Taking control

"On a training course someone told me that I should always 'take control' of the interview, but how in the world would I do that? Where do I even start? I can't imagine trying to force my agenda onto the interviewing panel."

This was from Wendy during a group session on interview technique that I was running recently on behalf of a client making redundancies. Put another way, how do you put across what you really want to say when the interviewer is perhaps asking questions that don't touch on where your real strengths shine from?

The answer is certainly not via the brute force approach of just jumping in to what suits you. You'd risk irritating and alienating the interviewer. A better approach is through careful planning and preparation. You could try the following:

  1. 'Needs and wants.' List what's required by the company for this role. You can distill these from the advert, from any pre-interview material provided and from your general research, perhaps of their web-site, for example. Make a concise bullet-pointed list. It might say things like "3 years experience of ..." and "Experience of managing people" and "Good people-skills" and so on.
  2. Key points. List out your own relevant experiences against each 'need' or 'want' and then draw up a list of key points you would like to make during an interview. A key point is a statement about you that directly dovetails into a 'need' or a 'want' and clearly supports your case for selection.
  3. Prioritise. Reorder your list so as to have the most important points you'd like to make at the top and the lesser points toward the bottom. Memorise each point, and your line of attack with it, thoroughly and completely.
  4. Deliver the key points. During the interview, keep an eye out for opportunities to make your key points and deliver each one naturally, when you can, mentally ticking them off as you go. If it looks like the point didn't register properly with the interviewer, make it again later and only then tick it off.
  5. Finish the list. If you have items remaining at the end, seize the opportunity at the end of the interview. Ask a question that links to your remaining key point(s) and look for a way of delivering your line. For example, you could say "So where you ask for experience of blah blah, then my experience of yada yada would fit very well?" or something similar.

Following this process will put you in control in so far as you're making absolutely sure to deliver each of the key benefits that you think will win you the job. Also, doing this will show you how good a match you really are for the position so that you can see:

  • the size of challenge you face;
  • where you exceed expectations;
  • where you may fall a little short;
  • and therefore where you may need to devote more attention to bolstering your arguments.

Forewarned is forearmed. The more thorough you can be with this exercise, the more your chances of success will increase. Good luck. Let me know how easy or hard you find this, but do remember - practice makes perfect.