The big 'tell' in a job interview

How do you know when you’ve hit the right buttons during an interview? It’s simple: When the interviewer shifts from the “what” questions to the “how” questions. Let me explain.

Your resume is the only document the hiring manager has with your background and experiences. The reason you’re being interviewed is that something in your resume sparked an interest. The hiring manager wants to find out more about you. Initially the interviewer will ask you the “what” questions about your experiences:

» What was your job at each position?

» What did you do in each job?

» What were the results?

» What motivated you to move to another job?

» What are you looking for in your next move?

» What were the greatest achievements in your work experiences?

These are all information-gathering questions. The interviewer is searching your experiences, successes and achievements that may potentially transfer to the open job they are trying to fill. The hiring manager is trying to match what you have done to what she needs. The closer you come to the match, the higher your potential. In other words, what have you done that may add value to their organization and ultimately to their results?

Once the hiring manager switches from the “what” questions to the “how” questions, you now know the key skill sets they are looking for in a candidate. The “how” questions are likely:

>>How did you achieve the results you claim?

» How long did it take you to demonstrate these results?

» How much training and skills upgrade did the staff need?

» How did you sell the idea to senior management?

» How much did it cost?

» How did you determine the best approach to solve the issue?

These “how” questions target potential solutions for the issues the hiring manager is trying to solve. Once you know what the organization needs, you can offer alternatives. The more follow-up questions and the more details he asks, the bigger the issue is for them and the greater their interest in you.

That’s why the “how” follow-up questions are so important for you to understand. They reveal the real reason why you are being interviewed.

Leverage your newfound knowledge now with your own follow-up questions, such as, “The solution was made in three steps. Would it be helpful to talk more about these steps and how the implementation was accelerated?” Hiring managers are always trying to learn how to solve their problems. You now have the opportunity to become a consultant, with alternatives, to the hiring manager.

At the same time you’re advancing your candidacy as the best person for the job.

Knowing the difference between the “what” and “how” question is the difference between giving information about your past and giving potential solutions to the hiring manager about the future. Which is more effective for you as a candidate?

Kaufmann is president of My Greener Future. For a free resume review, email wkaufmann44@gmail.com

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