Next Time You’re Preparing for a Job Interview, Ask These Two Questions

October 13, 2015


We wanted to take a moment to share this great article we saw last week and discuss its brilliant distillation of job interviews – on both the company and applicant side – into a simple formula for success.

The post appeared on the World Economic Forum’s “Agenda” blog. It summed up the process of job interviewing into two simple questions:

“Why you?” and “Why me?”

Let’s face it: job interviews are, on the surface, complex. Argentus has written about all the varieties of job interview formats in vogue: phone screens, interviews with human resources, panel interviews, behavioural interviews, stakeholder interviews. We’ve given specific advice for each of these formats (e.g. provide quantifiable specific examples in a behavioural interview, treat a phone interview as an open-book test). And human resource and business leaders are always developing new, more psychologically-sophisticated interview techniques, whether arcane or humane.

But we loved this article because it really drives home the point of any job interview, no matter the format: to answer the fundamental question of why you’re interviewing at a company, and why the company should be interviewing you. Focusing on the “why” removes the obscurity that so many complications of the interview process introduce. The “what” questions, “who” questions, “where” questions and “how” questions are important to the mutual understanding – but they’re really besides the point of the true point of any job interview: to establish why a company and individuals’ interests intersect. Viewed in this light, a job interview is really a simple proposition.

Too often, a candidate will go through an interview and fail to establish one of these two sides to the story. Sometimes the candidate focuses only on explaining their accomplishments and suitability and fails to convey an interest in the company they’re interviewing (and no, being interest in the money doesn’t count). Or they’ll fail to convey any specific knowledge about the company and how their skills and approach will help position the company for the future. (One cringeworthy example of this from our recruiters is a memorable time when a candidate forgot the name of the company, a globally-recognized brand, during the interview). In other words, they fail to establish the “why us” side of the equation. On the other side, though it’s less common, a candidate will go through all the other procedural questions and explain their interest in a role without ever really addressing or establishing what makes them special – what some of our clients have referred to as the “Wow” factor.

Getting too bogged down in the specifics or complicated answers during your interview preparation might lead you down a garden path away from the core issue, and it might make an interview more stressful than it needs to be. When you get to an interview, you’ll encounter a variety of techniques and questions. But underneath those questions, and your answers is the interviewer’s ongoing assessment of these two core concerns. As the World Economic Forum’s article says, each of your answers should implicitly be answering one of these two questions. Why us, why you.

Sure, you might accuse this approach of over-simplification, and that might be true. There’s obviously more to an interview than these two questions. But keeping the “Why You” and “Why Me” questions in mind is really more of an interview preparation technique than it is an overall philosophy of how to interview. We guarantee that if you go into an interview with a view to answering these two questions, you’re setting yourself up for success. favicon

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