There is one main goal when interviewing for a potential job: impress the interviewer. Usually people think they should agree all the time during an interview to succeed, but it’s just the opposite. Agreeing is good, but it’s important to express your honest opinion when you disagree.
Agreeing to something you don’t necessarily believe in creates misconceptions and assumptions down the road, if you were to receive the job offer. But professionals in the industry know that you don’t always agree with everyone, so what can you do be prepared?
Caroline Strokes writing for Harvard Business Review recommends implementing these strategies before, during, and after your interview:
Do your homework
It’s important to understand ahead of time if the company culture is one where people are receptive to new ideas. Are the organization and its founders known for inclusion and open-mindedness, or do they have a slow-moving legacy mindset? Does the leadership team encourage open communication and innovation? Research the company on Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit. If you know someone at the company, ask them open-ended questions like, “What do you like about this company and what areas could be improved?” Their answers might help you have a better feel for the firm’s inner workings.
Give yourself space to think
During the interview, if the interviewer states something or asks a question that gives you pause, resist the urge to answer immediately. Instead, take a beat to gather your thoughts and provide a thoughtful reply. To buy yourself that time, you might say something like, “That’s an interesting point of view. Let me think about it for a moment.” This demonstrates that you are able to think critically and problem-solve. Instead of eagerly filling the air with whatever first comes to your mind, you will be able to give a more finely crafted response.
Ask permission to speak candidly
Whenever you need to disagree with someone who has more power than you, it helps to prepare that person. The first time you want to push back on something, ask for permission to provide a different viewpoint. Say something like, “I see this differently. May I share my perspective with you?” This kind of invitation is effective for two reasons. First, it does not make the interviewer “wrong.” If you said “I disagree” and stopped it would probably put your interviewer on the defensive and shut down the conversation. But “I see this differently” opens the door for further discussion. Second, asking the question provokes curiosity on the part of the interviewer. You are not forcing your opinion on them; rather, you’re inviting them to consider it.
Trust your instincts
Of course, during the interview, you should follow your gut. If you think disagreeing won’t be received will then you might want to bite your tongue. Afterward, consider how you feel about the overall experience. Are you excited and confident? Defeated or emotionally drained? Those feelings can be a good indicator of what your days will be like at this organization.
And consider the degree to which you felt comfortable disagreeing. From what you observed, are people at the company open to change? Are dissenting voices welcome? If the interview made you uncomfortable — if you felt dismissed or unheard — trust your instincts. Don’t try to reason yourself into accepting a position in which you will be diminished.
Remember that if expressing different opinions wasn’t welcomed in an interview, it probably won’t be encouraged once you’re part of the company. If you decide you’re not interested in working there, send a follow email thanking the interviewer for the opportunity and politely declining to move forward. If you feel comfortable doing so, include a transparent explanation of why you’re opting out. Choose your words carefully and state warmly that the role isn’t right for you because you have a preference for a particular environment and challenge that better suits your career aspirations. Being transparent and authentic is much better than saying something that might be interpreted as disingenuous or even “ghosting” the employer. You don’t want to burn bridges.
An interview is a two-way street. And while the interviewers have what you want (a job) you also have what they need (skills and expertise). When you express your true opinions, you ensure that both sides know what they’re getting.
Impressing the hiring employee during an interview can make or break your chances of getting the job. Sure, it might be easy to agree all the time and make it sound like you’re a strong candidate. But showing that you can express your own opinions can be seen as a valuable personal trait. So stay prepared for anything, and stay true to your opinion during that interview.
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Strom Minnesota is an engineering and technical recruitment agency that specializes in high-skilled job candidates for highly technical positions. We facilitate contract employment, project staffing, temp-to-perm and direct hire opportunities. Industries served include IT, engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and manufacturing. We are affiliated with Strom Engineering, a national staffing and recruitment agency.