Want To Ace Your Job Interview? Take A Conversational Approach!

06/27/2015 07:53 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2016

Savvy job-seekers recognize that every employer is looking for the same thing: a problem solver who will successfully deal with the issues and challenges they face. The interview is your all-important opportunity to show the hiring manager that you are the #1 candidate for the job. You will need to demonstrate that you have the requisite skills and experience to solve their problems and how you will outperform the competition.

You know to prepare by thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the position description. Yet job postings are often written by Human Resources and are likely to be somewhat vague. Many of the hiring manager's true needs will not be listed. Consequently, it is awfully difficult to portray yourself as the ideal employee without first finding out more information.

To present yourself successfully, you will want to take a conversational approach during the interview. Assume the role of a consultant (not simply a job-seeker), get to know the interviewer and ascertain his or her needs. It is only after you have a thorough understanding of the specifics of their problems that you should begin selling yourself to the position.

You can do this by taking the initiative with a question-answer-question approach. Answer the question that was asked and then follow up with a related question of your own. For example:

  • Interviewer: "Tell me about yourself."
  • You: Present your branding statement followed by, "Now that I've told you a little about my background, can you tell me what you see to be the most pressing components of the position?"


  • Interviewer: "This job demands a certain amount of oversight. How do you handle authority?"
  • You: "I handle authority just fine but, since you brought it up, can you tell me a little about your management style and your expectations for the position?"

Using the question-answer-question format, the interview becomes a conversation between equals and, many times, you will even help the hiring manager clarify and verbalize his/her true requirements.

  • You: "If I'm understanding you correctly, you are looking for someone who can oversee and schedule existing volunteers, but you're really most interested in someone who's effective at recruiting new people into the organization."
  • Interviewer: "Yes, I guess that's right."
  • You: "When I was the volunteer coordinator, I was responsible for managing all aspects of the volunteers' work with our recipients. But I was most known for my ability to perform community outreach. I was a regular speaker at community organizations, Rotary Clubs, church groups, and the like, and I designed and produced a variety of brochures and leaflets explaining our work. As a result, I was able to double our volunteer staff within the first year I held the position."

Here are some additional open-ended questions that will get the interviewer talking about what is truly important for the job:

  • In your estimation, what are the most critical aspects of the position?
  • What needs to get done in the first three months?
  • What do you view to be the longer-range goals for the job?
  • How can the new person make your life easier?
  • How would you like someone in this position to handle situation X?
  • As the manager, which characteristics are most important to you for an employee to be successful?

Because people hire to fulfill their own needs, you won't "talk" them into hiring you, you will "listen" them into hiring you. Ask the right questions, find out their problems and present yourself as the problem solver they've been looking to find!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Updated in 2014, it's packed with even more critical information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools they need to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of and celebrate your sassy side!

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