Prove to us you can do this job

Employers don't have to beat about the bush. Quite a few of them, particularly supervisors or managers on the panel, will try very hard to find the right candidates, and they'll do it directly.

So the questions are direct. They'll be about specific facets of the job.

This may be a great relief to interviewees who've been wading around in indirect questions. Actually, getting down to questions about the work does help the return to reality.

It also helps people who are good on the job. These questions are where you can show some real knowledge. For applicants who have plenty of experience, the direct questions about the job can be job-getters.

So don't get too put off if the questions change from What really motivates you? to How do you handle difficult clients?

There are only a few general things you need to know about the direct questions, but they're important:

Keep your answers straight and accurate

The point here is you're talking to the boss.

Babble doesn't help much.

You're OK to give intelligent, competent answers, talk shop, use technical terms, and you can speak about your work like you would on the job.

That is important. You're trying to make your point as an employee, doing a job, and proving, quite literally, that you know what you're talking about.

So your answers have to be structured, meaning logically organized.

Answers must be:

  • Factual
  • Comprehensible
  • Directly relevant to the questions and the job you're trying to get
  • The best possible answers you can give

These are all competency questions. You can expect quite a grilling on all aspects of the work, including the more exotic things like related laws, safety procedures, and other things which are particularly important to the position.

Your CV and application are on your side at the interview

The really good thing about these questions is that you are, finally, able to use the CV material you included with your application at your interview.

One of the reasons a lot of emphasis is put on CV quality in job applications is that this is the information that gets you the interview. It's your strong suit, and you're actually on safe ground.

It's also information the manager has probably seen. If not, he or she will at least have been made aware of your CV details by the interview panel, which will include someone who did the cull of applications.

Actually, a lot of the direct questions about the job are much like your CV.

You use skills, experience, qualifications and your work history as your main sources of material. You can support everything you say in answer to the questions from experience. You definitely won't get lost.

Direct questions need direct answers

Don't beat about the bush yourself, when answering.

With any question which requires you to say what you'd do in a situation, just say what you'd do.

Answer the question first.

Then you can add an explanation of why you'd do that, if necessary, or any other information you think relevant.

A question like What do you do if a customer has a complaint? doesn't need a preamble or any explanation of what you're doing.

What you do is what's important, and it's what the employer needs to know.

You go directly to the situation in your answer.

First You'd find out what the complaint was. Then you'd either deal with it yourself, if you can, advising the customer. If not able to deal with it yourself, you'd use the complaints procedure for management, if required, which is sometimes obligatory.

As you can see, the question isn't necessarily simple, because the question was very general, and could relate to any complaint. But your answer has to cover the question effectively. What's important about this question is that the interviewer now knows you understand the problem of a customer complaint, and what to do about it. In this case, you've dealt with just about all aspects of the complaint process in two sentences.

More isn't better

Direct answers are usually better technique.

You can give short, straightforward answers, stick to the point, and not go into too much detail.

Do not talk the interviewer's head off.

Enough really is enough.

If they want more, they'll ask, or you can ask them if they need any more detail.

The other side to these direct questions is that you may find that there are a lot of them. They're all work based, so that's not a problem, but you must remember the interviewers are working on time frames.

Answer the question, then wait.

Things you can learn from direct questions during an interview

A competent interviewer can get a lot of information in a hurry. You, as the interviewee, can also learn a lot from the type of questions being asked, while you're doing the interview.

If the questions are mainly technical, you can assume that there's an emphasis on technical expertise, and you can also assume that your technical answers will get a hearing from the interviewers and be appreciated.

That matters, because interviews can vary a lot between employers. Some want short sharp answers, others need detail.

If you have a manager sitting in on your interview, you're actually being asked questions which the manager wants asked.

There can be any number of reasons for this, but when they're about the job itself, they're extremely important.

The type and difficulty of the questions will tell you a lot about the manager.

  • If you find yourself being asked questions which are a bit more than the role requires, you can assume the manager is looking for value adding from the employee.
  • If there's a lot of emphasis on one particular aspect of the job, that aspect is important, and you'd be advised to make sure you prove you know your stuff.
  • If there are a lot of procedural questions, the processes are important to the manager. This is quite common in administration jobs, and the reason for the apparent obsession with procedures is that the manager wants to be sure the applicant is trustworthy with the work.
  • If the questions are about time frames, turnaround times, deadlines and other obvious emphases on time management, include your time management abilities, and be absolutely clear about how you operate your time frames.

There are logical patterns in all interview questions.

All you have to do is recognize those patterns.

Note: See also our piece on Technical questions and experience issues for some additional pointers for experienced people who are having difficulties with direct questions on technical subjects.

The manager is sitting in to make certain of some aspect of the hiring process. With experienced, expert managers on the interview panel, you may actually find a positive force behind your getting the job.

If you prove you can do the work, that's all they need to know.