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Number of Strategies We Can Use To Overcome Problems in Interviews

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Most interviewees, like most interviewers, are a mixture of good and bad, of awkward and obliging. They usually come to interviews in a positive frame of mind, recognizing that it is in their own best interests to cooperate. However, even responsive interviewees have bad moments when for one reason or another they display some of the characteristics discussed above, so it is just as well to be prepared for them. Fortunately, we are not helpless in the face of opposition. There are a number of strategies we can use to overcome problems. The most important of all is:

Reassurance

Reassurance is not really a 'strategy' as such because it is something you have to convey to everyone you interview, no matter who they are or what their personal characteristics.



You have to show them that you see them, recognize them and respect them as individuals in their own right. More than that, you have to make them feel that, while the interviewing is taking place, they are the only people in your world who have valuable things to say and important contributions to make.

Reassurance comes from the moment you greet them and introduce yourself. They are also reassured when you explain the nature of the interview and the shape it will take, and when they hear the sound of their own voices.

Therefore, ask your questions, keeping them straight forward and, as far as possible, based on their own experiences. Ask, 'What did you do?' rather than, 'How did you feel?'

Interruptions

In general, interrupting interviewees, even those who are going on rather longer than is necessary, is not a good idea. For one thing, you never know when they may give you some vital information; for another, as long as time is not a problem, by letting them go on you are showing them that you value what they tell you. Interviewers who are always interrupting interviewees because they are too impatient to listen seldom succeed in getting the information they want.

With windbags, however, you have to butt in, otherwise you will be sitting there all day and, worse than that, you will not necessarily achieve the purpose of the interview. You need not stop them in an aggressive or sarcastic manner, as that might only turn them against you and bring the interview to a halt. Your interruption should be calm and tactful. 'This is interesting, but before you go on I’d like to ask you. .

You can halt the long speech by breaking in with a brief summary: 'You've given me so much that I seem to have lost my way, so I'd just like to check what you've told me so far.' Contrary to the impression they give, talkative interviewees are often those lacking in confidence, and once they start to answer a question, they do not know how to stop. One way is to distract them. This is done in three steps: first, you reassure them. This is very interesting.' Then you suggest, 'Let's come back to that a little later on.' Finally, you move on to the next question. 'I'd like to ask you about. . .' Instead of objecting, they will be grateful to you for interrupting and letting them off the hook.

Silence

As a rule, interviewers and interviewees alike hate silence. This is understandable when you consider that interviewing is a two-way communication mainly through the medium of speech. Interviewers think that they have failed if they cannot keep the interviewees talking all the time; while interviewees find silence disconcerting and, if it goes on too long, very stressful.

In fact, silence can play a very useful part in interviewing, especially in encouraging reluctant interviewees to give fuller replies. The silence must be deliberate on your part, coming after the interviewee has given an incomplete answer to your question. It is vital that while remaining silent you look at the interviewees in an interested and expectant manner, eyebrows slightly raised, head tilted to one side, perhaps leaning towards them.

If you are looking away they will think that you have either forgotten what to ask next or that you have lost interest in them. You cannot remain silent for too long or do it too often. A couple of times in one interview and for not longer than ten to fifteen seconds. More and you can fatally damage the rapport between you.

Stress

Stress interviewing should be left to experts in the field. Much of it is practiced more for the perverse pleasure of the interviewer than to test the interviewee's ability to stay calm under pressure.

Usually it is a waste of time. Knowing that someone can survive a stress interview tells you only that they can survive a stress interview. It tells you little or nothing about how they will act under real pressure in the job itself. It is also very difficult for a serious interviewer to switch from being nice to nasty and back again in one interview. The changes will con fuse more than pressurize the interviewees.

Having said that, there may be circumstances when you have to use pressure to encourage obtuse or uncooperative interviewees to give fuller replies to your questions. The most effective method is to worry at a question like a dog with a bone until you get your answer. You do this by repeating the same question, changing it slightly every time, as well as by reflecting and restating (see above).

'How did you get on with your colleagues?'

'O.K.'

'What kind of relationship did you have with them?'

'We had our differences.'

'What about?'

'Mostly about budgeting.'

'Budgeting? Could you explain?'

Admittedly, it is hard work, but eventually the interviewees will get the idea that you will not let up until you are satisfied you have the information you want and, hopefully, they will start to cooperate.

Some interviewers who are bullies at heart believe that by firing big questions at interviewees one after another, they force them either to respond or to admit they cannot handle the pressure. Large questions receive short replies. If you ask a question that covers a range of feelings or experience you are likely to get a brief answer, because most interviewees are not philosophers or politicians and are not trained to handle major issues at one go.

'What do you want out of life?'

'To be happy, I guess.'

A vague question followed by an equally vague reply. If you have to tackle big issues like ambition, status, future plans, do it one small question at a time and you will succeed where bullies fail.

However much pressure you put on your interviewees, you should always remain fair, polite, even-tempered and tactful. There is never any need for rudeness, which is an abuse of power and seldom works. If the pressure is too great, interviewees will either crawl even deeper into their shells or walk out on you, so nothing will be accomplished
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