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 Does It Feel Like Déjà vu Interviewing?

By Joe Stein

  It does not seem like that long ago when a person would interview with one person, or perhaps two, prior to a hiring decision by a company.  The process was fairly streamlined, with decisions made quickly.  Those days seem like a distant past, as most companies don’t hire that simply anymore.   

Now, what a Job Seeker will more likely face are a number of interviews, causing one to visit a company multiple times.  Interviewing with the Hiring Manager more than once has also become the new norm.  This can be a real challenge for a person, as the entire process can really wear you down both physically and mentally.  
 

If you are wondering why this is and why you may need to interview so often, there is generally a combination of reasons.  First, training someone is expensive and the risk of a bad hiring decision can be enormous, causing Hiring Manager angst and wanting to be sure of the decision.  Secondly, making a decision in a “vacuum” is generally frowned on in a company, so a Hiring Manager often wants to get others involved in order to try to reach a consensus.  Finally, competition can be really stiff for many jobs so there is often little to differentiate between candidates.  By having others interview a person can provide assistance in trying to land on the most qualified applicant.
 

So, how can a person keep each interview feeling fresh?  Especially when faced, at times, with the same questions being asked?  The goal should be to not show any interview fatigue to the person asking the questions. 

·         Treat Each Interview Individually.  Unless the Interviewer references something said in a previous interview, you really have to pretend that the other conversations did not occur.  The person asking the question did not hear your previous answer given to someone else.  You want this person to hear your best answer, as if it is the first time that it has been asked.  Do not reference that you have been asked this question previously, and do not start your answer with, “as I explained to…”.  Think of it like a schoolteacher instructing the same class throughout the day, the audience may be different but the message needs to be essentially the same. 

·         Do Not Go Off Plan – I am assuming you have spent considerable time preparing for the most commonly asked questions that you will face.  It is very tempting, when asked a question multiple times, to start varying your answer or want to provide a different example.  Although the variety may provide you some mental stimulation, the reality is when you go off plan, you open yourself up to risk.  The risk resides in saying something “off the cuff” that is not aligned with the message you’re trying to stress.

·         Stay Cool, No Frustration – If you are faced with the same line of questioning repetitively, it can be easy to become frustrated.  This is especially true if it is something that you prefer not to focus on, such as an item in your work history (an example being a short stint with an employer and why you left).  Try to prepare yourself mentally, prior to the interviews, that this is something that will be stressed.  Stay cool, don’t let the frustration get to you at all, and avoid answering in short, clipped responses.

·         Take a Break – If you feel like you are starting to wear down under the questioning then ask for a break.  I do not recommend doing it during an interview, as it will appear unusual and cause speculation.  It won’t seem odd, however, to ask for time between interviews to go to the bathroom.  You can use this as an opportunity to compose yourself and get mentally prepared for further interviewing.

·         Stay Consistent – If the same person is interviewing you more than once and asks the identical or similar question, it is fairly safe to assume that this is a point of focus for your candidacy.   This is the time to be at your best when answering. You will want to answer the question consistently with the way you handled it previously.  Any variations will cause the Interviewer to start to question the validity of your response and doubt may creep into his or her mind. 

Sometimes, interviewing with a company feels like running a gauntlet and in the end it is survival of the fittest.  There are some things that you can do (as noted above), however, that will assist you and help to ensure that you will be the one left standing in the end. 

As always, best of luck in your job search!