The Most Common Job Interview Pothole

b2ap3_thumbnail_pothole.jpgThere is a very common interview problem I see over and over for great candidates that just flattens their chances of getting an offer like a tire hitting a deep pothole.

I suspect this happens in virtually every industry, and it’s an issue that can easily be avoided. If you do this right, you can actually use this as an opportunity and give yourself a major advantage.

There are two important concepts you must know before I explain the scenario and how to turn this around.

1. Companies tend to hire the person they LIKE the best, not necessarily the most qualified person. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is, so building a great rapport with your interviewer is essential to getting an offer.

2. In virtually any industry or discipline, there are numerous ways to solve just about any problem. If you’ve been in the workforce for more than week, you know there is almost never just 1 way to get the job done.

That said, the pothole I’m referring to primarily happens when the person who is interviewing you is a senior manager who has been with the company for an extended period of time. After a few years of doing things the “company way,” that company process gets ingrained in their mind as “the” way to solve the problem.

When they ask you how you would approach a problem, if you tell them, “the way to do that is…step 1…step 2…”, well, unless you happened to guess the exact way that they do it, then in that hiring manager’s mind you are wrong. If you don’t do it their way, then you obviously don't know what you're doing and you’re not the right person for the job (at least that's what they think).

Next time you’re faced with this, rather than telling them, “this is the way you do it…”, instead just start your answer out with, “In my experience, here’s how I’ve done that…” and then tell them the steps you took.

By doing it that way, first of all, they can’t argue and say you didn’t do it that way, or that you don’t know how to do it, because you’re explaining the way you did it successfully.

You are also overtly implying that you are open to other ways of doing it. So even though you did it differently, you're showing that you recognize there are multiple ways to solve that problem and if they would rather that you do it another way, that you would be open to doing it their way.

Most importantly, you are very nicely setting yourself up to close your explanation with, “is that how you guys solve that problem?” Now this question/answer interview, becomes a conversation between two professionals with similar skill sets. Personally, I can’t imagine a better rapport building scenario than that.

b2ap3_thumbnail_rapport.jpgThe other candidates interviewing for this same position, facing question after question drilling them on how they approach different issues, which is a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to making a meaningful, personal connection between two people, will be at a decided disadvantage to you. Even if they happen to guess the same methods that the company uses to solve those problems, they still will not have the relationship that you will have built, simply by adjusting the way you phrase the start of your answer.

While it’s true that every company conducts their interviews differently, the one constant is that it’s people who are interviewing you. People hire people they like. Influencing another person’s opinion of you is something you can control. There are human characteristics and traits that are universally likable, and it’s just a fact that some conversations are more apt to build rapport than others.

When you know how to put these tactics to work for you in your interviews, you’ll find you get more offers.

If you start applying these same principles and tactics to your job search as a whole, you’ll be amazed at how many more responses you get to your resume, how much faster you get moved through the interview process, and how many more offers you get.

Please understand, this is how I make my living as a headhunter, placing people into jobs. I spend countless hours studying job search and interview tactics. It’s not random luck that my interview to hire ratio is less than half of the national average for recruiters. Little adjustments like the one I just showed you make an enormous difference in your success rate. This is stuff you can learn. If you need to find a job, and you’ve tried all the free stuff that’s out there, then consider learning the tactics the professionals are using. Go to, sign up, and get back to work. It’s time.

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