Why conventional interview strategies are not working anymore ?

Are you being taught same conventional old fashioned strategies to crack Personal Interview ?

  1. Act confident during the Interview (no matter what happens)
  2. Fake it till you make it (rehashed version of act confident but little more classy, you finally want to muster the courage to fake confidence)
  3. Take more and more mock interviews (This is becoming more and more popular)
  4. Try breathing exercises (New age approach)
Ref : Atomicobject.com

Now, right before you think I am against all of these. Stop. I never said I am against any of these. Each of them have a place in cracking Personal interview, handling tough interview questions, communicating effectively.

If you learn to breathe correctly, you can really control your anxiety, fear, panic attacks effectively.

If you practice more Mock interviews, it will help you to effectively deliver your message without any problems. It will also make you more confident facing interviewers. You will also get feedback on correcting your body language.

If you imagine yourself as more confident before the interview, you will feel more confident during the Interview.

But if you don’t learn or if nobody taught you effective ways to handle the interview questions. If nobody taught you the skill to frame answers, if nobody taught you the skill to reframe the negative things, if nobody taught you when to say something under certain circumstance but say totally different thing under different circumstance, even if the question is same, then all these fake till you make it, breathing exercises, taking more mock interviews is not going to help you much but it will work against you.

Interviewer : Why do you have Poor Graduation score ?

Me : Because our college was Autonomous. Our papers were tougher than other colleges (YAWN) I scored well in some subjects, on the other hand, the subjects which required me to remember and mug up more information, I performed poorly. (Trying to act confident)

Interviewer : But a lot of subjects in MBA curriculum require you to remember and mug up more and more information, how can you handle that ?

Me : (Deep Breathing but don’t know what to say) No sir, I can manage. I will work harder then.

Interviewer : So why didn’t you work hard when you were completing your graduation ?

Me : Because I really didn’t like Engineering (Not knowing when to say what)

Interviewer : What if you don’t like MBA ?

Me : (Thinking really hard) No sir, I would definitely like it. That’s why I scored 98.5%ile in CAT because I really want to do MBA.

Interviewer : I don’t think so. (Looks at other interviewer and asks do you want to ask him any question)

Interviewer 2 : No. Thank you.

You leave the room completely knowing that you completely screwed up your interview and your chances of selection are close to zero. In case, if you get selected, it would be based on your Percentile and Academics if at all you get selected.

All of your breathing exercises, trying to act confident and taking more interviews sabotaged you because simply you didn’t know what to say, when to say it.

Now, enter the same situation when you are fully prepared.

You are expecting the question on Poor Graduation Score so you answer it before they consciously express their concern. (This may not be necessary in all the cases)

Interviewer : Tell me something about yourself

Me : (Intro) and (then I directly jumped on to explaining my low graduation score, summer internship, job offer and other job offers) Despite I had low graduation score, I never allowed it to hold me back from what I wanted. I was offered job opportunity in Bayer Crop Science during my summer internship project and it also helped me to get job offer from a Manufacturing Company where I worked for one year.

After I left my job, I also happened to apply for P & G Supply Chain Role, except one of my classmates, nobody else received Interview call from them despite me having less work experience, low graduation score compared to all of them. (I didn’t say these exact things but I made sure my answer included all of these elements)

So Interviewer didn’t get chance to corner me into some uncomfortable situation. You job is exactly this. Under no circumstance, give your power to the Interviewer.

In order to do that, you need to learn some unconventional approaches.

What are some conventional strategies and myths holding you back and how to break free from all of them ?

When everyone else zigs, you should zag.

  1. Being generic.

If your answer or SOP sounds like everyone else, that means it’s first nail in your coffin. You have already stated digging your own grave.

Generic =  Death

Unique = Resurrection from Dead

How do you know if something is generic? Easy.

If what you say could be said by the next person coming after you, it’s generic. If what you say could only have been written by you, it’s specific and unique.

That’s why I emphasize so much on spending more time on self discovery and introspection given inside GD WAT PI Revolution.

Here is generic (one of the worst answers) answer for Why MBA

I wish to go for MBA because I want to become Entrepreneur and serve the country and create job opportunities.

I want to learn from the eminent faculty members and students from diverse backgrounds. I think X school is perfect for me.

Here is answer prepared after hours of research which allowed someone to get into SP-Jain with 86%ile with no work experience (then modelled by several students to get into Top B-schools) (Here is how to approach Why MBA question)

“Sales and marketing is something that has always interested me which is why I decided to pursue my specializations and all internships relating to it (Past)

An MBA will provide me with 3 critical pillars which will help me achieve my short and long term goals.

Firstly it will provide me with a much deeper and formal insight on subjects relating to marketing and sales management (Future)

An MBA from SP-Jain in Marketing will not only enhance my learning through its top notch faculty but will also provide me with a lot of exposure through its global fast track in Darden school of business,University of Virginia and docc programs. (Why the particular B-school)

Secondly it will help network with best brains of the country from diverse backgrounds and interact with top notch faculty who are experts in the field of marketing. (Future)

Moreover my background in BBA-Marketing/Sales will go a long a way in adding value to the PGDM batch particularly in Marketing and Sales. (Present)

Thirdly it will help me in career progression and provide me with an industrial connect and a chance to work with companies like HUL and P & G as branch or area sales manager. (Future)

Moreover working in these companies will give me valuable skills in sales and distribution which will provide me corporate exposure before I go back to my our own business” (Future)

2. Creating a chronological list of your achievements/education/awards/work experience

Here is generic answer for Introduce yourself which is very generic

My name is Kiran. My father is a Civil Servant, my mother is Housewife.

I completed my schooling from Darjeeling then I chose go for Science. Then I took admission in NIT Rourkela for Computer Engineering.

After 4 years of graduation, I worked for 2 years in TCS as Support Engineer.

My hobbies are watching movies, listening to jazz music and trekking.

The interviewer doesn’t care about your chronological history. Everyone says that. They are bored listening to same things over and over again. If you have uploaded your scores, your work experience certificate, then there are high chances that they already know most of the information. Why you want to waste their time by regurgitating the same thing again.

If you answer like this, you have already put the interviewers to sleep. They have already become numb, tired, mentally exhausted after listening to these things every few minutes for 6-8 hours a day for last 2 weeks. They don’t want to listen to it anymore.

Tell me something, if you came across a salesman who is pushy, nosey and constantly trying to sell you his vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t matter if you want it or not, he somehow wants to sell it to you. He doesn’t care what you want, he doesn’t care if you really need it or not. He is just interested in selling it to you by hook or crook.

Can you stand the sight of such a salesperson ?

Now imagine a scenario, you are searching for vacuum cleaner to clean your home. You go to a electronics shop, you are just looking at different varieties of vacuum cleaners. You are confused which one to look for.

A salesperson standing there senses that you might need help. He approaches you, instead of asking you which machine you are looking for. He asks you “Sir, may I help you ?” You say “Yes”

Then he goes on asking “ What are you looking for ?” You go on describing your situation. He understands your requirement then he asks “Can I suggest you something which would fit into your requirement ?” You can’t say “NO” to him. You say “YES” to him.

He suggests you one which is appropriate according to your requirement, the one which fits your budget, your requirement etc etc.

Your job is exactly like this. You are a Salesman here. Instead of understanding concerns of other person, if you try to push your agenda on him/her, you are going to get more resistance.

Here is answer to Introduce yourself using Irresistible Intrigue Formula and using Hooks to grab their attention (name and other details changed)

My name is Nisha. I am born and brought up in a middle class joint family so education and values were more important to me than material pursuits.Right through my formative years, I have believed in the motto ‘hard work and self-discipline is the key to success’. This has formed the basis of my performance throughout my academic tenure wherein I was the school topper for seven consecutive years. My self-belief was further reinforced when I cleared the competitive selection process for the Bachelor of Business Studies course.

Despite maintaining my primary focus on academics, active participation in extracurricular activities has helped in shaping my overall personality. I have been involved in several activities like leading student council to organize events as well as volunteering at an NGO where I taught a group of thirty underprivileged children.

Going beyond classes, I have taken part in business events and simulation games at University and national level which has helped me to gauge my true potential when pitted against the brightest of minds.

I have also sought corporate exposure to gain a real world perspective of classroom learning. As a knowledge intern at The Boston Consulting Group, I developed an aptitude for organization flexibility, problem solving and analytical skills. My performance was appreciated and in recognition of my efficacy, my two-month internship tenure at BCG was extended to three months.

I have also sought corporate exposure to gain a real world perspective of classroom learning. Pursuing three internships while simultaneously working on a year-long research project, funded by the University of Delhi, I have constantly pushed myself to perform under high pressure and strict schedules. It was during these three months that I first got a glimpse into the world of management consulting.

See how simple and interesting it’s to read and listen to this. It doesn’t sound like I am listening or reading a chronological list of things. The person who said something similar along these lines almost always got questions on BCG (one of her hooks) How to use hooks ? Learn more

Except IIM-Ahmedabad, in all other IIMs, FMS she got questions on her BCG internship, even she used it during her summer internship and pre-placement interviews to get questions on this, she finally got job offer from Bain and Company (because of her overall achievements, academics, summer internship, interview performance, not necessarily just because of that)

Don’t make the interviewer work harder than he has to. Remember, your job is to pick, describe and analyse the most important things about you: you must work hard so that the interviewer does not have to.

A lot of students create a laundry list of their qualifications, work experience, achievements. Interviewers are not necessarily looking for someone to vomit their entire resume on them. They are looking to know more about you in way that is the most engaging without too much technical jargon.

3. No specificity

A lot of students boast about their achievements but when they write their answer, there is no mention of any figures, numbers, trends to give it more credibility and let other person know

Here is one example with no specificity

I started my online business 3 years ago. I started getting more and more traffic from Youtube, I was able to monetize it. Then I shifted my focus to Quora, Instagram, Search Engines.

It multiplied my website traffic by many folds. I was able to charge higher because I started getting better results.

Here is example with specific numbers

I started my online business 3 years ago. Initially, I used to get 100 visitors to my website and finally I was able to monetize the traffic. Then I shifted my focus on creating more organic channels like Quora, Instagram and Search Engines. My traffic multiplied by 3 times without spending any money on Paid Advertising.

I also reinvested money into training so I was able to create 25 testimonials instead of just 2 and over 100s of people started seeing results and started contacting me. So I was able to develop better product and charge 3-5 times higher while delivering results in much more elegant way. My revenue increased 10 times in last 12 months.

4. Not learning how to effectively tackle different types of questions

This is the most important but it’s not paid much attention.

I get asked many a times, why don’t you provide many mock interviews. I think mock interview is a great tool to sharpen your axe when you are already done with writing good answers. Good mock interview with feedback will help you with how to correct your body language, how to correct your speech, how to communicate effectively. Not necessarily, what you need to say.

If you don’t believe me, try this in your next interview. If you have poor grad score or gap, instead of learning how to reframe it, try doing more practice. Keep giving more mock interviews, try acting more confident. Tell me what happens then.

Ref : Njlifehacks.com

In most cases, it won’t really work and when you think it works, it’s because you were never cross questioned on it. No matter what happens to you, it has not worked unless your interviewer has bought into your B.S.

The next problem is students usually want to take short cut, start writing SOP and Interview answers without any research. Because who has time for research.

Writing answers quickly is easy. It doesn’t require a lot of time.

I borrowed the techniques like A.R.M.S.(which involves reframing from Ramit Sethi) Irresistible Intrigue Formula (which involves Hooks and Storytelling from Oren Klaff) from different experts because I realized everyone was using dated techniques to crack the interview

Earlier, the more confident you are, better CAT/XAT score you have, the more work experience you have, the more achievements you have, You had better chance of getting selected.

I wanted to create level playing field for everybody, even if the person doesn’t have great CAT score or more work experience, but he/she has learned to use her strengths in such a way that he/she has an edge over you.

It does matter to have an edge over the other aspirants when you can’t match up with their CAT/XAT scores, Work experience.

When everyone is trying to please the interviewer by supplicating to them, ensuring not to ruffle feathers, praising the institute, you don’t necessarily indulge into all of these activities.

The next problem is students usually want to take short cut, start writing SOP and Interview answers without any research. Because who has time for that

5. Focusing on unimportant things

Another thing, many students focus too much on GK, Current Affairs and don’t provide enough attention to their profile.

Because it’s a norm that, at X institute, they ask only GK questions.

Usually, you get GK and random questions because you failed to grab their attention right from the start, if you have grabbed attention with something worth attention grabbing, they won’t usually ask these types of questions.

This may not work under all the situations but if you learn the art of storytelling and hooks, they will start hanging on every damn word you say, you don’t have to play any games.

Even if you get GK questions, you can use right moment to divert it to your areas of interest. It may not happen always but you have better odds of cracking the interview.

6. Complicating simple things

Some students think if they complicate or over complicate their minor achievements, it would sound great. So they write long winded answer where they go round and round in circles without getting to the point.

They write statements so big, words so esoteric, that by the time you reach the end of the statement, you have already forgotten what the statement was trying to say.

In such cases, interviewer won’t bother to read it 4-5 times in order to get the meaning. He would start throwing random questions based on his limited understanding of what he read from your profile.

Ref : tmforum.org

Another important mistake is using the words you don’t usually use during the interviews in order to impress the interviewer.

Why would someone use certain words they don’t normally use while communicating ?

They think if they use such pompous words, they would sound and look intelligent.

Here is one example (This person converted IIM-Bangalore call)

The most exciting phase was the final year project where the realization of failure to materialize the initial concept idea midway during the course;building a new idea while leading a team of four towards successfully implementing an award-winning project,boosted my confidence.

The research experience under a God-like professor resulted in sleepless nights, introspection about life and an IEEE paper publication, and also attached was a determined decision to let go of the coveted IIT-Madras internship offer.

Here is example of simplifying the same thing (which one would you prefer ?)

The most exciting phase was during final year project, where we had to drop the initial concept midway during the semester, due to technical limitations.

Research experience under an eminent professor resulted in sleepless nights, introspection about life, an IEEE paper publication, and also a determined decision to let go of the coveted IIT-Madras internship offer

7. Explaining too much

Your words either orally or in written form, should explain things in succinct manner. If you have to explain too much about what you have already written, then you have already lost the game before it has begun.

Stop saying “this shows how I am (insert the quality), this shows I am (insert the quality) It should be evident from the example, if you have to over explain something, you have already lost.

8. Getting into unknown territories like Religion, Politics, Social or Ideological opinions to show how smart you are

Some students think just because they are into regular habit of reading, they have become so smart, now they want to prove it to everyone else.

So they start passing their opinions on topics such as religion, politics etc etc.

What they don’t understand is

“Not only could this be an automatic red light if they get the wrong interviewer, but all the time they spend on this they are not talking anything about why they are special, different and therefore valuable to the school.

Your goal is to get in, not to convince anyone of anything. The only relevant topic is you. The Interviewer won’t care what your precious position is, and they won’t be entertaining you long enough to figure it out either way.

9. Refusing to take responsibility of failure, blame others.

If they are confronted with the questions like challenging situation faced, problem you overcame, Poor Graduation score etc etc, instead of taking responsibility, they end up blaming the luck, colleagues, parents, superior, friends etc etc.

When you point fingers towards others, you are automatically showing them that you don’t take responsibility of your life and what happens to you.

The point is not whose mistake it’s, the point is how you can solve the problem or handle situation effectively.

10. Lying in the Interview

This is quite common during the interviews. The problem happens when you get caught. But you can get away with small lies without anyone being suspicious (Not that I am telling you to lie) when you say big fat lie or if you lie and forget what your lie was and then unconsciously you will say something that would make them suspicious. I know of one student who was caught lying in XLRI interview, he confessed that he was lying all along about his gap years in other interviews. In XLRI, he was caught red handed.

Earlier, I talked about fake it till you make it. Faking doesn’t mean lying.

Ref : Workopolis.com

When you get caught, it’s game over for you.

Two years ago, I was approached by Mr.X who received call from NM. His score was on borderline. He had gap year after 12th. He was trying to cook up a fake reason to justify the gap. When I further inquired, I realized that he had a great story behind it and it was so good, that  it needed to be told.

My job was just to give him courage to get the story out. I told him not to hide anything and share the story. He had all his doubts that why it won’t work. But eventually, he decided to share it. He talked about odds he faced in the gap year, how he overcame that.

If he would have done absolutely nothing to repair the situation, then that probably wouldn’t have been such a great story but that wasn’t the case. But he had done something significant to overcome the odds. That’s why it was such a great story.

When he shared his story, there was silence in the room and interviewer applauded and congratulated him for the same. He converted NMIMS call.

Don’t mess with the truth. Don’t stretch, twist or otherwise mess with the facts. Don’t make claims that sound dodgy, even if true, unless you have thorough corroborating detail. Not only must what you say be true, it must be easily perceived to be true

Be humbly confident, neither arrogant nor too modest. Don’t hype yourself or any of your experiences.

How to direct the flow of your Interview ?

A lot of students have challenges answering basic questions like “Tell me something about yourself” “Why MBA” let alone direct the flow of the Interview.

If you have challenges answering even the basic questions like this, first refer to “How to read Interviewer’s Mind ?” and once you become familiar with the process of answering basic behavioral questions, if you want to answer difficult questions like Poor Graduation Score, Career Gap etc etc, refer how to use A.R.M.S. Strategy to handle those type of questions very effectively.

But now comes the tricky part, how to engage your interviewer right from the start and keep him engaged throughout the interview.

One of the methods to engage your Interviewer is to understand the psychology of the interviewer using Empathy Mapping and how his brain functions and respond accordingly.

This is where Irresistible Intrigue Formula comes into play.

Irresistible Intrigue Formula starts with Irresistible Hook and then opens an Intrigue Story Loop. The basic purpose of it is “Get Interviewer’s undivided Attention with an absolutely Irresistible Hook” and then “Open Intrigue Story Loop” to further engage them.

What’s the Hook anyways?

Hook is something uniquely amazing strength angle
How to find Hooks ? It all boils down to introspection about yourself, your skills, your experience, your talents, your strengths etc etc.

What creates this open loop?Unfinished stories open loops.
How to employ hooks in your answers ? Make sure your answers are filled with

  1. Novelty vs Boring & Dull
  2. Specificity instead of Vague
  3. Visual Pictures vs just plain wordplay
  4. Simple and easy to understand language vs Complicated & Technical language
  5. Unique Selling Proposition/Positioning vs No uniqueness

If you use all these elements in your answers, your answers will be more engaging, powerful and interviewer will have no choice but to ask you questions on the same.

However, this method may not work in all the situations but it works pretty good in most of the situations.

But let’s understand why it works so well in the first place ?

We have 3 parts in the brain. Croc brain, Mid brain and Neocortex. Any information first goes through the Croc brain, it’s filtered and finally the filtered information goes to the Neocortex.

Image Courtesy : Pitch Anything

How Crocodile brain works ?

  1. If the info isn’t a threat (boring), it can be ignored.
  2. If it’s not an immediate threat to survival, it can be ignored.
  3. If it is dangerous: fight/flight
  4. If it’s too complex, it will be summarized quickly and moved on.

But if the information has 5 components I talked about Novelty, Specificity, Visual Pictures, Simplicity, Uniqueness , then it’s received and well processed by our croc brain and then there will be less filtering of information so that finally information is sent to Neocortex (which deals with Higher Reasoning)

That’s how frames come into play. What’s a frame ?
A frame is the instrument you use to package your power, authority, strength, information, and status. Oren Klaff

  1. Frames collide and seek dominance. The stronger absorbs the weaker.
  2. Everyone uses a frame. They may/may not know it.
  3. Every social interaction brings them together.
  4. Frames don’t coexist together for long. They crash and one gains control.
  5. The winning frame gains control of the social interaction.

If you have to explain your authority, power, position, leverage, advantage, etc. You do not hold the stronger frame.

There are 3 different types of frames which can be deployed against you

  1. Power Frame
  2. Analyst Frame
  3. Moral Frame

Your job is to overcome these frames.

Let’s take an example of Analyst frame.

How to identify Analyst frame ?

It relies on facts, figures, and logic. Interviewer is trying to dig down deep into minute details. Problem solving, calculations, statistics, etc

Seeks to filter your accomplishment like this:

1.     Focuses only on hard facts

2.     Says that aesthetic or creative work has no value

3.     Requires everything be supported by a number or statistic

4.     Hold that ideas and relationships have no real value

How to overcome the frame ?

There are certain approaches that you can employ

  1. Story Telling
  2. Push-Pull Method

Let’s talk about Story-telling first.

Why Story-telling works ?
Great stories help you break through their Logical Programming. It will nudge them out of analytical thinking and gives them more details which help them to “solve the puzzle”. When the puzzle is solved, then the croc brain disengages.

There are certain elements of the story you should definitely include in the answer
1. You need to have strong Backstory
2. You need to be the Center of the Story
3. It must be brief and subject matter related to the question being asked
4. There should be risk, danger, uncertainty, conflict
5. There should be consequences if the timely action is not taken
6. You should win at the end

If you use these elements in your answer right from the start, there are chances that you will not get these questions in the first place.

In case, if you get them. There is one more method you can employ which is called “Push-Pull” Now this involves some risk on your part but if you deploy it successfully, the results will be far better.

Here is how to use it ?

If the Interviewer panel presses you more for numbers/statistics than your story itself & interrupts you in between

Push: There is more to my story than just the numbers/statistics. I can talk about numbers/statistics all the time you want but that won’t give you glimpse into what I have accomplished so far. So if you want just numbers/statistics, I can definitely share that  (pause)  

Pull: But obviously I thought you are more concerned about my accomplishments first and numbers/statistics later        

Image Courtesy : My Door Signs

You just say this and see what happens. If they are really interested in your story, they will allow you to continue and then if required you can share the numbers and details at the end. If you don’t want to and if they don’t remind you, then feel free not to discuss those details if you think those details are not that relevant to your interview.

If you want to learn how to disrupt Power Frame, how to use Intrigue frame, how to use different Push-Pull techniques, check out GD WAT PI Revolution

Concept of Frames taken from the book “Pitch Anything

Featured Image Courtesy : Tools Hero