The Interviewer Isn't The Only One Who Should Be Asking Questions
Sat, 06/16/2012 - 10:50 — Tracie Hitz
When hiring someone you want to know how they will fit in on your team. You ask questions about their past in an effort to predict the future. Some organizations go as far as to have candidates complete test projects with real-life challenges. In fact, for one interview I had a few years ago, they required the top six candidates to submit a full basketball marketing plan. Looking back on it now, I can see some value in evaluating our presentation skills, sales philosophies, creativity and ability to manage a budget, but the specifics of the tactics shouldn't have held as much weight. Regardless of how much you research an organization before your interview, it's impossible to know enough inside information to create an effective marketing plan.
Even the top marketers in the country can't hit the mark with something specific without access to past efforts, research and current administration. When I worked at Northwestern, creative companies pitched us ideas that weren't targeted toward our fans. One of the best quotes I've heard is, "Marketing without research is just guessing," so I wouldn't expect an interview candidate to present something completely on the mark.
Two of the most common interview test projects people implement involve problem solving and role-playing. For marketing tests, they present different situations they've encountered to see how you would handle them. When interviewing for a management role, they test you to find out what you would do in different situations. For sales tests, they ask you to sell them something random, like a pencil. They play the role of the customers, which usually includes the irate fan or someone who is completely uninterested in your team. They want to know that what you say on your resume can actually be done with their organization.
To take some of the emphasis off these exercises that are subjective and difficult to prepare for, be ready with examples from your past experience to supplement these exercises. For example, if I fumble a little trying to sell a pencil, I will follow up with a story about a cold calling technique that helped me sell tickets to Northwestern Basketball, a program that has never been to the NCAA Tournament. That's a tough ticket to sell. This shows I'm up for any challenge if given the opportunity to prepare and find my groove.
The point of an interview is to see if you will fit in at their organization. They want to know that you are going to be a team player, work hard and be happy doing it. They ant to like you and they want to trust you. So when put on the spot, after you complete their test activity, share a relevant story that will ease their minds about that particular skill they are looking to see if you have. You can be ready with these stories by taking a close look at the job description and researching their current sales initiatives. This gives you a better idea of what they want you to prove during the interview.
Once you have your best stories together, know when to to insert them into the conversation. Don't just spit them all out at once or at random times. Listen to what the interviewer is talking about and feed off of that. Ask questions that will provide additional information to help you figure out how to make them feel comfortable with you. Carry on a smart conversation. Be likable to earn their trust and the rest will fall into place.