In our executive recruiting firm, The HTW (Hire to Win) Group, we consistently coach candidates presented to our hiring company clients on how to effectively use rehearsed—sometimes derogatorily referred to as “canned”—answers to interview questions that can be predicted and anticipated with almost absolute certainty. Suffice it to say, not all candidates readily embrace this approach.
The reasons most often given by candidates for resisting this type of job interview preparation include, but are definitely not limited to, the following:
- The answers don’t feel (or sound) right.
- I do a LOT better in interviews when I just “wing it.”
- I fear a job interviewer will be able to see right through such answers and know that they are “canned.”
- I feel a lot more comfortable just being myself, being more “honest” with my answers.
Certainly all very understandable fears and concerns. They also just happen to be largely unfounded and without genuine basis—provided you approach the issue of rehearsed responses with the right degree of preparation, commitment and frame of mind.
WHAT REHEARSED (‘CANNED’) ANSWERS ARE, ARE NOT
Let’s get this general misconception about rehearsed answers to frequently asked job interview questions out of the way up front: They are NOT “one-size-fits-all” answers! They do NOT consist of “magic” words that are guaranteed to impress each and every hiring professional. Rather, ideally, they are tailored for the specific candidate, to allow him/her to give the best, most positive answers to interview questions he or she can reasonably expect to be asked during virtually any job interview.
Since this post is not intended to be an exhaustive examination of the most frequently asked job interview questions, let me give you just one example of how using a well-rehearsed answer can be of significant benefit to you.
Rare indeed would it be that a hiring professional wouldn’t ask you this apparently “innocent” question (it’s actually anything but “innocent”):
“Why are you considering leaving your current job?”
How would you (and most other candidates) answer this question, if you merely “winged it” in a job interview, or if you decided to be absolutely, totally “honest” and completely candid in your answer? Here is a very common answer given by candidates who decide to take this approach:
“To be absolutely honest about it, I am totally fed up with my current job and my current boss. I need to look for something else, something better.”
Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. This actually is one of the tamer answers I’ve known candidates to give when asked this very common, routine interview question! How would a reasonable candidate expect a hiring manager to react if they gave such an answer? Would the hiring manager view the candidate in a positive light because he or she was obviously being “honest” and “candid”? Extremely doubtful.
How much better would it be to fashion, and then diligently rehearse and employ during a job interview, an answer like this?
“While I’ve certainly gained valuable experience in my current position, I think it’s time for me to consider taking my career to the next level. Based upon the research I have done on your company, I believe this position offers the right candidate that kind of opportunity.”
I want to strongly re-emphasize that these are NOT necessarily the specific, “magic” words to use in your answer. The important elements of this type of answer are the tone and content. Use whatever words best suit your own vocabulary, your own personal style and personality. Just make sure the words you do use consistently emphasize the positive and strictly avoid the negative. Then, practice, practice, practice—and consistently employ—this same rehearsed answer during each and every subsequent job interview you may have! I can absolutely guarantee that this approach definitely will set you distinctly apart from the vast majority of your competitors, i.e., others seeking the same position(s) as you.
HIRING PROFESSIONALS PEOPLE JUST LIKE YOU!
At the top of this post I said that one of the reasons job candidates often give for resisting the use of rehearsed answers is that they fear a hiring manager will be able to “see right through” such answers. The candidate may fear being perceived as “phony” and his or her answers appearing to be contrived. Don’t you believe it!
Hiring professionals are not fools. In the example job interview question used in this post—why you would consider leaving your current job—they already know there is a reason (or reasons) why you are looking for a new job. That is a given. Nine times out of ten the hiring professional’s true purpose in asking this commonly asked question (and others like it) is NOT necessarily to learn the true reason(s), but rather, to see how you will answer the question. Take the “high road” in your answer and you’ll normally be perceived in a positive light; take the “low road,” though… .
TAKE A CUE FROM PROFESSIONAL ACTORS
I sincerely hope that this post has convinced at least some of you who may harbor negative thoughts about the use of so-called “canned” responses to frequently asked job interview questions to perhaps take another look at this issue. Let me close this post by drawing a parallel between this approach to the job interview and the approach professional actors take in their work.
You probably have a favorite TV (or Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, et al.) series you watch with some regularity. You probably are also fully aware that the words spoken by the actors in each installment are not their “true” words. Rather, the actors memorize the dialogue written by others (and sometimes by themselves too) and then diligently rehearse their delivery over and over until it becomes “real,” “natural” and absolutely believable to the audience. The principle is precisely the same when it comes to creating and using rehearsed answers to commonly asked job interview questions.
Oh, you say, “Wait a minute! I am NOT an actor, though!” Au contraire. During a job interview you very much are an actor, whether you are aware of it or not. The only question is, are you an improvisational actor (which requires immense skill to pull off in a convincing fashion!), or are you a more traditional actor? You know, an actor who memorizes and then practices, practices and practices until they can deliver the dialogue in a totally convincing and effective manner.
This post is a modified excerpt from Career Stalled?, Skip’s latest job-hunting book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Series of Career Development & Management publications.
Click HERE to watch a one-minute video preview of Career Stalled? on YouTube.