4 ways to gain control of an interview


Landing an interview with a prospective employer is exciting, to say the least: after weeks or potentially months of searching, your skills are finally being recognised. For once, you’re in the driver’s seat of your own career, holding all the cards: a company lacks the knowledge or experience that you have to offer, and you’re on the lookout for a stable salary and job security - it’s a match made in heaven.

However, faced with the daunting prospect of proving your worth to one or more strangers, a promising interview can quickly evolve into an awkward encounter you’d rather forget. Somewhere between the introduction and the exit, you lost control and weren’t given a chance to showcase your true value. It happens to the best of us. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to avoid this outcome in the future. 

1. Remind yourself why you’re there

If you start to feel the nerves building, remind yourself of one simple fact: they called you, not the other way around. They sought to meet you after reading your CV, which means you have something they need. Once the interviewer has asked you what attracted you to the role (which they almost certainly will), ask them why they selected you for the second round of recruitment.

This will instantly set the tone for the rest of the interview, allowing you to feel confident and relaxed enough to take control of the meeting.

2. Refocus the questions

If you haven’t prepared an answer to a particular question, don’t fret: this is a chance to regain control, rather than sitting back and shrugging your shoulders silently. Focus on another aspect of the question and redirect it to something you can talk about. For example, if asked about experience in a certain field you haven’t yet gained, turn the question round to focus instead on your interest in the subject, and your drive to learn more.

This might be a good time to ask your interviewer which elements of this subject interest her/him, turning the interview into a two-way conversation. 

3. Change the dynamic

Most job-seekers take a defensive interview stance by default; they sit in the chair and answer the questions set by the interviewer until they are given their designated time to ask a few of their own. This generally tends to come down to the fact that many hopeful candidates feel the employer is doing them a favour, particularly if they are in the early years of their career. In order to overcome this, candidates must take an offensive stance, while remaining respectful of the employer.

4. Shift the power

Ultimately, this is your chance to interview your potential boss about why you should work for their company; it’s an opportunity to determine whether it’s the right fit for you. Don’t hesitate to grill the employer on their values, culture, reputation and management style: if you’re successful, this will be your day-to-day, so it’s critical to gain as much insight as possible while you have them in a room.

Asking questions will further demonstrate that you are a valued professional asset with certain requirements; it will show them that you aren’t willing to settle for just anything.