Tricky Interviews

(Part 1 of 2)

Besides regular interviews, there are some unusual kinds of interview. In this series, we will discuss some tricky interviews to help you prepare for real life . Pamela Stock mentions six of them. Let's look at the first three.

1. The Restaurant Interview
Sometimes the interviewer invites you for a lunch. The meal usually takes place after an office interview. It occurs at companies where personality matters be cause you'll be expected to work very closely either with one person or a team. Dining with you gives bosses and associates a chance to see if you are someone they would enjoy having around. The challenge: Try to do everything at a regular interview while you are managin g a knife and a fork with table manners. The strategy: Think like dinner with your friends' family. Mind your manners an d maintain a cordial-but-not-chummy tone. Order neat-to-eat food. Avoid tough chicken or steak since it can shoot across the room, or spaghetti since it can drip, or spinach since it can lodge between your teeth, or lobster since it can consume all your attention and energy. Think simple pasta or an entree with a minimal amount of sauce. The pitfall: Alcoholic beverages. If everyone else is drinking and you drink socially, feel free to have a cocktail or glass of wine. But stop at one. Meal interviews tend to be chatty, and you may feel like you are out with friends - but you're not. The winning move: Compliment the food and/or restaurant and, even though your host is expensing the meal, thank them for taking you. If you had a good time with the interviewer or group, show that you will fit in by adding, "And I appreciate getting to talk to you outside of the office. I can tell that this w ould be a great place to work."

2. The Panel Interview
Sometimes you walk into the room, there is more than one interviewer there, and they started firing questions at you one after another. You feel outnumber ed and completely confused. In some cases, you will be warned ahead of time. O therwise, you can expect a panel interview when you are up for a job with multip le supervisors or one that involves group presentations as a responsibility. The challenge: To hit it off with two or more people at the same time without ap pearing flustered or cross-eyed. You also have to be careful not to antagonize the others by focusing your attention on one person, whether it is the friendlie st face, the grouch or the talker. The strategy: Think gracious quest at a party that has been thrown in your honor . Start by shaking everyone's hand, and repeat their names as they are introduced. Just say something simple like "Nice to meet you, Mr. or Ms. ... ." This warms the room and shows that you know how to handle a group, which is part of the reason for having a panel interview in the first place. The pitfall: Confronted with the sensory overload of multiple inquisitors, you will find it is easy to get distracted and lose your train of thought. This is especially true if you try to make eye contact with the crowd. So, look at the person who asked you the question while you answer it, then take the others in after you have finished. The winning move: Show your knowledge of group dynamics by asking an inclusive question like "What are each of you looking for in this position?"

3. The Serial Interview
You show up for your interview appointment. You are escorted into an office. You sit down, and the interviewer asks, "Why do you want to work here?" You deliver your well-prepared speech beautifully. Then you leave that office and re taken to another, where the interviewer asks, "Why do you want to work here?" This keeps going on until you exit, enter another office and hear again "Why do you want to work here?" No, you are not trapped in the sequel to Groundhog Day. You have just had the serial interview, a favorite in companies where hiring decisions are make by a committee. The challenge: To remain "on" for hours without boring yourself - or an interviewer - to death when you are asked about your qualifications for the nth times. The strategy: Think politician on the campaign trail. You give the same spiel over and over, but tweak it for each interviewer. And customize your questions, too - ask questions about the company's future, and throw more specific queries like "Can you describe a typical day?" at a direct supervisor. The pitfall: Offering an unedited transcript. When Interviewer Number Three asks "What did Mr. ...(interviewer Number Two) tell you about the position?" Do not disclose a promise made by Number Two that Number Three has not agreed. Keep saying "if this works out ..." since you do not want any of them to think that you thought their input would not matter. The winning move: Realize that you are interviewing these people as much as they are screening you. This is your chance to get specific questions answered. For instance, you can ask the same-age-as-you employee about the health-club benefits at the company, or find out from the old-timer there about where their predecessors went.

(Pamela Stock - The Six Tricky Interview Traps)

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