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Your personal brand: Beware the structured interview

A colleague shared with me a recent interview experience with a firm dedicated to talent management. She was told at the beginning that the interview would be a structured one. For most of us that means the interviewer uses a set of questions, possibly the same ones with every candidate to ensure they are eliciting the same information from multiple candidates.

Panel interviews are stressful
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images for Laureus

This ‘structured’ interview was a panel interview, meaning there were two people or more asking the questions. In reality it was a structured interview on steroids, where the interviewer would ask a question and the cut the candidate off in the middle of the response, then move on to the next question. It was very frustrating for the candidate, similar to the ‘stress’ interview which works to put the candidate in a state of turmoil and confusion so as to better determine their suitability for the job. Stress interviews are less frequent these days, but they are lurking out there when companies want to replicate the high stress that will exist on the job.

We’ve discussed “behavioral event interviews” in the past, also known as behavioral interviews. These are interviews designed to probe what you actually did on the job in great detail as if the interviewer were in the very room where you led the team to success in the project. This style of interview works well because it focuses on actions, not on attitudes or suppositions. It is considered non-discriminatory since it goes after the events that actually occurred.

Recently Liz Ryan shared some tips about answering what she refers to as ‘stupid interview questions’ including the “what is your greatest weakness?” question.

These are all interview techniques. It is hard to say whether one approach is better than another; each company has to decide what the best predictor of success on the job is. Your mission as a candidate wanting to present your optimal personal brand is to make sure that you express your competence for the role, your passion for your field and your ability to adapt to changing environments, even stressful ones. You can only hope that the questions you are asked are ones you are prepared to answer, and that you get to ask some probing questions of your own to ensure you can determine if the company is right for you.

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