Beware of the ‘Easy’ Job Interview

Always be ready to turn an easy interview into a productive one, even if it means you have to do all the work.

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Job interviews aren’t usually easy. It requires an intense effort to prepare for a job interview, plus the need for mental focus and a big time commitment—all at a stage when you already feel pressure to find a new job.

But sometimes you’ll run into an easy one. Not the whole day, mind you. But just one easy interview tucked into a full day of more difficult ones.

So what are these easy interviews and how do you handle them?

In terms of how to handle them, well, your first reaction might be: “Hey, I’ll enjoy it, of course!” And see it as a nice break in an otherwise tiring process. But while interviews can be enjoyed, they first need to be productive.

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Here are four types of “easy” interviews, plus advice on how to handle each one:

The social interview

This interviewer is usually not the hiring manager. They may be interviewing you as a favor to the hiring manager or work in another department as a peer. The social job interview is difficult because of its casual nature. And while it may be there to test your fit with the company’s culture, it may also just be a big time-filler.

My advice for this interview: Be yourself. Don’t over-sell, and use the time to ask a lot of great questions. This will help you learn whether the culture is a fit for you.

The friendly interview

A sister of the social interview, the friendly interview can be via the hiring manager or through an empathetic executive. It could also be completed by someone who’s been out of work recently or simply likes interviewing people.

My advice for this interview: Stay on point. While you can appreciate their taking it easy on you, your goal is for each interviewer to give you a thumbs-up later in the day. Don’t assume “she was nice” is enough to get the job.

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The wing-it interview

Sometimes an interviewer is asked to meet you on the same day you arrive, and they haven’t prepared. Maybe they haven’t even seen your resume. This is dangerous because they could ask almost anything. Especially difficult are the vague questions about your background, because it’s easy to be vague in your answers.

My advice for this interview: take control. Provide specific answers to vague questions and don’t meander by over-answering a simple question. It’s your job to be sure they can give the hiring manager tangible examples of your fit.

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The screening interview

These are sometimes done as a phone interview, sometimes in person, and are often completed by a junior HR staffer. While these interviews can also be difficult, the risk here is you looking past them to the “real” interview.

My advice for this interview: Be specific. These interviews happen quickly, so you need to provide quick and tangible reasons why your background fits the job. Remember, the interviewer here is trying to get a task done, and you are one of many they’re screening. Don’t waste their time.

The overall lesson here? Always be ready to turn an easy interview into a productive one, even if it means you have to do all the work.

Tim Tyrell-Smith is founder of Tim's Strategy, a site that helps professionals succeed in job search, career and life strategy. Follow Tim on Twitter, @TimsStrategy, and share his 30 Ideas Book with job-seeking friends.

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