Don't be rattled by your next job interview. It's possible to answer any question that comes your way. How? By preparing and knowing how to direct the conversation to the topics you want to cover.
To start, take a tip from consultants who coach executives and politicians on how to handle media interviews. These trainers say you can deliver the message you want to an employer, regardless of the question you're asked.
"Most people don't realize that their purpose isn't to sit there and hope the right questions will be asked," says Aileen Pincus, president of the Pincus Group, a media interview-training firm in Silver Spring, Md. "They need to develop two or three key messages and make sure their point is delivered."
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Unlike some politicians who ignore press questions and immediately introduce a different topic in response, job candidates must respect and directly answer employer's queries, says Jeff Braun, vice president and general manager of the Ammerman Experience, a Stafford, Texas, media interview-training firm. However, you can quickly make the transition from your answer to the important points you want to convey about your qualifications, he says.
He suggests when answering job-interview queries applying the formula Q = A + 1: Q is the question; A is the answer; + is the bridge to the message you want to deliver; and 1 is the point you want to make.
"If you take the '+ 1' off the formula, then the interviewer is controlling the session," says Mr. Braun.
Diligent preparation also is necessary to effectively answer any interview question, say senior executives. Theirs and media trainers' tips follow:
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... tailor your response to what the company is dealing with and how you can help," she says.
Be positive about the negative. Count on being asked about a past mistake or blemish on your career record, and don't try to dodge the issue. Ms. Pincus advises. "If you have a vulnerability, you need to be prepared to answer the question," she says. "There should be no lying or dodging. Just answer it and move on."
When discussing a mistake, be ready to say how you learned or benefited from it. "You learn as much by dropping the ball as you do by catching it," says Mr. Herzog. When interviewing for his current job, which he started in August, Mr. Herzog says he mentioned he had been involved in successful turnarounds and one that failed. "And I said what I learned from it," he says.
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