During the interview when you’re answering the normal anticipated questions, the interviewer will suddenly change focus and ask a follow-up question, like:
“How did you accomplish that result?” or
“How much did the implementation cost?” or
“How did you sell the idea to senior management?” or
“How long did it take to demonstrate measurable results? or
“Did you have to add to staff?”
When the hiring manager begins to ask the “HOW” questions, you know you have just discovered why a job is open and what they’re looking for to fill it. This is when your ears should perk up and listen for insights into the hiring manager’s problem.
When those kinds of questions begin to surface you’ll know you’ve hit a nerve, or put more directly, you now know what the key issue is that the hiring manager wants to solve. When a hiring manager begins to dig into “HOW” questions, you’re in the unique position to provide potential solutions to the issues the hiring manager is trying to solve. Now is the time to show how you can add value to the results of the hiring manager, be a contributor, and at the same time move your candidacy from being an applicant to a top contender.
Look at it this way: When the hiring manager begins to ask you “how” you achieved certain results, you become an information source to that manager. With your experiences, you have already achieved the results the hiring manager is looking for, and now you’re seen as a potential solution. You’re viewed in an entirely different light. The follow-up questions that you’re asked as to how you solved a particular issue, tells you what’s important. It’s your way of knowing what the business issue is, what the function needs, and how you should focus your attention on providing potential alternatives for solutions.
The follow-up question is the pay-off question for a candidate. Why else would a manager want to know how you solved a problem in another organization if they weren’t trying to solve a similar issue? You are now positioned to give them what they need to fulfill the open job.
In summary: The first question about an item on your resume is a general one. If there are no follow up questions, it tells you it’s not their primary issue. On the other hand, if there are a number of specific follow up questions, it tells you they have a particular problem that the hiring manager is looking for answers from a potential hire.
The follow-up question defines the problem they want you to solve. Be smart with your answers and you’ll be a finalist candidate.
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