How to handle yourself when the interviewer does not know how to handle the interview

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When you get the call to interview with firm X and meet with person Y, logically you would think that person Y would ask relevant questions to evaluate whether you are qualified for the role.

The truth is that very few financial institutions train their employees to interview candidates. Most interviewers don’t know what to do or say, and chances are that their previous interview was over a decade ago. So they resort to the same safe questions that everyone dreads: Who are you? What do you want to do? What is your five-year plan?

Take control

As a candidate, however, you can actually use this situation to shine. If you want to win the job, you need to make sure your performance is on cue with what the hiring manager needs. You need to ask probing questions to find out his or her sensitive spots, their most pressing priorities and what you need to bring to the table. The worse mistake is to smirk or change your tone of voice when you’re asked a series of mundane questions.

You must steer the conversion in a direction that highlights your experience and accomplishments. There’s a certain amount of information about yourself that you need to convey in an interview; it’s almost like a mental checklist. Remember to be highly sensitive toward questions, and look for ways to insert your checklist points into your answers.

Having control of the conversation, without being overbearing, demonstrates that you are an engaging and proactive candidate. Often interviewers are relieved to sit back, take notes and watch a “show” unfold around them.

Anyone for interview tennis?

I have noticed that it is more effective to steer the interviewer toward topics that they did not ask about, but should have. Essentially, you need to be proactive and not reactive. In a reactive interview, your questions and answers are like a rally in tennis. The ball goes back and forth consistently in a steady rhythm. It’s predictable and boring. However, an interactive match, full of net shots and lobs, is exciting and interesting.

I think the key to a successful interview is to have three main (and easy to remember) selling points that will help win you the role. You will become the more memorable candidate and increase your probability of being chosen by the hiring manager.

The Runaway MBA is an American candidate in Asia. The views expressed are her own and not those of eFinancialCareers.

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