Quite often when I’m facilitating a workshop on preparing for upcoming job interviews, people get the idea that they are supposed to have all their interview answers memorized. This causes them undue stress naturally because of two things; one they can’t predict the questions that will be asked and two, they can’t memorize things very well.
So my advice to these people is not to memorize answers but rather to mesmerize your answers. I really would find it difficult to believe that anyone would actually go into an interview with all their answers rehearsed to the point where they would actually memorize their answers the way an actor memorizes their lines. In a play that runs night after night, the director will expect the actor or actress to move exactly the same way when speaking a line, have the same expression, the same tone of voice and the same words night after night. Not so in an interview. Trying to do this repeatedly at all your job interviews would be hugely stressful and well, just wrong. Your answers should appear fresh, unrehearsed and natural.
So how do you mesmerize your interviewers? Well, like the actor, you do want your interview to be memorable in a positive way. The importance of doing some research ahead of your interview is critical. Looking at the job description, you’ll see the qualifications the job requires, and you may see words that describe the working conditions such as, “fast-paced”, or perhaps, “client-focused”. These give you strong clues to what the employer values. If you are going to thrive in a fast-paced environment, then you should be sure to let the employer know that you like being busy, can handle multiple tasks simultaneously, and feed off of working in high energy settings. Your describing the fast-paced workplace that interviewer works in, and you fit well with what he or she experiences daily to the point where they can see you working there.
Even rookie interviewers can tell when someone is just spitting out rehearsed answers, and I’ll bet you yourself can do this too. The person is concentrating, looking for the exact phrase they memorized, and their eyes look away as they wrack their brain for the right words. Wrong. To really wow an interviewer, think first about the question you’ve been asked to make sure the answer you are about to give actually answers the question. Next, you’re going to want to use some concrete example from your past, (preferably a work-related example) that demonstrates the skill or actions that show the interviewer you have the skill or qualifications they are inquiring about.
Should an interviewer ask about your problem-solving skills for example, you might begin by first repeating back the question such as, “Sure, I’m happy to describe my problem-solving ability”. This ensures you’ve heard the question right, and allows your brain to sort through its mental filing system and remember a time or two in your past when you solved a problem without the awkwardness of dead air while you think. Now paint a visual picture for the interviewer so they see you in that other workplace, and tell them what you were trying to accomplish and then explain the problem that came up, or the challenge that you faced. Next explain what you actually did to resolve the problem and finish by telling them the positive result that occurred based on your actions. Now wrap the whole thing up by getting back to the job you are applying for today. Basically it’s to show that if you can do it elsewhere, you can certainly do it again in this new position under similar circumstances. Draw everything out for the interviewer and assume nothing.
Of course to really mesmerize the interviewer, say one thing they wouldn’t expect. I was asked once why I wanted to work for a company. My answer began, “I don’t actually want to work for _____________ (and I named the company). I waited about 3 seconds and watched the stunned faces of the interview panel register. Then I said, “I want to be employed by the company but I want to work for your clients”. Then I went on to talk about the concept of Servant Leadership, and how it was my philosophy that I work directly for customers and clients and had never worked for any company but had been employed by several over my life time. That was a memorable answer and I used my acting skills to pull it off with just the right amount of pause for dramatic effect. Oh I mesmerized them and they told me so after the interview. “Not sure where we were going to go with the whole interview until you continued. Certainly a new take on that question I can tell you” said the lead interviewer later.
Be careful though. Don’t stand out in an odd way that leans toward the negative. Inappropriate clothing, peculiar haircuts or over-the-top makeup application will definitely make you stand out, but only because you won’t fit in. You may be out of the process early and wonder why the interview was so brief. Be knowledgeable about the company and the role you may play in it, be friendly, confident and show some honest enthusiasm for the job, and certainly use your good manners.
Mesmerize your answers and certainly I wish you all the best as you prepare for future interviews.