Go back to Job Search Prep Syllabus.
One of the things an interviewer (or phone screener) is going to be looking for in you is your ability to think critically. And while this competency is rather broad, encompassing such conceptual abilities such as your ability to analyze information, spot trends, handle ambiguity, get creative, and move to action, as well as more tactical abilities such as your ability to solve problems, manage time, track details, and the like, the place where your peer group tends to fall short—and therefore where the greatest opportunity is—is in the ability to handle uncertainty and ambiguity.
What this means is, in an interview, (almost) never stop to ask for clarity. Now, I’m not suggesting that you go and run off half-cocked! No! What I am suggesting is that you make some assumptions about how you think I want the question answered, and then you check those assumptions, by setting up the answer, moving through it, and then double checking that you handled things completely and asking if you “left anything out.”
To be clear, the following questions are ones that might generally trigger a call for clarity. For each, I have suggested an alternative response:
After you watch this video, also take a look on my blog for more information about this very important topic!
Here’s a “simple” exercise to help you get comfortable handling ambiguity in your communications:
Sit down in front of any video-enabled computer/video camera and record your answers to the following questions. If you don’t have access to a recording device, do this in front of a mirror:
After you answer these questions, watch your responses and ask yourself these two questions: Are you more interested in this person now than you were before you asked the question? Did the response generate a follow up question in your mind that you’d like to ask? You’re looking for a “yes” to both questions.
Got guts? Transcribe your responses and post them below in the comments field.
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Quick Question: when you say that you should never ask for clarity in an interview. Do you mean that if a question is asked by the intreviewer and you don’t understand, you shouldn’t ask the decision maker to repeat the question as it makes you look in-ept?
As in the past I’ve been guitly of doing this, interviewer asks a question I know the anwser but I have trouble articulating those answers and so stuble along the intervie. So then I go back and ask interviewer to explain the question as I didn’t understand it.
@mdabhi Never say never! If the question is truly unintelligible, or if you don’t understand what is being asked at a fundamental level, then definitely ask for direction.
If the question seems ambiguous but understandable, such as “Tell me about high school,” then run with it. In a case like this, where you understand the question but aren’t sure how the interviewer wants you to approach the response, set some direction. (i.e., Show leadership!)
If you don’t have confidence in the direction you’re taking, add a preamble to your response:
“High school… that covers a lot of ground! I’ll walk you through a few different, important elements of my high school experiences, including academic, social, and extracurricular, and if there’s something you want me to spend more time on specifically, you let me know, OK?”