The FOT Primer On How Candidates Can Win In Interviews

Kris Dunn Always Be Closing, Coaching, FOT Mail Bag, Influence, Interviewing, Job Seeker Advice, Kris Dunn

That’s right. Mostly HR people and recruiting pros read this, but I’m still doing a post on how to make sure your responses in interviews as a candidate don’t suck.

After all, HR people and recruiters interview too.  At least that’s what I’ve heard. If someone sees you reading this, just tell them you’re putting together a professional development course for the local SHRM chapter.  They will get a glossy look in their eyes and they will cease to remember why they asked, then try to get away from you as fast as possible.  This has been scientifically validated.

Also, if you’re like me, you get asked at least once a week by someone to help them get ready to interview.  PDF the points below, put your avatar on it and you’re set.  No footnote to me or FOT needed.

Here’s what to do if you want to win the interview game (and you play to win the game, right?):

1. The length of response to any interview question is 2 minutes or 120 seconds, whichever comes first (that’s a cognitive check for you).

2. The only exception to the 2-minute rule is the warm-up intro question, “Why don’t you run me through your background/resume and hit the highlights for me?” Then there’s its close counterpart, “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” When you hear those questions, you should spend 3 to 5 minutes hitting the highlights of your resume/career, then close with the standard personal interests, like non-profit animal adoption and toys for tots.

3. If your interviewer decides that s/he is going to talk for 90 percent of your time together, let them. They‘ll come out of the interview thinking it went great. Of course it did — they got to talk the whole time. That means you’re brilliant to them. Counter intuitive? Yes, but just trust me on this one.

4. As lame as it sounds, you should talk in behavioral interview snippets. Start with a situation, what you did in response as an “A” player, and what the stellar outcome was.

5. As pre-work, you should create seven or eight behavioral interviewing answers (situation or task/action/result) from your career. Then just apply one that sounds like it might work with the interview question. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a direct hit or not.

6. If you’re doing your job as the candidate, your interviewer will feel compelled to follow up in a fairly seamless way. That’s the power of talking in two-minute bursts and actually giving the interviewer something via the behavioral interviewing approach. You’ve made them feel like Oprah Winfrey because you’re easy to work with. You know you’re winning when you get one or two follow-ups to each question. Zero follow-ups (or five) mean it’s not going well.

Bonus round for those of you who have mastered what I’ve outlined above:

7. Part of every response is mirroring. Hold your hands and posture the way that the interviewer does. It screams “peer.”

8. If the opportunity arises, never ask questions that make it about you. Always make it about the interviewer’s insight. For example, something like, “From your point of view, what’s the biggest challenge to the business in the next 2 to 3 years?” Make them the expert. Nobody cares about you at this point. It’s really about how the interviewer feels about working with you.

It’s easy to be a mess when you interview for a job you really want. Just remember, less is more and rambling answers make you an intellectual midget in the eyes of the interviewer.

Talk less, win more.

Kris Dunn
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He's also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.