By Mick O’Connor, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers Athlone
Listen to the question.
You’d be surprised how many candidates fail to listen to the question.
They half-listen. They listen to the question they think has been asked. Perhaps they even listen to the question they hope has been asked.
The tendency to answer the wrong question is something I have noticed over and over again when working with clients and I was reminded of this recently when meeting an experienced interviewer.
“Time and time again,” she said, “people don’t listen to the question.”
And so their answer starts from the wrong place – and an answer that starts from the wrong place has its work cut out to end up in the right place.
Quiz hosts know this.
“Whose murder in Dallas sent shock waves through…” they start.
“John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” comes the hasty reply.
“…the rich family who lived on the fictional Southfork cattle ranch.”
JR Ewing delayed is JR Ewing denied.
Answer the question that has been asked – not the question you think has been asked.
“People hear one word in the question, and latch onto that,” added my HR colleague, “and away they go then, elaborating on that word. But the word may have been incidental in the question.”
An interview is not a buzzer round. Listen to the question. Mull over it for a second or two. Become like the kitten that stands a few inches back from the new bouncy ball, weighing it up, wondering whether it might be a friend or a foe.
If you wish, buy time by starting your answer with some of the question.
“How would you describe your experience in the area of managing people?”
As you fall back on your hind legs to look quizzically at this bouncy ball, repeat the language of the question in the early part of your answer. “When I look at my experience in the area of managing people, I think of…”
The few seconds thus bought should be sufficient to let you compose your thoughts – in those few moments, you should be able to summon the management examples you had worked on in your interview preparation.
Listen to the question.
And always answer the question. Later on in the answer, you can take yourself off to other profitable points, but in the early part of the answer, be sure to put the question to bed.
If someone asks a question, they like an answer to that question. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for our Career Resource Pack that includes a number of useful tools that will help you prepare for future interviews.
Career development tips while you’re in a job
- Keep your CV updated. You never know the hour or the minute, and best be ready.
- Maintain a healthy LinkedIn profile. Connect with people. The day might come when you need them. And the day to build your network is not the day you need it.
- If appropriate, keep a portfolio. Today, there might be a thousand copies of the flyer you designed for the company launch lying around the office. In three years’ time, they might be collector’s items. Snag a dozen for yourself today.
Who’s hiring? What kind of roles are coming up? In this way, stay abreast of developments in your sector.
Mick O’Connor is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers and works out of Athlone. You can read more about him, and make a booking HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.
More articles from his blog can be accessed HERE