How to REFOCUS the Interview to Increase Assessment Accuracy

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In an earlier post I offered 15 ideas on how to hack a job using creative ways to get an interview. In this post I’ll describe a technique called REFOCUS to ensure you’re being interviewed properly. Rest assured that if the interviewer does any of the following you will not be interviewed properly or accurately.

Clues You’re Being Interviewed by a Weak Interviewer

  1. Over- or underwhelmed by your first impression. This bias can be seen when someone quickly begins to oversell you or ignores you or asks questions designed to prove you’re incompetent.
  2. Box checkers start asking about your level of skills, experiences and academic background in the first 5 minutes.
  3. Generic behavioural interviewers ask for examples of classic behaviours and competencies without any context about real job needs.
  4. The person negotiates the terms of an offer (compensation, location and title) before the interview even starts. This is usually done on the phone.

In these situations you’ll need to take matters into your own hands by controlling what questions are being asked and how you’re being evaluated.

The REFOCUS(sm) technique described below will help guide you through the entire interview. I suggest you tattoo these ideas in your mind (or in tiny print on the palm of your hand) so they’re ever present.

Use the REFOCUS Technique to Improve Your Interviewing Odds

Reframe the Assessment. If the interviewer doesn’t know the real job requirements, you’ll be evaluated largely on the person’s biases and perceptions. If you get the sense this is happening you need to intervene right away by asking, “Would you mind giving me a quick overview of some of the challenges involved in this job? I’d then like to give you a few examples of work I’ve accomplished that best meets your needs.” This is how you ensure you’re assessed on the right criteria.

Engage in a Conversation. Don’t hope you’ll be asked the right questions. By proactively asking good questions your true personality, team skills and working style emerge. This will be as important in the assessment as your answers to their questions and the questions you ask. The best questions focus more on the scope and challenges of the job, not what you’ll get in terms of compensation and benefits.

Force the Right Questions. If one of your core strengths or interests has not been covered ask something like, “It seems this work involves a great deal of (mention your strength). If so, I’d like to give you an example of some work I’ve handled that’s related.”

Own Your Answers. Much of the above is designed to reverse engineer the questions you’re being asked. However, as part of this you need to answer in complete paragraphs lasting 1-2 minutes long rather than short or shallow sentences. The SAFW technique is a great way to practice and structure your answers – Say AFew Words Statement, Amplify, Few examples, Wrap-up.

Create and Close the Gap. One way to demonstrate your ability is to conduct a needs analysis during the interview. This is comparable to consultative selling where the sales rep asks a series of fact-finding questions to uncover problems and then offers a custom solution. To prove you’re capable of doing the job you’ll need to provide detailed examples of related projects you’ve successfully handled.

Understand and Solve a Big Problem. One great way to demonstrate your problem-solving skills is to solve one during the interview. Start by asking the interviewer about some of the real problems the new hire is likely to face. As part of this conduct some fact-finding to get more insight into the problem. Then ask for permission to offer some advice on how you’d approach solving the problem. Don’t solve it though in other than broad terms focusing more on the process you’d use to solve the problem if you were to get the job.

Sell Yourself. If you’re not sure you’ll be a finalist, ask about next steps. If vague be sure to ask the interviewer how your background compares to the other candidates being considered. Then ask if there is something in your background that might not have been explored thoroughly or of concern. If so, you’ll need to prove you’ve successfully handled something related to overcome any reluctance for moving forward. As part of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired and my Lynda.com Performance-based Hiring course I provide hiring managers the techniques necessary to conduct the type of interview described above. If you’re not being interviewed this way you must quickly intervene using the REFOCUS method. However, as I mention in all my job seeker posts and training videos, these techniques will not help you get a job you don’t deserve, but they certainly will help you get one you do.

Permission has been granted from The Adler Group and Lou Adler, author of Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide to Hiring & Getting Hired, to reprint this article.

About the author
Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007). Adler holds an MBA from the University of California in Los Angeles and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University in New York.