By Stephanie Clark
An effective interview is a conversation with questions posed, and answers given, by both sides. And, as in a conversation, its evolution into a meaningful discussion depends on the quality of information shared. What do you do, then, when asked a question for which you have a less-than-optimal reply? I remember being in an interview where I had to respond, somehow, to a question for which my nerve-addled brain could devise no response! Interview “freeze-ups” happen, as do less-than desired responses, when we are forced to reply to a question with a truthful “no,” when the recruiters would prefer to hear “yes.”
Faced with these deflating experiences, most interviewees feel that the game is over and they lost. This is precisely where the typical interviewee is short-changing his or her potential hire. To which I say, “Nonsense!” If you made it to the interview, your credentials - education, experience, and skills - are at least equal to the requirements (remember that the job posting may be a “wish-list,” reflecting the best of the best scenario; the actual list of requirements may be a good deal more realistic). If you were called for an interview, you have every expectation of an equal chance to wow the interviewers and land an offer. But giving up the effort because of one “stumpifying” question isn’t an effective strategy.
What to do then, if you cannot come up with a response, or if you have to answer “no” where you wish you could have answered “yes”? For a question that has you frozen, like a deer in the headlights, unable to think of even a partial reply, pick up your pen and jot down the question while sharing “You know, I simply cannot think of anything at this moment. Let me note that down and get back to you with something.” This provides you with a perfect topic to include in your “thank you” email or note. Can’t claim that you have a certificate in whatever, or that you’ve worked with the employer’s brand of database, or that you have project managed a project with that large a budget, and you wish you had? Find something related, for example: Maybe you don’t hold that certificate, but have worked with people who have, and they’ve all said “Where did you learn all that? I didn’t even learn that during my certificate course.” Prove your expertise with examples of how your trouble shooting skills saved time, money, or the need for additional manpower etc. It may well be that you project managed five smaller projects that together exceeded that budget. Prove your value by building further context, explaining how you brought each project in on time, under or on budget, and how one of these won you an award and why. Databases abound, and instead of saying no, tell them about how you have learned three new databases in each of the last three positions, some without any instruction other than “playing” with the system for a few hours.
The trick is to seize each opportunity to sell your audience on your abilities. Don’t drop the ball in self-defeat - take a shot! Wow the recruitment team with your ability to communicate as well as with your enthusiasm and credentials.