Q: The interview just got away from me. They started off by asking five technical questions. Four of them were on topics that I wouldn’t know just at the drop of a hat, but would figure out on a job very quickly. The fifth one I knew and I blurted out an unconvincing answer. At that stage, I was rattled, to be honest. Any thoughts? (DC, email).
A: Some interviewers just love technical questions. While these can add value, particularly if they are on topics that a candidate should know, there is a danger that an interviewer will drag candidates into areas where they could not possibly be expected to produce an answer on the spot, writes Mary O’Brien-Killeen, Career Coach, Slí Nua Careers.
I think you have to see this in context. Do you believe other people going for the job would have answered those four questions convincingly? If yes, you were probably beaten on this occasion.
But perhaps they were equally as stomached as you. I know of one interview panel that asked far too many technical questions and ended up with nothing useful to separate the candidates at the end of the session. All the candidates had struggled with the technical questions because they were simply too specialised.
Ask yourself some questions
For a candidate, the problem with technical questions is that you could prepare all day long and still not have the correct answer at your disposal if the questions are too esoteric.
However, do you feel you need to look at your knowledge afresh? Should you have been able to do better? Will other candidates have done better?
If you feel deficient in some way, then you have to ponder this question carefully: was this simply the wrong job for me or do I need to get myself in better order for future interviews?
There’s nothing quite like doing interviews to figure out where you’re at. They can sometimes be bruising affairs, as this one clearly was, but they give you a real insight into the fast-moving world of recruitment.
What’s topical this year may not have been topical last year and may evolve again next year. If you’re on the job hunt in a serious way, you need to be in a position to go to interviews feeling confident and up to date.
Just as the content of interviews may have changed, so has the nature of them. Competency-based interviews are now very common and people who haven’t interviewed for quite some time often struggle with the challenge of describing their career history through the prism of individual stories.
If you felt this was a problem in this instance, get on the internet and read about competency-based interviews. Even if you don’t find yourself doing interviews of this exact type in the future, there are lessons to be learned about how you can tell stories in such a way that they portray you in a positive light.
You didn’t say whether or not you got the job. Don’t rule it out. I have heard people completely dismiss their chances after interview only to be subsequently offered the post.
Remember, on the day, you are only competing against everyone else who was called. Others might have struggled too. You might end up top of the list yet.
Mary O’Brien-Killeen is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Claremorris, Co. Mayo.
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