8.16.2005

TIP: Thrive or Survive in an interview

I don't know about you, but after interviewing a few candidates in a day, I can hardly recall much about any of them. It's not that my questions are repetitive, but their answers are - many candidates try hard not to say anything 'abnormal'. At the end of the day, they may all survive, but they also kind of blend together. How does one not only survive, but also stand out from the crowd?

  • Tango with me, but let me lead. Conventional wisdom suggests that you should hold your questions until after the interviewer has finished interrogating you. Tangling with the interviewer suggests you ask relevant questions throughout the interview. The best interview is not an interview, but a two-way conversation. You both should be fully engaged like partners. Letting the interviewer lead suggests you look for opportunities to ask questions, but don't force it. The best is to answer the interviewer's question fully then follow up with a question of you own. For instance, when the interviewer ask you for an example of an achievement, describe it then follow up with "Would the job holder be facing similar situations here?" This creates an opportunity for you to elicit more information from the interviewer about the job, and use them to tailor your answers.
    • Another good opportunity to ask questions is when you need clarification on a question. "Yes I am a team player. But before I get more specific, would you mind telling me the kinds of teams you have in your company, so I can give you relevant examples?"
  • Tell me your story. Stories are "Kodak moments" from your career. A good story is one of the most effective way to deliver an answer - not only it helps you not sound just like everyone else, but also makes the interviewer feel he's in charge - in charge of forming his own opinion about you through your actions instead of your words. A good story has three key elements: Problem you faced, Action you took, Result you delivered. The best ordering of the elements depends on the question. If you were asked to share an achievement, you might want to use the Result-Act-Problem approach, which emphasizes your results. Use the Problem-Act-Result approach if you were asked to describe a tough problem.
    • Make sure your interviewer understands the problem. If s/he doesn't get the problem, it's not a real accomplishment no matter how hard it is. If s/he does, s/he would most likely probe further for more depth such as "What were you thinking at that point?" or "Tell me more about your meeting with that person."

Category: C++ Quant > Land the Job You Want > Interview

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