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How to Handle an Unprepared Interviewer

How to Handle an Unprepared Interviewer

Abby Locke | Executive Career Insights

June 15, 2010

I recently spoke to client who was very frustrated by her last interview. She had done everything she could on her part – researched the company, learned about its business challenges and prepared career success stories to support her strengths.

However, her interview did not go smoothly because the person she met was not properly prepared and subjected her to a myriad of generic, “career-book” interview questions that only merited the usual scripted responses.

I can certainly understand her frustration. How do you handle those situations effectively, turn around the interview and still leave a strong impression in the employer’s eyes?

1. Provide a targeted 30-second pitch

Make sure your “tell me about yourself” response is tailored for the position. An executive in the non-profit world could start off by saying, “Well, as my resume shows, I have bring a solid background and wealth of experience in non-profit management. Throughout my career, I have been successful in helping non-profit organizations overcome fund development challenges and increase their fundraising efforts by more than 50%”

2. Focus on your career success stories

If you are asked a question like “What is the greatest strength that you bring to the position?” Use the opportunity to show that you understand the company’s challenges and the solutions required for the situation.

Pull out one of your career success stories that directly address an issue that the company is facing – and of course, you would know that because you did your research, right?

3. Gently encourage the interviewer to examine your resume

Certainly I don’t expect you to push pause in the interview and wait for the person to read your resume, however, as you respond to questions, why not say “As my resume shows”; “As you can see from my resume”; As I have outlined or listed in the first page of my resume"; As you would notice on page two of my resume"

If he/she is completely unprepared, there are still key pieces of information he/she can get from quick glances at your resume – after all, professional resumes are read in less than 30 seconds.

4. Ask direct questions around a recent press release or media piece

Now, I have to emphasize that you should try your best to bring up a positive event in the company’s history – if the CEO got recently let go for embezzling, well, that might be awkward to discuss in an interview:)

This strategy allows you to show that you are interested and that you closely follow the company’s progress and new developments. Again, I would recommend linking one of your career success stories to a recent event.

5. Help the interviewer to get to know more about you

Ask questions like:

“Is there anything else that I can tell you about my background and experience that would be helpful?”

“What skills and strengths are need to be present in this position?” (then follow up a career success story that demonstrates those strengths)

“Based on what I have told you so far, is there anything else I could do to improve my candidacy?”

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Featured Author: Abby Locke
Abby M. Locke is an executive career strategist and job search specialist who has been interviewed, quoted and featured in Essence Magazine, the Washington Post, Washington Post Express, Wall Street Journal, CEO Update, Monster.com, Kiss 105.9, Black Enterprise, ABCnews.com and the Society for Human Resource Management. Abby partners with senior-level executives and women MBA professionals to help them discover brand distinction overcome job search obstacles and achieve career mastery in highly competitive, crowded marketplaces. She serves as a Résumé Consultant for Women-for-Hire career fairs, contributes thought-provoking advice articles to The Ladders.com and ExecutiveAgent.com, DCjobs.com, Localcareers.com, and Careerealism and is the Seattle Resumes Examiner for Examiner.com. For more of Abby’s professional insights, check out her blog.

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