About the Other Side of the Interviewing Table
Too many interviewing articles carry a tone that paints the interviewee as someone who has little to no leverage over the other side of the table. They portray the job seeker as a piece of meat hoping to receive the right questions so they can give the right answers and after the fact hope that they have a chance to accept the right job.
Interviewing, when you look at it from its proper perspective, is the meeting of two different strangers who sit down to have what is typically an awkward discussion over highlighted data in Excel.
The entire goal for the interviewer during this initial meeting is to get the interviewee to open up to them, to reveal who they really are as a person. Assuming that the background of the interviewee is enough of a match against the interviewer’s needs, this is done through positive body language, engaged and intelligent answers, and a friendly, warm demeanor.
What many job seekers fail to see is that the interviewer is most likely just as nervous or hopeful as the interviewee. Stepping back for a moment, do you think that it would be more embarrassing to be rejected for a job that you’re applying for, or be rejected by somebody you wish to give money to for a job that they seemingly were interested in prior to meeting you in person?
Any business owner who tells you that they have never been turned down upon offering a job to somebody is either lying or has yet to accomplish enough to get to that part of company growth (or they work with their brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles). Even Google has had interviewers given them a polite “no thank you.”
The reason that the job seeker wants to get to the point where the interviewer is talking about themselves is that this is nearly always a win for the interviewee because they’re putting the interviewer in the hot seat. At this point, the interviewer is “selling” and the interviewee is obtaining enough information regarding whether this job may or may not be worth further pursuit.
When we are young, we are told by our parents not to speak to strangers. As children, this is for our protection. But the “don’t talk to strangers” mentality carries significant weight in our adult lives because it is during situations like an interview that the ingrained belief to keep your thoughts and feelings close truly surface.
Therefore, getting the interviewer to speak about themselves is a huge victory in the unspoken battle between interviewer and interviewee. But how do we get the other side pitching us while we sit back and listen?
Although this is a complex question that has many answers, none of which all apply to any given interviewer, the best way is to sincerely ask. Aside from nice dress, note taking, company preparation and a sincere interest (or be damn good at faking it) in the industry, you can lead in with the following question:
“You know, this sounds really interesting, how did you get into this?”
Ask this question and you’ll know exactly where you stand in the equation. Usually, it is a game turner and could also be put into play when nervous, but if shot down by the interviewer, it could quickly inform you that you’re not only not going to win the ballgame, you’re not even coming close to covering the spread.