Developing Your Career

Developing Your Career

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation: Winning the Tie-Breaker Interview

By Steve Harrison on September 17, 2013

Diligent job seekers get comfortable with job-specific interview questions by thoroughly preparing and practicing their responses to traditional interview questions. These questions, geared toward uncovering strengths, skills and achievements, are tried and true. We expect them so it’s a little easier to plan and practice responses.

Your first step in preparation should always include rehearsing responses to these typical questions: What are your greatest strengths/achievements? What are you looking for a new position? Why does this role in our company interest you? What skills make you a good fit for this position? The answers to these questions are what I call your “sweet spot!”

But how do you prepare for the “softer” questions: What are you passionate about? Tell me your life story. What do you look for in an organization’s culture? What interests you outside of work and why? Who has influenced you, and how? What do you read? What have been your greatest failures/mistakes and what did you learn from them? What would your former colleagues say about you? What does leadership mean to you? These questions provide an opportunity to demonstrate your confidence and self-awareness – a offer a glimpse into who you are and characteristics such as emotional intelligence and thoughtfulness.

In her recently published book, “The Eleven Laws of Likeability,” Michele Lederman discusses authenticity – the art of being real. Authenticity is revealed through eye contact, the power of the pause, listening, and seeking commonalities and shared values. Interviewers balk at forced, scripted, unnatural or glib responses. They’re looking for authenticity. Authenticity signals integrity. Integrity is a factor in maintaining an ethical culture and is the foundation of a sustainable business. So, prepare for the “soft” questions. Pause before you answer. Listen, to be sure you understand what’s being asked. Maintain eye contact, and address your interviewer by name to help make a connection. At the end of the interview, you want the interviewer to say, “I really LIKE him/her!”

Adam Bryant’s regular New York Times feature, The Corner Office, offers insight into hiring that will help prepare you for the softer tie-breaker questions. Real business leaders are asked, “How do you hire?” Almost without exception they focus on areas outside the job-specific. Remember: It isn’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it!


Steve is co-founder and Chairman of Lee Hecht Harrison and former chief ethics and compliance officer of Adecco Group. He is a long-time management and corporate culture innovator and author of “The Manager’s Book of Decencies: How Small Gestures Can Build Great Companies.” This is the second in a four-part series from Steve addressing the art of interviewing.

One Response to “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation: Winning the Tie-Breaker Interview”

  1. Rebecca Sargeant

    I agree Soft Skills are so important. The last stat I heard was, 86% of interviews are lost because the candidate doesn’t fit the company’s culture. This is a direct result of a candidates ability to answer those soft skilled questions you discussed.

    Thanks for the recommendation of “The Eleven Laws of Likeability,” by Michele Lederman. I will defiantly be giving that a read.

    Rebecca B. Sargeant


Leave a Reply