You are about five minutes into a chat with a recruiter or hiring manager, and you immediately realize it will be challenging to showcase what you have. The first few questions they’ve thrown at you are so generic that giving a precise answer is beside the point. And they seem uninterested in parts of your CV that you’re least excited to discuss.
Rest assured, if you find yourself facing frustrating questions during an interview, there are strategies to handle them gracefully. You can navigate the conversation back to showcase your most impressive qualifications and achievements. Here’s a guide on how to do it with confidence!
1. SUGGEST A MORE RELATED TOPIC
During an interview, it’s not uncommon to encounter hiring managers who may lack experience in conducting interviews or are burdened with a heavy workload, leading to unpreparedness for the discussion. In such situations, career expert Martin Yate suggests a strategic approach to redirect the conversation. If the interviewer brings up a topic that you’d rather avoid or doesn’t seem interested in certain aspects of your experience, you can proactively introduce a related subject. For instance, you could ask, “Would it be valuable if I described my experience with ______?”
Yate further advises that if the interviewer mentions something similar to what you’d love to discuss, take the opportunity to share your relevant accomplishments. For example, you can respond with, “I recently completed a project just like that. It would be relevant for me to tell you about it.”
This approach is effective in showcasing your skills and achievements in areas aligned with the interviewer’s interests, even if they did not explicitly inquire about them. By strategically steering the conversation toward your strengths and experiences that resonate with the position’s requirements, you provide the interviewer with valuable information to form a positive impression of your candidacy.
The key to success in handling such situations lies in your ability to ask insightful questions and guide the conversation towards your strengths. This approach not only helps you control the direction of the interview but also highlights your adaptability and communication skills. It demonstrates your proactive approach to problem-solving and the capacity to address various scenarios gracefully.
As you engage the interviewer in discussions related to your accomplishments, it allows you to present a well-rounded picture of your capabilities and achievements, reinforcing your suitability for the role. Employers value candidates who can effectively communicate their expertise and align it with the organization’s needs. Thus, using this strategy empowers you to make a positive impact on the interviewer and increase your chances of securing the job opportunity.
2. FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
If you find that the hiring manager is overly focused on discussing an old position you held or experiences that may no longer be relevant, redirect the conversation towards the future.
Candidates often feel apprehensive about responding to hypothetical questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” However, employing effective strategies to handle such inquiries can also help you steer away from delving too deeply into your distant past.
As noted by Lars Schmidt, a recruiting expert and contributor to Fast Company, today’s workforce is more inclined towards non-linear career paths. Therefore, you can inform the hiring manager, who keeps emphasizing a role you held four years ago, that you have gained valuable insights from that experience, which facilitated your transition to a different career path. Emphasize how it taught you to identify transferable skills in unexpected areas and adapt to change.
Subsequently, focus on the future: “Consider reframing your response around the intangible qualities, knowledge, and experiences you aspire to acquire,” suggests Schmidt. This approach prompts the interviewer to contemplate your potential for growth and development rather than solely dwelling on your past work history. By discussing your aspirations and how they align with the position you are applying for, you can showcase your forward-thinking mindset and enthusiasm for the opportunities that lie ahead.
Remember, interviews are not just about discussing past accomplishments, but also about highlighting your potential for future contributions. By demonstrating your ability to adapt, evolve, and contribute to the organization’s success, you portray yourself as a candidate with a promising trajectory, making you an attractive choice for the role.
3. RETURN TO THE JOB DESCRIPTION
During a job interview, it is essential to be aware of questions that should not be asked—some of which are legally prohibited. Inquiries related to marital status, sex, race or ethnicity, religion, and other personal information have no place in the hiring process. Moreover, certain states and municipalities have even banned employers from asking candidates about their salary history, as it perpetuates pay disparities between genders.
However, interviewers may unintentionally ask inappropriate or offensive questions, not realizing their legal implications. They might view it as friendly conversation rather than a violation of privacy. If you find yourself facing such questions during the interview, it’s essential to tactfully redirect the conversation back to the job description and relevant qualifications. For instance, a suitable response to an irrelevant question about your family could be, “I’m confident I’ll be able to fulfill all the responsibilities of the role.”
Another effective strategy is to engage the interviewer by flipping the questions back to them. If asked about your place of origin, you can respond, “I’ve been based here in Chicago since college. How about yourself?” This approach allows you to gracefully avoid delving into personal matters and instead turns the conversation into a friendly exchange.
By maintaining focus on professional qualifications and the job requirements, you reinforce your suitability for the position based on merit and relevant skills. Steering the interview away from inappropriate topics demonstrates your professionalism and ability to handle challenging situations with poise. It also highlights your capacity to prioritize the job’s responsibilities and the organization’s needs.
Remember that job interviews should be conducted with respect for the candidate’s privacy and adherence to legal guidelines. As an interviewee, it’s crucial to protect your rights and ensure that the conversation remains focused on your qualifications and expertise. By skillfully managing the interview and gracefully handling inappropriate questions, you showcase your ability to maintain composure and professionalism in any work-related scenario.
4. ASK YOUR OWN QUESTION
Using a question as a response in an interview can be a strategic tactic. While you may initially offer a vague or noncommittal answer, it provides an opportunity to smoothly transition into a topic you feel confident discussing: “Speaking of ‘success,’ how do you look to measure that in this role?”
The key is finding a follow-up question that allows you to turn the tables, gather more information about the job, and delve into a subject you are well-prepared to discuss. The transition is often the easy part; it’s the skillful follow-up that enables you to steer the conversation in a direction that showcases your strengths and qualifications.
It’s important to remember that you might not always be satisfied with the interviewer’s approach, but that shouldn’t deter you from pursuing the job opportunity. By skillfully managing the interview, demonstrating your expertise, and confidently addressing relevant topics, you can still make a strong impression and increase your chances of securing the position. A successful interview relies not only on answering questions but also on how you proactively engage the interviewer and make the most of the conversation.
Taking control of the discussion through well-thought-out questions can highlight your enthusiasm for the role and your ability to lead the conversation in a constructive direction. Stay focused on your strengths, experiences, and how they align with the job requirements. By actively participating in the interview and demonstrating your potential contributions to the company, you position yourself as a strong candidate, regardless of any initial challenges during the conversation.
Ultimately, job interviews are an opportunity for both the interviewer and the candidate to assess mutual fit and determine if the role aligns with your career goals and aspirations. By leveraging the power of well-crafted questions and confidently navigating the conversation, you can maximize your chances of leaving a positive and lasting impression on the interviewer and securing the job you desire.
In conclusion, navigating a job interview effectively requires finesse and strategic thinking. When faced with generic or uncomfortable questions, candidates can employ smart tactics to steer the conversation towards their strengths and accomplishments. Politely redirecting the interviewer’s focus to topics that showcase their skills and experience can leave a positive impression and increase their chances of landing the job.
Avoiding discussions on illegal or sensitive subjects and gracefully shifting towards the future aspirations and potential contributions further enhances the candidate’s appeal to the hiring manager. By staying confident, prepared, and adaptable, candidates can overcome challenging interview situations and present themselves as valuable assets to the prospective employer. Ultimately, a well-executed interview sets the stage for a successful career match that benefits both the individual and the organization.