The unstructured job interview is something that most job seekers can feel relaxed about. After all, it is simply a casual conversation, right? Don’t be mistaken, while questions asked throughout this type of interview are largely unplanned, they are not completely random. So as a candidate, how do you prepare?

Every interviewer has a purpose, namely to find the best candidate to fit the role. So what you want to ask yourself is; what are the general experiences and qualities my potential employer will be looking for? Placing yourself in their shoes and studying the key responsibilities of the role will allow you to prepare appropriately. When the time is right, introduce evidence of your achievements.  If at any time you feel that your interviewer is not steering the conversation to a place that allows you to present pertinent information needed for them to make a well informed assessment of your suitability to the role, take control and create an opening. Your interviewer will be focused and flexible to proceed based upon your responses. It is after all a discovery interview.

The relaxed nature of the unstructured interview can cause you to wander off topic and share too much irrelevant information, thus omitting specific evidence the interviewer is seeking to know about you. Though if you do discover that you and your interviewer have a mutual love of soccer and share a coffee house, it may still land you the job. They may be perplexed as to how you will perform in the role, but they’re excited to have another soccer fan on the team. The open ended questions asked certainly aim to discover a talent or personality trait that may otherwise be missed with a formal interview process, however it will rely on the interviewer’s intuition and interviewing experience to extract these details about you. In the event you are not meeting with a seasoned interviewer, you need to aid the process and ensure the full repertoire of your talents is taken into account.

The conversation that flows between yourself and the interviewing panel or individual will be unique to you. Your competition will not be asked an identical set of questions, so remember that it will be more difficult for you to be evaluated equally and objectively. This is why it is particularly important that you ensure your relevant talents are recognised and noted.

Initially utilised as a method by sociologists, the unstructured interview was designed to find a deeper understanding of a subject. The approach was a means to exploring one’s personality and attitude. Recruiters have adopted the method for identifying a candidates soft skills and character, particularly so when each of the candidates present with equal qualifications. There are however many who believe the method is not as effective at predicting job performance.

Many studies reveal the unstructured interview process to be poor in assessing talent, focusing instead on the chemistry between the candidate and interviewer. This can result in a bad hire. Other hiring processes, built on talent selection tools with a higher degree of validity and standardisation, have proven more reliable in selecting the most appropriate candidate. If you understand the ideal candidate’s profile for the role you are interviewing for, you can project your important skills and values that should be taken into account in the assessment stage, regardless of the unstructured nature of the ‘conversation’.

It is important to be prepared to control the interview process. Walking away and feeling that the process did not allow you to put your best foot forward may result in a negative experience for you. In fact, one study revealed that 83 per cent of candidates changed their minds about the interviewing company following a bad interview process. And considering you are highly likely to share your experience with family and friends, this does not bode well for the hiring organisation.

There is no doubt that no two job interviews are alike. The interview is however your greatest opportunity to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position on offer. Consequently it is one of the most important steps you will take in your journey to advance your career. As a job seeker you are highly reliant on the interviewer to make a fair assessment of your suitability to the position on offer, yet it is unwise to assume that you will be meeting with a highly practised hiring manager. With this in mind, prepare key points about your talents that you do not want to leave unstated before your meeting ends. You are the best person to sell your wares, so prepare to shine!

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