A New Grad’s Guide: Acing The 360 Degree Job Interview

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The 360 degree interview is often a difficult concept for job-seekers to wrap their head around – many of us have been taught that an interview is a place where you must impress your employer to have a shot at that elusive job.

However, the interview structure has changed, as well as employers’ expectations. The scenario where an employer rapid-fires questions at a candidate is long gone – candidates are expected to engage on a similar level to the employer. This means asking questions and taking a lead on the engagement as well.

If you ask the right questions and engage in meaningful conversation, you will be able to spot a good cultural and functional fit in the company, and have the added benefit of impressing the hiring manager with how prepared and engaged you are!

Here’s how to get the most out of your next job interview by engaging beyond the standard Q&A.

Practice the art of “small talk”

We’re all familiar with interview small talk – the slightly awkward, polite conversation that happens right at the beginning of your interview. Rather than rushing to get to the “real” part of the interview, let the conversation flow, ask questions, and engage in actual conversation.

It’s important to remember that your interviewer is an actual person, and not just a barrier between you and the job. Think of yourself as a business partner – your job is to represent your brand and build relationships. Only in this case, the brand you are representing is yourself!

Try taking the lead on conversations, and initiating small talk. It shows leadership and the ability to connect with others – a huge asset in the workplace! On top of all that, your interviewer will likely appreciate your genuine interest in how their day is going, what they enjoy doing, and in having a little friendly conversation with them.

Change the flow of dialogue

Traditionally, employers open up the end of the interview for the candidate to ask questions. However, unless you’re specifically instructed to hold your questions for the designated time, asking questions during the interview is a great way to show your ability to converse and probe for information.

For example, if the interviewer mentions the company has a very “performance-driven culture”, ask them to give an example. They should be able to elaborate on the performance management process in the organization including how the company recognizes top performers, how business goals are communicated in the organization, how performance is measured and monitored.

Simple questions such as “can you elaborate on that a little?”, “What do you think about that?”, “What would you change about that?”, and “Can you give me an example of that?” can instigate some really good dialogue throughout the interview.

The flow of the conversation changes – it’s more of a back-and-forth dialogue rather than a Q&A. This structure is much more interactive, and allows the interviewer a glimpse as to how you perform in a business environment, and how you would engage in conversation when talking to clients and co-workers.

Make conversation

It’s easy to tell someone to “make great conversation” or “ask great questions” – but what does that mean? In your interview, make sure that the questions or conversations you bring up focuses on career success on a high level. Doing this will show that you are capable of leadership, planning, and potentially growth within the company in the future.

It’s important to consider your audience as well. The type of questions and conversation you are going to have in a job interview will differ depending on your interviewer. For example, if you are interviewing with a talent acquisition specialist, initiating a highly technical discussion about the company won’t be useful for either of you. However, these individuals will be a goldmine of information about culture, retention, and development opportunities.

If you are interviewing with your potential manager, you should definitely be able to ask some very specific questions about the role and how it fits into the team, but you wouldn’t want to ask about something like benefits or compensation.

Here are some examples for starting top conversations:

Ask about the superstars – If you want to be a top performer at this company, you need to ask what the best of the best look like and what attributes you need to have to be one of them.
Ask about the future – What does the future of this company look like? How are they planning to grow and navigate competition and challenges in the market? And how does the role you’re interviewing for fit into the big picture?
Ask about your future – What development opportunities exist at the companies? How will the company support your learning objectives?

Don’t hijack the interview!

While the 360 degree interview takes a huge focus on the candidate taking more control over the interview, it’s important to remember it’s still a balance. The employer still has top control over the interview, and one of the biggest mistakes you can make is trying to overtake the interviewer.

You have 40% control. The interviewer has 60%. Keep that in mind – they want to see your leadership skills, but they are still the ones who are leading the meeting and covering the main points.

Be sure to read their body language. If they are nodding a lot during your answer, perhaps it’s time to wrap up your statement. If they’re looking at their clock a lot, perhaps you are behind schedule. While you should definitely feel free to ask questions, respect the interviewer’s agenda and don’t try to commandeer the interview. When the interviewer is ready to move on to the next topic, take note of anything you want to follow up on, and save those questions for the end.

Remember – you want to show them you’re capable of taking the lead. But don’t give them the impression that you’re not willing to learn. If an employer sees a candidate that thinks they know everything, they may consider you “untrainable” and move on. Be sure to take time and listen as well. Show your interest in what the employer has to say, and take down notes.

Do you have additional tips for acing the 360 degree interview? Share them below!

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