Active Interviewing

Thousands of books claim to prepare job seekers for the essential hurdle that is the modern job interview. However, most of these recycle the same tiredinformation and endless lists of potential interview questions and canned responses. Eric P. Kramer’s book Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job suggests a fresh new approach to interviewing that puts the interviewee in the drivers seat and changes the whole dynamic.

Kramer argues that the current format for job interviews is broken. Many interviewers receive little training and resort to a generic list of questions that can be answered just as generically. Kramer urges you to take charge of your own interview, treating it as an important sales call in which the commodity you are selling is yourself. He calls this “active interviewing”. Before the interview you should consider what services you provide, what results you can deliver and how to communicate your personal “brand”.

Sell Yourself With Stories

It is virtually impossible to prepare for every question an interviewer might throw at you. While it’s helpful to practice answering a wide variety of questions, you should focus on what you want your answers to convey. You can use the question that is asked to deliver the information you want the interviewer to have.

Begin by identifying five or six skills, traits or accomplishments that make you highly qualified for this position. Then identify several stories that illustrate those qualifications. Don’t make up a story; getting caught in a lie will guarantee you don’t get the position. Instead, think about specific moments in your life when a particular trait or skill led to success, and rehearse telling the story in a way that makes it clear. In active interviewing, instead of telling an interviewer that he is detail oriented, Sherlock Holmes might tell the story of how he was able to prevent a bank robbery because he noticed an employee’s pierced ear and dusty knees.

Widen Your Lens

If you have difficulty coming up with stories that highlight your assets, it might be time to widen your lens. Ask yourself whether you’ve ever accomplished something in an innovative way or with limited resources. Think back to a time you developed, designed or created something, whether it was a spreadsheet, a new procedure or a way to keep the stapler from disappearing. Have you ever worked under unusual circumstances or with a particularly difficult client? With active interviewing you can use a story to answer almost any question, and in doing so not only give the interviewer the information they’re looking for but use it as an opportunity to share information they may not get otherwise. If Tom Sawyer were asked whether he had experience delegating work, he could simply answer “yes”, but by answering, “yes” and telling the interviewer about the time he persuaded several friends to paint a fence for him his skill becomes memorable and distinct.

Active Interviewing Includes Active Questioning

At the end of the interview you will likely be given the opportunity to ask your own questions. The bulk of the interview exists for the interviewer to determine whether they want to work with you. This is your opportunity to determine whether you want to work with them. You might ask for more details about the position or the team you’ll be working with. However, questioning an interviewer presents an opportunity that most candidates miss.

Your questions can bolster the reputation you built in earlier phases of the interview. An active interviewing question highlights what you do know as much as what you don’t know. Prepare to ask good questions by studying up on the industry, the company and the specific position you are applying for. Kramer explains what makes a good question, gives several examples and explains how each question can cement the interviewer’s esteem for you. For example, you might reference a statement on the company’s webpage that asserts their dedication to their employee’s ongoing development. You can then ask what opportunities for development are available, showing the interviewer simultaneously that you have studied up on the company and that you are interested in building on your existing skills.

Active interviewing offers a comprehensive and innovative approach to the interview process. It teaches candidates to take charge of their own interview and sell themselves by telling memorable stories and asking perceptive, focused questions. In a sea of books offering advice for interviewers, this book is offers something refreshingly new.

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