Targeting the Inteview, Or, Getting in the Interviewer’s Head

Every single employer has an ideal applicant residing in the front of their mind when they start an interview. Your job as the candidate is to become that person. The way you do this is by researching the industry, the company and the position.

With this information, you need to figure out what the interviewer will be looking out for. If the position is in Accounting, then the interviewer will be looking for somebody who is logical, has worked and enjoys working with numbers. If it’s a small accounting firm, then they will be seeking somebody who looks like they would stay in a smaller outfit, while a large corporate department might be looking for somebody who is eager to move up and fill vacant positions in the upper levels of the organization.

As a guerilla interviewee, you will have ascertained the company’s needs before you even step into the interviewer’s office. Ideally, you should understand the company’s needs as well as the interviewer does (although this is unlikely). What you can do though, is show such an understanding of the company’s needs that your commitment and enthusiasm for working there shine through.

Every interview proceeds through a set of targets:

  • Firstly, the interviewer aims to determine whether you are competent to have even been granted an interview in the first place. Can you exchange pleasantries? Are you capable of holding a normal business like conversation? Do you present yourself as somebody who is intelligent, knowledgeable and likeable?
  • Secondly, the interviewer will proceed to the second target having checked off the first. How does your previous experience fit the model that the company has envisaged? You can control this by constructing your resume in a targeted way. You can also control the situation by interpreting the information on your resume in a more relevant way than the interviewer might see it. Where they see two years’ in retail, you see transferable customer service skills (and don’t let them forget it).
  • Thirdly, the interviewer will proceed to tell you a little bit about their company. Be polite and listen attentively, but where feasible, interject with some knowledgeable insight about the company, the position or the industry. Let them know that you fully comprehend the business and role you will be expected to perform (at least as far as an outsider who has never done the job can). Don’t be a blowhard, but where you are sure of some piece of information, let the interviewer know that you know.
  • Fourthly, the interviewer will ask you what you think you can contribute to the company. Build on the conversation you began when the interviewer was lecturing you about the company. Be clever, draw on your own knowledge and what you have learned during the interview. Quote the interviewer back to themselves (“Well, as you said, the industry is becoming more global …”); mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Finally, the interviewer will ask you if you have any questions. You will. You can draw on a selection of generic questions you formulated prior to the interview or you can extemporize and ask a question based on something you learned during the course of the interview. Think if there is something you really could learn more about by asking a question? Even during this final phase of the interview, it is not too late to target the interview and steer it in a direction that most positively reflects you.