The crucial interview question that won't be asked out loud

by Karen Burns

There’s one question a hiring manager will never ask you, but the answer is crucial in determining whether or not you’ll be offered the job:

“Is this person a good fit for my workplace?”

Basically, interviewers need to know if you’re the kind of man or woman with whom they, and their employees, would want to spend eight or more hours, every day. It’s that old issue of likability.

Of course, we know you are likable. But does the interviewer know it? How can you make sure? Fortunately, there is a way you can project that elusive quality.

In fact, you may already be doing it without even knowing.

It’s called matching the communication style of your interviewer, and it’s an enormously effective means to convince a hiring manager that you are the ideal person for the job.

Basically, you match your interviewer’s communication style simply by allowing the interviewer to set the tone. If he or she is crisp and all business, put on your best professional hat and behave likewise. If the mood is light and relaxed, you too should unbend a bit (within reason—you should never be more casual than the interviewer). If the interviewer offers a personal anecdote, consider sharing something of your own. Briefly.

You may be wondering right now, Does this mean I should bury my own personality in an interview, be artificial, be a Yes Man/Woman?

No, no, and no.

Be yourself, but do so in light of your interviewer’s concerns. Your aim is to convince, to reassure, this person that you will be an asset to the team. The key here is to get out of your head and into the head of your interviewer. What is this person’s biggest problem? How can you solve it? How can you show that you’ll smoothly fit into the existing team?

A few other questions you may be wondering:

Isn’t this toadying? Only if you toady. It is possible to accommodate an interviewer’s style and tone without turning into a suck-up.

Shouldn’t my job interview be about my skills, qualifications, and experience? Of course it should. And it will be. But skills, degrees, and experience are not the only things employers are looking for. They want to know you will be a good coworker.

What if my interviewer is dysfunctional in some way? This is when you need to be extra compassionate. Maybe your interviewer is shy, inexperienced, tired, or just has poor social skills. Be kind. Reach out to that person. Think more about that person’s mental state than about your own. Help your interviewer to relax by being relaxed yourself.

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