I’ve spotted a few patterns. The best interviews are always a two-way street. In an interview, you need to ask questions at every opportunity. It’s not an exam, it’s an exchange.

You should hear your own voice just as much as you hear the interviewers. Don’t be afraid to speak up: a fluid, dynamic conversation will impress any employer – it will tell them that you are confident, that you are knowledgeable and, most of all, that you will be someone they’d like to work with. Nobody wants a robot for a colleague.

There are an infinite number of questions you could ask. If you’ve done sufficient research, you can trust that they will come readily. At that point, you can afford to be selective. Don’t ask the generic questions that everybody else will – about the company structure, the challenges of the role, the potential career path etc. If you’ve done your homework, you will know the answers to these already. Instead, use your knowledge as a springboard to ask something a little more nuanced, for instance:

  1. What are your experiences within the company? As an interviewer, what qualities do you look for that you personally feel fit into the organisation?
  2. What successes have other employees with similar backgrounds to me had in the company? How have their experiences played out to their advantage?

If you’re struggling to think of something outside of the box, make it simple: what information couldn’t you get on the internet?

One of the best questions I ever received as an interviewer was what they could do better than their predecessor. This kind of specific, constructive question will not only help you in your performance should you get the job, but shows that you are forward thinking and proactive.

So, asking the right questions will allow you to show yourself in the best light. It will allow you to demonstrate qualities that can’t just be talked about – no employer is going to ask you if you are proactive, you simply have to show them. In my experience, I consistently find that candidates that stand their ground in an interview have the most success.

This is not only because, at the most basic level, it shows that they have something to say, but because it means they have enough words to make their case. You have to create your own opportunities in interviews – clear a space for your true colours to shine through.

What’s the best question you’ve ever asked or been asked in an interview?

Courtesy of James Caan CBE and Influencer