How ‘unasked questions’ can make your answers better

Q: I have put huge work into preparing for a job interview next week. It is a position I really want to get as it will set me up for the next ten years or so of my career, either in this role or in another one that will almost certainly evolve from it. I've read everything about the company, figured out the people on the interview panel as best I can, and put my ideas down on paper so that I can easily remember them on the day. Is there anything else you would advise? (DL, email ).

A: Preparation, preparation, preparation – it really is the key. There are no shortcuts. It sounds like you are giving yourself a great chance here. When you've put in the work, you will be surprised what comes to you on the day and how well you are able to discuss the role and the company. Walk in there with confidence – not arrogance – and trust that you can perform to the best of your ability.

When I work with well-prepared candidates, I get them to look at another level – specifically, the unasked questions that the interview panel wants answered. I feel you are ready to enter this level.

When you have the unasked questions in mind, you will be inclined to flesh out your answers to cover them. By ‘unasked questions’, I mean questions that govern every part of the interview – they may include why should we give this position to you over somebody else, are you a safe pair of hands, do you fully understand the project, are you able to take our vision for this role and bring it to fruition?

By thinking about these unasked questions, you will seek to get more from your answers than merely dealing with the questions posed. You will search out the opportunity that lurks in each answer. If you could bear an unasked question in mind while giving each answer, you’ll score points.

As I've said here on many occasions, questions can be a distraction. I’ve seen candidates get sucked down all sorts of rabbit holes by slavishly adhering to the question. When the question is asked, take a second to consider it above and beyond the actual words being used – what is the purpose behind the question? What are they really trying to find out? When you prepare for your interview at this level, you will be surprised how many chances you get to add more to your answers.

A major distraction is an overwritten job specification. Get to the heart of the matter by knowing what they're really looking for and tailor your answers accordingly. If the job specification is three pages long, can you reduce it to six bullet points? Your research, including talking to key people with an insight in the company and/or role, should enable you to separate the wheat from the chaff.

For this interview, make an effort to list the unasked questions. They may be about your ability to lead a strategic change in an organisation, your capacity to repair a deep fissure between different employees, your experience of sourcing high quality employees or your skills in overseeing a new approach on the marketing front.

Slí Nua Careers ( ) offer full online services, including CV preparation, LinkedIn profile optimisation, interview training and mock interviews. Email your questions to [email protected].


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