3 Ways to Nail Your Next Business Interview
I remember doing media training for banking executives when one of the execs said that he may not do a lot of media interviews, but he could use the tips I was giving every time he answered questions from his Board of Directors.
He seemed pleased, but I wasn't. I remember thinking that this was a media training session - why would he want to use it for something else? It then dawned on me that what he said was powerful feedback. It opened my eyes to the realization that my media training workshop could be used in a different way, with just a few adjustments. As a result, it's another workshop I offer.
Whether you're answering questions from your Board of Directors, management team, or your boss, there are three things you need to know to be better at answering questions when it counts.
Know What You're Going to Say Before You Say It
I really don’t care how good you are thinking on your feet, ad-libbing, or being spontaneous, the more you prepare for the questions you’ll be asked the better you’ll do. It’s pretty simple.
Although it’s a fundamental of good communication, one important point many people don’t understand is, if you know what you’re going to say before you say it, you’ll say it better. People often throw in filler sounds like “umms” and “ahhs” because they don’t know what they’re going to say next. It’s hard for people to stay silent, even for a split second when they speak, and as a result, filler sounds are used. Many of those sounds will disappear and your communication will be stronger if you drop the umms and ahhs and make your point effectively. That can do that by planning what you need to say.
The next step is to anticipate the questions you’re going to get. Take a few minutes and develop a list of the questions you expect. Certainly there will be the odd question that you didn’t expect. I’ll show you how to deal with those later in this blog. Focus on the questions you expect and decide what your answers will be.
Once you’ve done that, verbally rehearse your answers. Don’t just roll your answers through your mind, take the time to say the words out loud. Are there words that you have difficulty saying? If so, get rid of them and use other words. Once again, if you know what you’re going to say before you say it, you’ll say it better.
Shoot video of your responses. I know it’s hard to watch yourself, but it’s amazing how much you can learn by seeing yourself on video. Many people make facial expressions that they never knew about. A surgeon one time told me that she returned to a second workshop of mine because she realize she had “resting bitch face” until she saw herself on video. Her expression, not mine.
Answer the Question First
Let’s take a look at how you answer questions now from your Board of Directors, management team or boss.
I believe it’s always best to give an answer and then explain yourself rather than giving a long explanation and then arriving at your answer. When somebody asks you a question, especially somebody in a position of power, there could be a suspicion on their part that you may not be totally honest. Nothing makes that situation worse than giving the impression you’re not answering the question. As you explain, yourself, the person who asked the question starts to feel that you won’t answer the question.
Here’s an example of how this works best.
Board Member to Vice President: I note in the financial information our profits were down in the first quarter of the year. Do you expect profits will rise in the third and fourth quarters?
Vice President: Yes, I certainly do. In the first quarter severe weather problems affected our business, both by costing us a loss of revenue of three percent and increasing our costs by five percent. With even average weather for this fall and early winter, we expect our profits to rise above the 15% mark once again.
Now take a look at the VP’s answer if he or she used the same words but explained first and then gave their answer second. It’s much weaker and allows suspicion to build.
Use a Bridge to Get There
Earlier I brought up the embarrassing issue of getting a question that you didn’t expect, or worse yet, don’t know the answer to. There’s a way out.
It’s not as good as knowing the answer, having anticipated it and practiced your response, but a bridge may save the day.
Bridges are a short set of words or phrase that allow you to get from the question to the answer you want to give. For a bridge to be effective though, you need to first answer the question, or at least acknowledge it. Here’s another example.
Board Member: We didn’t do as well as we had hoped financially in the first quarter. Do you have any thoughts on why?
Vice President: Not specifically yet. What I can tell you is, it was very cold in the first six weeks of the year and I know that hurt us from both a revenue and expense prospective. I’m not sure about the extent of the weather on our bottom line though. We’ll have final numbers next week and we can provide the information then.
The bridge “What I can tell you is” sets up the rest of your response. It’s conversational and allows you to provide an answer. This works neatly to allow you to shift the conversation and also buy some time.
Other bridges that can work are “You might be interested in knowing”, “Here’s what we’ve been able to determine” and “I’m not sure about that, but I do know”. Always talk about what you know, not about what you don’t know.
There’s a lot more information I can get into and may do so on a blog down the road. I do workshops on interview skills and if you’re interested please let me know.
Like What You See?
Get my blog each week, for free. Sign up here and you'll get my free e-book too.