Procedures are a part of life, especially in the working world. Each company has their own set of policies and rules that they expect their employees to follow. An interviewer is going to ask questions to determine if you would do things they way they want (for
instance making a sale or handling a customer complaint). Without training, you will not know with any degree of certainty how the company would want you to handle different situations but there are ways to answer that can increase your chances of getting the job.
What an interviewer is looking for in an answer is your philosophy towards circumstances that occur in the company. Your natural instincts and personality is going to come through at some point no matter what you have been trained to do. Questions like, “How would you satisfy a customer if they wanted to return something after the return policy has expired?” can be tricky to answer. The best way to answer them is to begin with saying, “Of course, if hired I would abide by the company’s guidelines – but in this circumstance I would…”
By starting your answer with this phrase you are showing that you recognize a company is going to have its own policies and ways of doing things and that you are flexible enough to modify your way of doing things to align with those processes. Even role playing scenarios for are a test to see if your way of thinking is in line with the company’s. This genre of question can backfire on you though if your answer is completely opposite what the company is looking for. If you have done your research on the company prior to the interview you should have a good idea of how they handle
customers and sales in general.
There are going to be a lot of periods during an interview when there are going to be pauses in conversation or flat out silence. This can be initiated by you or the interviewer and in most cases either is not an indicator that something is amiss.
You can ask for a moment to think of an answer and during this time there is most likely going to be complete silence. This is fine and perfectly normal, don’t get distracted because no one is talking, use the time you have asked for wisely and think of the best answer or example you can give.
If the interviewer is taking notes (and most likely they are), be comfortable with the fact that there is going to be pauses in between questions and they try and write everything down. This is actually a good thing because it means they have liked what you have to say and want to remember it when they are later making a decision on who to hire. Don’t feel the need to fill this space, let them continue writing and wait for the next question.
If you have answered a question and it is met by silence and the interviewer is not writing anything done, you may be at a loss as to what you should do. It could signal that the interview is expecting more information or they are not satisfied with the answer. You
won’t know unless you ask, “Do you want me to elaborate on that?” If the answer is no, just patiently wait for the next question to be asked.
Don’t worry that the interviewer is not praising you on your answer to each question and continue onto the next one. They do not want to give you an indication of how you are doing during the interview and are trained to be neutral when responding to answers, if they respond at all.
The interview is over and you can’t help but sigh with relief. You made it through and it wasn’t as bad as you thought it would (or maybe it was, but hey it was a good experience). Now, you might think you are in the clear and all you have to do is wait. While it is true that waiting is the next step, it is not that easy. Some even find it more difficult between the time the interview has been completed to the time they hear back from the company on whether or not they received the position.
Unless you discover that you have given the interviewer misinformation, don’t continue to go over your answers again and again. If you look for flaws you will find them. It is unnecessary torture. Keep yourself busy and if you are on a serious job hunt, continue with your search and put the interview on the back burner until you hear back. If you did provide wrong information that would be crucial to a decision you may want to consider following up to correct the wrong depending on what it was. If it was for a driving job and they asked if you have had any speeding tickets in the past three years and you said yes but later discovered it happened four years ago – definitely call. If on the other hand, you were quoting sales results and underestimated the number of sales you made; it
would probably be best left as it was.
Keep yourself busy as you wait for an answer from your interview. And if it happens that you didn’t get the job use it as a learning experience. If there were questions you wished you would have answered differently at least you know that now for the next interview you attend.
You may think that it is best to follow-up with an interviewer to thank them for their time and keep your name in the forefront of their mind. While this may have that affect on them, it may not be in the positive way you are looking for. An interviewer takes time
out of their regular job to fill vacancies in a department. It is an extremely busy and stressful time for them and they do not want (nor have time to) take calls from everyone that they have completed interviews with.
But this is not to say that sending along a thank you is a bad idea, it’s not. The method that you thank your interviewer is going to make a difference. If you received a business card, send a quick e-mail to thank them for their time and that you are looking forward to
hearing from them. Quick and to the point and leave it at that. Do not expect a reply because you probably won’t get one and do not follow-up on your e-mail to make sure they received it – you will become an annoyance.
Second to sending a quick e-mail, you can send a short and professional thank you note (this means no scented stationary or something too cutesy). The message should be similar, thanking the interviewer for taking the time to sit down with you, express how
much you enjoyed speaking with them and learning more about the company. It is a nicety that while not necessary, can be an added touch to a strong interview.
It may not guarantee you the job, but thank you notes, if done the right way, may open doors for you in the future. If there are openings in the company at a later time, the interviewer may remember you and think of you before others.
Each interview has at least one, a question that you really don’t know the best way to answer. It is the one that you agonize over for days and keep going over it and over it in your head and you ask others how they would have answered. There is not way to avoid
these types of questions but you can answer them with confidence to give yourself peace of mind until you get a call back.
Do not feel that you have to answer immediately after you have been asked a question. You are not on a game show where the fastest contestant to answer wins. Your interviewers will appreciate that you have taken time to formulate your answer. If you are concerned by a prolonged silence – don’t be, it is normal. If you have been asked a question that you do not know exactly what to say, ask for a moment to think of an appropriate answer. This is preferable to taking a long time to answer without explaining what you are doing.
If you really can’t think of an answer off of the top of your head, ask if you can come back to the question in a moment – keep trying to think of an answer. Don’t think that if you get to the end of the interview and you haven’t answered the question that you are off
of the hook. Even if your interviewer doesn’t ask again, it has not gone unnoticed that you didn’t respond to a question. The best case scenario is for you to bring the topic back to the question and answer it accordingly. Thank your interviewer for giving you the extra time to come up with the right answer.
If it is a lengthy question that is broken into parts, break it down into, don’t try and answer it all at once – you can always ask for parts of the question to be repeated.
You can prepare for an interview until you are blue in the face and still get stumped on a question during the process. It is okay, it happens to a lot of people. Some questions come out of left field, sometimes you draw a blank, and others – you really don’t know what to say. Here is a brief run down of what you can do in these three situations.
A (Seemingly) Off Topic Question – These may be thrown in to the interview out of curiosity by the interviewer or to gauge your knowledge on a certain subject. It is not a reason to dismiss the question though and not pay it the care and attention you would to any other one. Do your best, and if you really can’t figure out the correlation between the
question and the job you are applying to, you can ask at the end of the interview – along the lines, “out of curiosity….”
You Draw a Blank – Ask for a minute to compose your answer, and do some fast brainstorming. If you feel that the silence is becoming uncomfortable, you can ask to come back to the question at the end of the interview. As long as you do go back to it, this is an acceptable solution. Silence is okay during an interview when you are trying to think of an answer, do not feel obligated to fill the silence, concentrate on the answer you want to give.
You Don’t Know What to Say – If it is a matter that you are sure what the interviewer is looking for in an answer, ask for clarification. Sometimes asking for an example of what they mean can guide you in what you should say. If you take a shot in the dark, you might provide what they want – but why take the chance?