Thinking ahead pays interview dividends (our weekly column from various Irish newspapers)

Q: I did an interview recently with a panel of four people. It was a fairly structured affair, with each of the interviewers having their own sections to cover and questions to ask. Midway through the interview, the chairperson handed over to a man I shall call Mr Murphy (for that was his name – excuse my blatant stealing of a Con Houlihan-ism there). He shifted uneasily in his chair and you could say he had a sheepish look on him.

“Ah,” he mumbled, “the three questions I had, she’s already answered them.”

The chairperson moved it onto the next person. I was taken aback and felt it rattled me for the remainder of the interview. I got called for second interview, but didn’t get the job. What do you make of the interaction I described above?

A: I’ve heard of something similar happen before and my view is that it is almost invariably A Good Thing.

It shows that you anticipated the needs of the employer. It illustrates that you had thought through their requirements of the job.

You should be able to do a good interview even if they ask bad questions. It is clear to me that you did that – you knew what you wanted to talk about, the key elements of the role and your suitability for it, and you got to various points ahead of the interviewers.

The only time it might be a bad thing if you try to give too much detail in an answer – you should move through the interview at a speed that doesn’t leave the interview panel bewildered pace as they try to keep up with your pace.

From working with clients in an interview training setting, I find that most answers people give range between 90 seconds about four minutes. Around 2 ½ minutes seems to be the average, though I hasten to add that is an unscientific figure.

Answers should be long enough to give sufficient detail, but not so long they confuse the panel. There comes a point where the more you say, the less they retain.

In my experience – again, this is not large enough to be taken as gospel – most people are short-winded, if there’s such a phrase, rather than long-winded. It is very frequent for people to under-state their experience. They take it for granted and fail to appreciate that it is in the relaying of your experience – the rolling out of the stories and details – that you convince the employer of your suitability for the role.

Anyway, back to your scenario. You got called to second interview so the first interview clearly went well. Do you know why you didn’t get the job?

Were you too inexperienced? Over-qualified? Did you bring anything new to the second interview? Did you show enough passion? Did you convince them you really wanted the job? Did you convince them you would do a really good job?

It would be good to try to isolate why you feel you didn’t get over the line. Honest self-analysis will help you will learn from the experience. The organisation may give you feedback – equally, you may not – but there’s no harm in asking.

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. More on