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Conversational Interviews and Interrogations

Most people have the wrong concept of job interviews. They falsely believe that a job interview is an event where the interviewers ask all the questions and the applicant only provides answers. This type of event is not an interview. It is an interrogation. During an interrogation, one person asks the questions while the other person provides responses. Do you really think people get hired by going on interrogations? I don't think so.

Think back to your best interview experience, and you'll discover that your meeting was a two-way conversation. The interviewer asked you questions; you thoughtfully responded and then asked your own questions. The interview flowed effortlessly as two professional peers exchanged information and work perspectives. It felt like you were in a groove, spontaneous, and in the zone where everything came easily and comfortably. You were confident and felt like the job was yours for the taking.

This Podcast describes how to facilitate that kind of interview every time. Well, maybe not every time, but most of the time. If your interviewer is a real jerk, you can only do so much. How to deal with jerks in the interview process is covered in a separate Podcast. Most interviewers are wonderful, nice people, but there are a few assholes who are real jerks trying to hide their own insecurity.

The Typical Job Interview

Let's imagine we are observing a typical job interview where the candidate does not ask questions. The interviewer begins by saying, “Tell me about yourself.” The applicant provides an excellent response with a 60-second overview of his/her skills that relates directly to the position. After the response, the applicant sits quietly waiting for the next question. The interviewer asks the next question which is followed by a nice response from the applicant and then more silence. This one-way interrogation ritual continues for 40 minutes. The last 5 minutes of the interview are reserved for applicant questions. The interviewer begins this phase by asking, “Do you have any questions?" The candidate says, “No, I have no questions at this time. You have done an excellent job of telling me about the position and the company.”

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The interview concludes. The candidate goes home and tells friends and family that the interview went very well, because they had great answers to every interviewer question. After 4 weeks of follow-up e-mails and phone calls, the dejected applicant is angry and does not understand why he/she has not received any reply from the company. The candidate does not know what he/she did wrong and repeats the same interviewing behavior 17 times until he/she eventually modifies his/her interview approach and gets hired.

17 to 1 Odds

Did you know that during a recession, the average job seeker will interview for 17 different jobs until he/she gets an offer? Yes, it's true. Want to be better than average? Improve your odds of getting the offer by improving your interview skills.

Does the interview scenario I just described sound familiar? This scenario is repeated millions of times every month. In fact, 400 to 500 thousand job interviews begin, every business hour in the United States. Even during a recession, at least 400 thousand interviews begin every hour.

The Interrogation Problem

The problem with the typical interview I just described is the candidate thought he/she was going on an interrogation and did not ask questions throughout the interview. He/She also did not have any questions prepared to ask at the end of the interview. Not asking questions communicates that you are not interested in the position, and that you did not even care enough to prepare questions in advance.

If you experience a one-way questioning interrogation- it is your fault! Yes, it is your fault if you get interrogated. Facilitating a two-way, conversational interview is totally your responsibility. You are in complete control. If you don't ask questions, you get interrogated. When you don't ask questions, you force the interviewer to interrogate you. They have no choice because you are not asking anything. If you ask questions you'll have a great interview. It is that simple - and it's up to you.

All right, hold it right there. I can hear you talking to me right now. This all sounds good, Michael, but how and when do I ask questions during an interview?

Facilitating a Conversation

Well, the answer is simple. You ask a question after you provide a response. While you won't ask a question after every response, it is important to ask questions after several of your responses, especially at the beginning of the interview. Doing this at the beginning makes the interview conversational right from the start, and this will cascade throughout the remainder of the interview. When you transform the meeting into a conversation, you are in the zone. You are “grooving,” baby. You are unstoppable. You'll be comfortable and confident. You will get hired.

Let's see how your questions change the entire interview dynamic by going back to being that fly-on-the-wall in the interview scenario described earlier. OK, we're back on the wall inconspicuously observing that job interview.

The interviewer begins by saying, “Tell me about yourself.” The applicant provides an excellent response with a 60-second overview of his/her talents related directly to the position. After the response, the applicant asks one of the following questions:

The candidate is professionally asking the interviewer, “Hey, what are you looking for in the right candidate?”. If you are already a user of Interview Mastery, you'll recognize these questions as examples of the “target question”, that reveals the selection criteria in the interviewer's mind. The interviewer responds to the candidate's target question by highlighting the applicant's background which the interviewer wishes to explore first. The candidate now knows which dimensions of his/her experience are most important to this specific interviewer. The interviewer then asks the next question, followed by a nice response from the applicant. After the response, the candidate asks the interviewer one of the following short questions:

Use of Tag-On Questions

Asking this type of “tag on” question solicits immediate feedback and keeps you on track with those areas that are most important to this interviewer. It also helps you provide the right level of detail to this interviewer. This two-way conversational interview continues for 40 minutes. The last 5 minutes of the interview are reserved for applicant questions. The interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions?”. The candidate responds, “Yes, I've prepared a few questions.” The candidate takes out his/her list and asks their first question. The interview concludes with the candidate asking two closing question to flush out any interviewer concerns and to reinforce the strengths the applicant brings to the position. You can learn how to close the interview using the Interview Mastery module titled “Closing.”

Comparing this second interview scenario to the first one, you can now understand how asking questions changes the entire interview flow, facilitates a conversation, and helps you get hired.

The job interview is the most important moment in your job search. The career success you enjoy is directly related to your job interview skills. When you have interview skills, you control your career during the bad economic times and the good times.

Good luck on your next interview. You're going to ask some questions during your next interview, and you're going to be awesome!

If there is an issue you are struggling with and would like me to create a Podcast to help you, just e-mail me at And you can always find my contact information at under Contact Us. There you will find my e-mail and phone along with links to my blog, twitter posts, and LinkedIn profile.

I'm Michael Neece. Thanks for joining me on this edition of Interview Mastery Podcast.

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It has been helping people in 70+ countries secure job offers since 1991. You'll feel more confident, more control, be better prepared, and get better results, or I will refund your money. If you have questions before or after you order just contact me.

- Michael Neece

CEO, InterviewMastery