Considering the Conversational Interview

Three and a half years after making my transition from the military to Corporate-America, I was promoted from a field-based medical devices sales representative to a Sales Training Manager and my family and I relocated from Texas to New Jersey. In my new role, I taught new sales representatives the features and benefits of my company’s products, how, when and why surgeons should use our products, human anatomy, specific surgical procedures and a host of other things that would make these newly-minted sales professional successful quickly.

Each new class lasted six weeks and I remember how I felt the night before my very first class.  I was nervous. I was anxious. I was memorized. I was prepared to deliver all of the material to my class in a specific manner and I recall hoping no one would ask a question. Every night after class, I would go home and work on memorizing and practicing the next day’s lesson. It was exhausting and although I can say every member of that class went on to be successful in the field, the classes I taught to my first group of trainees were canned and robotic. They lacked personality and I ultimately did not connect as well as I did in later classes.

As a matter of fact, after teaching my second or third group of representatives, I found myself much more comfortable with the material and not staying up late the night before trying to master next day’s lessons. I knew the material. I was prepared for just about any question that came my way and I was confident, which ultimately led to better taught classes.

How did I get to a place where I was conversational and confident?  I practiced – not only reciting the material in my head, but actually speaking my content out loud multiple times.

You can take that example and apply it to interviewing.  One of the best ways to feel more comfortable and confident answering interview questions is to say your answers out loud, and not just verbalizing your answers once or twice. To truly get comfortable with the material, you must invest time in working out your answers aloud, multitude of times.

But what I have described above is only a step in preparation and is certainly not how success is measured in a conversational interview.  A successful conversational interview is not reciting memorized answers to hiring manager.  It is first understanding the essence or purpose of the position and the competencies the position requires, then connecting your background, skills and experiences directly to that position.

Think about a recent conversation you have had with a family member, friend or co-worker. I suspect your conversation did not consist of you reciting memorized responses to anticipated questions.  My guess is it was a dialogue where you asked questions and responded to others; where you listened intently, trying to find common ground.  You likely did not dominate the conversation, talking 90% of the time and allowing the other person to only get a few words in.  Remember, in an interview, your goals should be similar.

Best of success,

Pete Van Epps