Will You Fit In? (How to put the interviewer at their ease)
Technically speaking you should enable the interviewer to be comfortable with you throughout the interview process. However this section of the interview is crucial in helping the interviewer to decide if you will ‘fit in’ into the role, team and organisation.
In the first three blogs in the series I gave you an overview of what the kind of questions you are likely to be asked, how to answer those pesky ‘Can you do the job questions?’ and the very difficult to answer successfully ‘Why do you want this job? questions.
At every stage of the interview I have encouraged you to answer all the questions you may be asked in a reassuringly, honest and positive manner.
As I have mentioned in previous blogs there is absolutely no guarantee that any of the questions I have talked about will be asked since interviews can be such random processes. However by undertaking the necessary preparation and learning to answer the questions positively you will be able to get yourself in the right frame of mind to come across as professional, organised and ready to take on the responsibilities of the role.
When the interviewer has decided that you can do the job and that you want the job they are likely to move into the ‘will you fit in?’ type of questions. Although there are some standard questions, which will probably be asked – this is often the section where the most peculiar questions may ‘pop up’ as the interviewer tries to get a sense of the person you are and what makes you tick.
Although a trained and skilled interviewer would ask the same questions to all the candidates to ensure equality and consistency, the good news is that if the interviewer was not at all interested in you for the job they would tend to keep this section of the interview quite short and snappy. So lots of challenging questions in this part of the interview may actually be a positive sign.
Some common ‘will you fit in?’ questions are:
- What are your ambitions (or long term goals?)?
- How would your manager describe you?
- Do you think you might be over qualified or too mature for this position?
- What kind of salary are you looking for?
- How would you describe your management style?
- What do you like doing outside of work?
- Do you have any questions for us?
I will now suggest ways to positively and professionally answer all these questions.
What are your ambitions (or long term goals?)?
You may think this question is about your ambitions but it isn’t. It is really ‘if we appoint you will you stay?
Recruitment is expensive and no recruiter wants to go back into the market again very shortly after they have appointed someone. Constantly having to recruit new staff also reflects badly on the appointing manager.
The question is tricky because you want to indicate that you really want the job but you don’t want to come across as lacking ambition. So the best way to answer this question is to say something like:
‘My main priority would be to get this job and to do it to the best of my ability and become an effective member of the team (or manager or whatever the role is) and then when I have made a useful contribution and proved what I can do, I hope that opportunities to progress will emerge within the organisation.’
How would your manager describe you?
Whatever the relationship you have with your manager the best way to answer this question is to imagine what positive things they might say ( even if you had to ‘pull teeth’ to get them to say it!). Then pick the skills and qualities that are most relevant to the job on offer. Again keep these qualities focused on ‘hard’ skills like ‘they get the job done’ or ‘they can be relied on to resolve issues that come up without reference to me’ and ‘they are good at managing change and they always have a strategy’. If you say things like ‘they would say I am a good person’ or ‘they say that I have a great deal of integrity’ although these are laudable qualities if they wanted to ask you any further questions about them it would be very difficult to evidence your answers.
Although it might be tempting at this point to say something humorous, humour is a very personal taste so unless you are completely sure that the interviewer is on the same wavelength (which would be a risky assumption), I would suggest you focus on tangible things that you can talk further about if asked. Glib or quirky answers will prevent you from using yet another opportunity to present your skills, abilities and experience in a slightly different way.
Do you think you might be over qualified or too mature for this position?
This question could come in a variety of guises – are you too tall, too short, too young, too inexperienced etc for the role? Although this sounds like a negative question, it actually isn’t. It means that they ARE considering you but that they do have some concerns about your ability to work with the current team because you might be too something or other. It is highly unlikely that they would ask you this question unless you had a chance to get the job – otherwise why would they bother to ask it?
So your role here is mega, super-drive, ultra confident reassurance. Here you need to leave the interviewer in no doubt whatsoever that not only that you can do the job but that you will be able to over come any perceived obstacles there may be, to doing it well.
It is worth noting here that many of these type of questions might infringe employment law, particularly the ones to do with your physical attributes and abilities and in fact age. However this will not stop them from often being asked, particularly by untrained or inexperienced interviewers.
Here you have a choice. You can either ‘get on your high horse’, claiming that the question is illegal or you can answer positively and reassuringly and decide later if you feel the question was inappropriate enough to decline the job if it is offered to you.
What kind of salary are you looking for?
The first thing to say is that you should never state a figure for the salary you are looking for in the interview. Your bargaining power will increase significantly once they have decided you are the best candidate for the job, the only one they want to have work for them and want to offer you the job
So how do you answer the salary question if it is asked in an interview? The simple answer is that you need to be vague and talk in terms of ranges. It is probable that the company have given some idea of the salary either in an advert, through an agency or through informal inquiries before you applied. When you put in your application there will be an assumption that the salary on offer is more or less in line with what you are likely to accept. Having said that in most roles there is some opportunity to negotiate – even in public sector appointments.
The best way to approach the issue of salary is to do your homework beforehand. Research the industry salary norms and look at advertisements for similar jobs to identify a range of salaries for the role making sure of course that the figure mentioned by the recruiting organisation is within that range. Then knock the bottom of the range out of the picture. You are left with a salary range that presumably would be acceptable to you. So when asked ‘what kind of salary are you looking for? you should say something like this:-
‘I understand that the salary range for this type of role is between x and y and I would be looking for something towards the top of that range to reflect my skills and experience.’
Essentially this kind of statement helps you to ‘park’ the issue until later and helps them to note that this is a subject that they will have to come back to when they decide to make you an offer.
As I have mentioned your bargaining power shoots up when they have decided that you are the right (and only) person for the job. Talking about money before they have made the decision just makes you come across as self interested and they may prefer another candidate over someone who is too concerned about what they will earn when they join the organisation.
Although I would suggest a salary uplift of around 10% on what they are initially offering is often possible, it is worth saying here that negotiation of any kind, including salary negotiation is a factor of how much ‘cheek’ you have and how desperate the organisation is to appoint. I have coached someone who managed to increase their salary by 260% just by having an unusual skill set, performing well at the interview for position in a financial organisation which had a key role to fill and appying to a company which had an enormous amounts of money at their disposal.
How would you describe your management style?
There are two elements to answering this question. The first is to be aware of what your management style is and to be able to describe and evidence it succinctly. Generally speaking it is better to have a participative style that brings out the best in people and encourages the development of staff. If you are going to ‘own’ this style it is a good idea to have examples of when it has been successful in your previous roles.
The second element is to be aware of the management style and culture of the organisation with the role to fill. If you are going for a job with Google or Apple you would expect a very informal style whilst if you go for a job in the prison service or a factory for example you would anticipate a more authoritarian style.
As well as the interviewer deciding whether you will fit into organisation or team, if you want to be comfortable in the role yourself you have to decide if there is a good cultural fit between you and the organisation you are applying to work for.
What do you like doing outside of work?
There are at least two ways this question could be used by an interviewer. The first is to identify similarity between the interviewer and the interviewee. For example if they both play golf, go cycling, belong to the same church organisation or are members of the same exclusive club the chances are that they will feel an affinity with each other which will create a degree of comfort between them.
I once observed an interview for a job in a merchant bank in the UK. It was basically a chat between an ex army officer and someone he used to go to university with who was interviewing him for the job.
When the ex-army officer admitted that he knew nothing about merchant banking, the interviewer who was clearly going to appoint him anyway said
‘oh don’t worry about that – it’s not that difficult you will soon pick it up’ .
Most of us are not that lucky so it is good to have an interest that would be interesting to the person asking the questions. Ideally it should be something that you can tell a story about and show passion for. Personally I would keep off religious activities unless you are absolutely sure that the interviewer has the same interests as you do. It could work in your favour but there is also a risk that it would not give you any advantage and might even be detrimental.
The other way that the ‘what are your interests outside work?’ question can be used (and I have used it myself in this way on many occasions) is when the interviewer despite all their best efforts cannot get the interviewee to ‘open up’.
This usually happens when the interviewee is young and not very confident in the interview process and the interviewer suspects that there is more energy and enthusiasm in them than they showed when answering the main questions.
Quite often this is the case and then it is up to the interviewer to decide if this additional insight provides any new information on which to base their decision.
Do you have any questions for us?
Obviously this is the last question that you will be asked. Although you should have a question ready to ask it is important to realise in many cases the interviewer is just being polite when they ask you this question. They are more than likely ready to move on to the next candidate and the last thing they want is an interrogation by the person they are interviewing.
Some questions can inadvertently reveal more about the interviewee than they intended for example:
‘Why is this position open?’ – can come across as challenging and too inquisitive (even though it might actually be quite a sensible question in many circumstances)
‘What kind of support will I have in the role?’ – can come across as if they will need or expect a lot of support.
‘What freedom would I have in determining my work objectives, deadlines and methods of working?’ – can come across as ‘I might as well tell you now that I am a bit of a maverick and difficult to manage’.
Nor do they want to go into the ‘ins and outs’ of the terms and conditions, training opportunities, salary expectations, annual leave, parking permits or any other issues of real interest to you. These type of questions are pretty much guaranteed to make the interviewer feel uncomfortable.
The interviewer asks the question out of politeness and you are expected to ask a question out of politeness in return.
So I would suggest that you ask one forward thinking question, which might encourage the interviewer to visualise you in the role. This may also provide you with some useful information, which might give you the opportunity to make a quick positive statement on your ability and enthusiasm to rise to the challenge for example:
- What would be the key result areas of the job in the first six months?
- What would you like done differently by the next person who fills the post?
- We have talked about the challenges of the role, which of these would you regard as the main priority in the first three months
Some people say that the job interview is two-way decision but really all the power is in the control of the interviewer not the interviewee. The only decision you can make is whether you take the job after it is offered to you.
In my next blog I am going to talk about competency based interviews which is an approach often used by multi national companies and public sector organisations who want to be seen to be equal opportunities employers and ensure that they train their staff in the techniques.
It is useful to know about both techniques in order to prepare successfully for the interview. The good news is that what ever style is used the preparation will be the same.
I hope that this blog which is part four in a series of blogs, which outlines how to ‘Get that Job’ has been useful to you.
If you want to an overview of the interview process and your role within it you might find the ‘Get that Job’ blog helpful.
If you want to know how to answer the ‘Can you do the job?’ questions you might find the ‘How to answer those pesky interview questions’ blog interesting.
If you want to know how to ‘sell’ yourself at the interview you might want to read the ‘Why do you want this job?’ blog.
Part five of the ‘Get that Job’ series of blogs will focus on the competency-based interviews.
With thanks to Stella Pitman and Jo Grant for permission to use their photographs.
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