Creating a point a difference during an interview

By Alistair Pennie

Published on 26-03-2016

Interview tips

Over 80% of people who are asked “How are you?” reply with "I’m fine" or "I’m well" depending on their desire to maintain grammatical accuracy. The majority of the remaining 20% are not fine and are quite happy to let you know about it. That leaves space for a very small percentage of people to immediately create a point of difference. Those who are great, in top form, in good fettle, in short - not many people are different.

Thousands of interviews are happening every day and the consistent thing interviewers are looking for is something different, something that helps you stand out from the crowd and in-turn can make the prospective company better by thinking about things from a fresh perspective.

“How do you like to be managed?”

A bug bear of mine is answering “How do you like to be managed?” A decent enough question if you are trying to align people to the culture of a business and the specific department to where the role sits. It is a long time since anyone said to me anything other than “I hate to be micro managed”. You might as well respond with “I’m not a fan of my boss stealing my lunch”. Here are a few things to think about when tackling this question:

  • The spectrum of heavy micro management to complete autonomy is large, so suggesting you can either be micro managed or not is too simplistic.
  • Some people absolutely need to be micro managed and the vast majority of us want and need some level of direction.
  • If you are ever asked this question, have something different and pertinent to say using an example of what has worked for you in the past. If you don’t answer honestly there is a danger your values and work ethic will be misaligned to that of your potential boss and your lack of direction will see you drown in a sea of ambiguity.

“Would you like to progress to management?”

Another singular response question would be “Would you like to progress to management?”

“I definitely see my next step as being a manager, I’m passionate about my field and really want to invest the time progressing my personal knowledge in this area!”

The juxtaposition is common place but there is no issue with being honest about your career aspirations, sometimes saying that you don’t want to progress for the foreseeable future can be the thing that gets you the job. In a time of innovation and a constant drive to become leaner, thought leaders can excel in standalone roles. Admittedly businesses also have to recognise progression isn’t for everyone – if someone is a subject matter expert at a lower level but vital to the functioning of the company, they should be paid accordingly and valued at a level where they operate best.

Behavioural based questions

How to answer behavioural based questions has been covered many times but sometimes it is the simplest questions, the questions when you are ‘building rapport’ that leave the biggest impression on cultural fit and the value add you can bring to a company. Therefore understand how you can make yourself different on the average questions – What is your major strength? How well do you communicate? What are you looking for from your next employer? How do you manage relationships? How do you like to be managed?

Answering the small questions with a point of difference and honesty could mean progressing with an interview process or not.

Alistair Pennie manages the Supply Chain & Engineering team in Sydney. He recruits senior to executive level roles across Supply Chain, Procurement and Engineering.