A Consultative Approach to Interviewing
Let’s play a game. Imagine for a minute that you own a small consulting company, and you’re meeting a prospective client for the first time. How do you handle that meeting?
Your main goal is to convince the prospective client that your skills, talents, industry know-how, and experience are just what he or she needs, at just the right time. So, you’re on a fact-finding mission during this first meeting. You’ll ask questions about problems and challenges the company is facing that you might be able to solve. You’ll ask about workflow, competition, sales hurdles, and other business issues, whatever is pertinent to your area of expertise.
Ideally, you will prepare in advance and anticipate some of the organization’s challenges. Just be careful not to go too far out on the limb about what the hiring manager’s specific problems are. Allow this to be revealed through the interview dialogue before sharing how you might solve these problems.
As they talk about their needs, you reveal your experience and credentials by explaining how you have handled similar situations. If the conversation goes astray, as a consultant, you steer it back to your core message: What you bring to the table and how it could meet their needs.
Now imagine handling a job interview in exactly the same way.
That, my friends, is the definition of consultative interviewing. It’s going into a job interview the way a consultant would go into a client meeting. And at GetFive, we believe it’s a powerful technique you should use in every job interview as a prospective new hire.
Consultative interviewing: How and why it works
Consultative interviewing, or going into your job interview as though you’re a business consultant, armed with questions about the business and how your expertise might fit in, allows you to steer the conversation toward areas where you excel. And, as we all know, that’s not the way typical job interviews go.
Think back to your last, or last several, job interviews. They usually go something like this: You’re led into a room with a hiring manager or a team, and they ask a series of questions designed to ferret out information about you with the goal of determining if you’re right for the position, the culture, and the team. You are not in the driver’s seat. They are. It can feel a little like an interrogation. Sound familiar? We’re sure it does. Everyone has been there.
But if you go into it thinking of yourself as a consultant who is interviewing a new client about his or her business to determine if you’re the right person to take on whatever challenges they’re facing, suddenly the whole experience transforms. It’s more of a conversation about possibilities and opportunities, and less of an interrogation with you in the hot seat.
Interviewing like a consultant means taking a step back and asking questions about the company while remaining confident in your skills. It shows you’re business savvy and willing to take charge to influence change. Ultimately, it gets noticed and is memorable when it comes to decision time.
Here’s how GetFive’s consultant mentality will help you in your next job interview:
You’ll be more prepared
Consultants do their homework before that first meeting, taking a deep dive into the company and the people who they’ll be meeting with. Job seekers tend to be less focused on learning the ins and outs of the company — a Glassdoor search is all the prep some job seekers do, being focused instead on how best to articulate their own skills, experience, and know-how. Turn that around and go in ultra-prepared. Research these areas:
- Company history, goals, and mission. Who is the CEO? Is the company private or public? Any scandale du jour to know about? How’s their stock doing?
- Company brand. Search Glassdoor and other sites, and also the current news. Have they been named a Best Place to Work? What do employees say about working there? What’s their culture? (This is critical to knowing if you’ll fit in.)
- Current industry big-picture info, such as trends, challenges, and even buzzwords everyone is using.
- The 4-1-1 about your interviewers. Look them up on LinkedIn. Maybe you went to the same college or have other similarities in your backgrounds.
- Anything else specific to the company.
Researching beforehand doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions about any of this in your interview. You’ll just be super informed going in.
You’ll be more proactive
Consultants ask questions, take notes, and then offer a solution. You’ll first need to figure out:
- What’s going on in this organization?
- What’s the flow of work? Who does what?
You’ll feel more confident
Acting like a consultant makes you feel more powerful and calm during the interview process. Instead of sitting there passively answering questions and hoping they’ll hire you, you’ll work to understand the company’s situation and what their needs might be. But there’s no need to act like a know-it-all. When making suggestions, show some humility. You’re not an insider yet.
You’ll get the information you need to know if the job is right for you
Instead of rattling off a list of generalized questions job hunters are “supposed” to ask, be mindful of what you would really like to know before accepting a position. It’s OK to ask the tough questions.
- What are common issues that crop up?
- How do your teams function? What does collaboration look like here?
- How do your teams handle conflict?
- What constitutes success in this job?
- What are the unwritten rules about working here?
- What’s the day-to-day life like here?
You’ll learn about your competitors
Consultants always try to learn how they stack up against the competition, so be sure to ask about other candidates in the running.
- Where are you in the hiring process? How many other candidates are there?
- How do you see me compared to other candidates?
- What kind of person are you leaning toward hiring?
- Can you see any reason why you wouldn’t want to have someone like me on board?
- What kind of person would be your ideal candidate?
As powerful as consultative interviewing is, it doesn’t mean you’ll be asking all the questions, and it doesn’t mean every interview will be smooth sailing. That’s why we’ve put together some interviewing tactics for you to deploy along with your consultant mindset.
The dreaded jitters before an all-important interview. Everyone gets them. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t anxious when a life change as monumental as a new job is on the line. Jitters are bad enough, but what about other common interview pitfalls like curveball questions? Let’s look deeper into these two issues that can trip you up.
Beating the job interview jitters
There are numerous tried-and-true ways to relieve stress prior to an interview. The most important is preparation. The more you know about the company, the products, and the people, the better you’ll be at answering questions in a thoughtful manner. Since you’re already going in with a consultant’s mindset, you’ve got the prep work done. Here are some other tactics to beat those jitters:
Hone your storytelling skills. You’ll need to talk about yourself through compelling stories. The better you are at doing this, the more memorable you’ll be. If you struggle here, consider working with an expert career coach who can work with you so you have the skills and confidence to ace any interview. And, if you don’t have access to something like the G5 Hub, take GetFive executive job coach Tom Rice’s advice and just use your smartphone. Wait, what? Read on for this devilishly simple trick to hone your storytelling skills.
Rice asks his clients to use their smartphones to record themselves answering questions as though they were in a job interview. People have very little idea of how they come across to others, he says, and seeing it in the palm of your hand is a powerful way to hone the impression you’re making. The first step is to come up with a list of possible interview questions (think outside the box here) and craft a story for each answer. Practice those answers over and over and over so you don’t even have to think about them. They need to roll off your tongue.
The next step is to grab your phone and record yourself answering those questions. When you’re finished, view the recording in three ways.
- Audio off. Just look at the visuals of how you’re coming across. What is your body language? How is your posture? Is your head bobbing around while you talk? Are you twitching? Doing weird things with your hands? Does your facial expression look like you’re at a funeral or are you smiling?
- Audio only. Listen to your voice, your inflections, the speed at which you’re talking. Does your voice sound monotone? Are you stammering? Using “um” or “like” too much? Are you stumbling over words or does your answer sound concise, to the point, and convincing?
- Audio and video. Look at the whole package of sight and sound.
“You’ll be horrified,” Rice laughs. But that’s OK. Because it’s only you seeing it, not your prospective employer. Now you’ve got a baseline and can see where you need to improve. “Do it 25 times if you have to, to get it right,” he says.
All of that practice and self-awareness will help you nail your next interview.
Prioritize sleep. Go to bed early the night before your interview and meditate. Just two to 10 minutes of quiet contemplation can help calm the mind and ease worries. Then you’ll be ready for a great night’s sleep so the next day your heart and head are ready to rock.
Start your day with exercise. On the day of your interview, get your blood pumping and release those feel-good endorphins. It’s one of the best ways to relieve stress.
Visualize success. Positive thinking beforehand can positively influence outcomes. Don’t let doubts overcome your potential. Believe in yourself! While you’re at it, do a few power poses in private (for example, the superhero pose). Research shows that holding these types of poses for just a few minutes can actually help you gain confidence and calm nerves.
Eat well. It can be difficult to eat on a nervous stomach, but without food, your hunger may cause you to mentally (or worse, physically) stumble. Bananas are a great option. They’re gentle on the stomach and provide much needed natural sugars. Plus, rumor has it bananas can help calm shaky nerves. In fact, musicians often eat bananas before an audition or concert. It’s believed that the tryptophan, potassium, and beta-blockers are great stress reducers.
With these simple tips, you can feel great about your next interview.
Slaying tough job interview questions
Inevitably, you’ll run into an interviewer who loves “getting creative” with outside-the-box questions. (Groan!) As experts in career coaching, we at GetFive have compiled a list of some of the trickiest interview questions we’ve heard, in an effort to help you nail that interview and begin your career transition.
How much should you charge to wash all of the windows in Seattle?
Some interview questions are meant to sound intimidating. The best response is a straightforward answer, such as a fixed amount per window, or an hourly rate you’d charge. Of course, be sure to explain your thought process when calculating your rate. The interviewer is more interested in how you come to your answer and the steps you take to get there.
Explain a database to your eight-year-old nephew.
Google commonly asks this question, and its core purpose is to see if you can simplify a complex idea and eliminate all technical jargon. This skill is especially important when in client-facing roles. The key here is to keep your answer short and sweet. “A database is a machine that remembers a lot of information about a lot of things.” Boom. Nailed it.
What did you eat for breakfast?
The interviewer asks questions like this to gauge if you would be a good fit for the company’s culture. Show some personality and humor, and be sure to answer according to whatever vibe that company gives off. “My competition,” you might say, with a laugh, and then reveal your fondness for the new Icelandic yogurt you found at Whole Foods.
Aren’t you overqualified for this position?
When you reach a certain level in your career and lose your job, chances are good that at some point during your job search, that hideous term “overqualified” will rear its unwelcome head. How should you respond when it does?
First, let’s interpret what hiring managers are telling you when they trot out this term. They may say or imply that your skills and experience far exceed what the position requires, but what they really mean is:
- I think your former salary was so high that we won’t be able to afford you.
- I’m worried that if I hire you at a lower wage than you used to get, you won’t be as committed to this position.
- I’m concerned that you’re older than the usual age range for people who typically fill this type of position.
- I’m concerned that you’re older than the person who will be managing you.
- I think you’re desperate and will stay only until something better comes along.
The best way to put these fears to rest is by making the job the focus of your conversations, emphasizing the value you can bring to that job and to the company. You need to reassure hiring managers that you will be committed to the job and satisfied with a position at that level.
Describe the color yellow to somebody who’s blind.
Your answer will tell the interviewer a lot about your sensitivity, spontaneity, and ability to think on your feet. To answer this question, you should think about the characteristics of the color yellow and explain them in a positive way: light, happy, warm, like the air in springtime.
If you woke up and had 2,000 unread emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?
This is asking about how you prioritize and keep organized. The ideal candidate for most positions does a good job of dealing with situations according to their level of priority. Possible answers: filter by priority (reading the high-priority emails first), or search for subject lines that include high-priority keywords. Or you can mention you have VIPs set up to go to a separate email folder.
What would the person who likes you least in the world say about you?
Ah, the dreaded “What are your weaknesses?” question. This is just another way of asking it. But don’t fall into the common trap of “I hold myself to a very high standard” type of answer designed to make you look good. Savvy interviewers see that tactic a mile away. Be honest, and if possible, show that you’ve learned from your mistakes. Something like: “When I was younger, I wasn’t very punctual. I have learned how disrespectful that is, and now I’m never late.”
Why shouldn’t I hire you?
This is one of the most common difficult job interview questions. Like “What are your weaknesses?” it trips people up. A great response is to focus on something that shows you’ll fit into their culture. “You shouldn’t hire me if your workplace is overly corporate and buttoned up. I prefer a more casual environment.” Another way to go is to be honest about the way you work best. “You shouldn’t hire me if your teams are micromanaged. I work best when I know what’s expected of me and am trusted to deliver on that.”
In the end, killing that all-important job interview is about forethought and preparation. At GetFive, we believe the key is having a consultative mindset, honing your storytelling skills, and practicing answers to curveball questions. With all of that in your arsenal, you’ll carry confidence with you into the interview, and carry out a job offer.