By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
Debra Benton was travelling when we spoke to her about what goes into a good interview and not surprisingly the focus was on communication being a two-way street.
“I haven’t lost you, have I?” she started out saying as she drove through the mountains on her way to New Mexico. “Good.”
The renowned executive coach, bestselling business author, and sought after conference keynote speaker on leadership and executive effectiveness has presented her expertise during
numerous television appearances including Good Morning America, CNN, TODAY show, and CBS This Morning with Diane Sawyer. We caught up with her by phone to talk about her considered opinions on making the interview process successful.
Two way communication
“Too many times people feel their role is to interview well,” she says, “when in fact they are there to interview the company they are applying to. The point is it’s a two way communication.”
Benton stresses this aptitude works so well that people actually get hired more by the questions they ask rather than the answers they give saying that it’s critical to be interactive as opposed to “sitting there waiting to be asked.”
She stresses a good rule of thumb is that anything people who are hiring have asked, you can ask in return keeping in mind the decorum of the interview process and that you’re there to be considered for the job.
“You don’t want to do this tit for tat and wind up looking like you’re trying to act cutesy, but in general the subject they’ve asked about should be of interest to both parties.”
Personal strengths and weaknesses
She supplies the example of an interviewer asking about your personal strengths and weaknesses where you can query about the biggest areas where they see change in the organization and which areas they feel need change the most. Tone and selection of words is important.
Benton also says that clarification is another important aspect of getting an interview started on the right foot leading to a successful outcome. Narrowing down the focus of the initial questions you’re asked helps to effectively define your answers. She elaborates:
“When someone says, ‘Tell me about yourself,’ it’s better to answer with a question and say: ‘I’d be happy to. Would you like me to start with my educational background, my work experience or my life outside of work?’”
Being focused in this way helps you to understand what the interviewer is interested in and takes the guesswork out of finding out. Benton also feels adding stories and examples to any of your answers gives them more traction.
“People believe stories,” she says. “They understand them and can relate to them. You should set the scene, talk about what you did and mention the result.”
Finally, she says you should never wait to be prompted about asking questions during this part of the hiring process.
“If the interviewer has gotten to the point where they’re asking you if you’ve got any questions, it’s way too late and you haven’t done a good job in the interview.”