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3 Tough Job Interview Situations and How to Handle Them

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Interviewer asking a question

Once the interview is over and you’ve landed the job, it’s smooth sailing from here on out, right?

Not exactly.

If your job includes communicating with clients and closing deals, you’ll have to go through the job interview process over and over again. Luckily, you can translate the skills that got you in the door to help your sales shoot through the roof. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Here are a few interview situations and how you should handle them:

The interviewer asks about a particular skill, and you don’t have it

When an interviewer asks you about a skill you don’t have, you have three choices: you can misrepresent yourself and hope you don’t get caught, say you don’t have the skill and wish them luck on their candidate search, or you can emphasize a related skill you have while expressing your eagerness to learn and quick mastery of new material.

The first choice is not only pretty unethical, but also a great way to burn bridges within your industry. If the skill is important enough to be mentioned in the interview, it’s probably used frequently; you’re going to get nailed on it sooner or later.

Compare this with a prospect asking about a product you don’t have or a service you don’t provide. They need 24/7 communication, and you have a strict “no work on weekends” policy. You can say you’re always available, but if it’s important enough for them to ask in the interview, you can bet your phone will be ringing on a Saturday. Are you willing to answer it?

The second choice is more ethically balanced, but doesn’t do your business any favors. You came into the job interview for a reason and did your research. Unless there’s a huge miscommunication on the nature of the business, you should have something to offer.

Few business “soul mates” exist, so if you bow out the moment you think you can’t reach their ideal, you’re going to be turning away perfectly good business. Ask questions to probe deeper; they may be asking for a particular service or product, but what they really need is for you to fill a need. If you can discover what the client needs, you may be able to offer something of your own that would make you a perfect match.

The interviewer asks a straightforward question, and you need to set yourself apart from the competition

If an interviewer asks you a factual question, and you know the answer is on your resume or in your cover letter, it’s not because they’ve forgotten. They’re giving you an opportunity to tell them how that fact makes you the perfect candidate.

Interviewer: “It says here that you studied at Prestigious University.”

Wrong answer: “Yep.”

You just blew an opportunity to tell the interviewer how getting the Perfect Degree at Prestigious University and your school involvement makes you the best person for the job. On the other hand, the interviewer might bring up something on the resume because he or she is confused about it, and it may be broaching a delicate topic.

Interviewer: “I see a two year gap between your jobs at First Company and Second Company.”

Wrong response: “That’s correct. I did not work in 2010 and 2011.”

See the pattern? A prospect may ask about any number of things, and it’s your job to spin everything in a positive light.

Prospect: “It says on your site that you were named the Top Widget Seller of the Decade.”

Wrong response: “Yep.”

Right response: “It sure is! We competed against thirty-four other widget manufacturers and were rated in three different areas including customer service satisfaction. You mentioned earlier you had trouble with your last supplier and their bad attitude. I’m glad we can show you have a track record of happy customers.”

The interview is over, and you’re told you’ll hear from them within a week

Typical interview etiquette tells you to follow up to thank the person interviewing you immediately with a handwritten, mailed thank you card.

Why not transfer this practice over to meeting prospects? If you maximize every moment with potential clients, then you have – at minimum – learned about their company, made a networking contact and practiced your sales pitch. For that alone, they certainly deserve a thank you card.

Even if you don’t happen to match what they need for this job, you made a positive contact and put yourself in an excellent position to be contacted in the future.

Treat every discussion with a prospect with the same preparation and positive attitude you did during your interview for the position, and you’ll get that same fist-pump high-five feeling of being hired over and over again throughout your career!

Bret Bonnet is the CEO of Quality Logo Products, a promotional products distribution company that he helped to establish in 2003. His efforts earned him a spot on Counselor Magazine’s list of the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30 within the promotional products industry.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Bonapartist01

    Dodge on the matter of answering work gap.

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  • jrandom421

    On number 1: If you don’t have a particular skill, and the interviewer asks about it specifically, and you attempt to do any sort of dodge, other than saying that you have it and have used it in other places, you’ll just be thanked for coming in and crossed off the list for consideration for that position. End of story.