Everyone has interviewed for a job and thought they "interviewed well." We've seen interviewing trends come and go - where do you see yourself in five years, what's the greatest asset you'll bring to XYZ Corp, tell me about a time when - and we're on to a new one: the consultation. You are now a consultant giving free development advice to your potential employer. This trend is growing fast, so get ready for it!
True story: 2 months ago a company with a national presence fired its sales force and decided to start from scratch. They advertised exclusively for sales managers, in some ads specifying retail, in others B2B, and in still others, inside sales. They narrowed the field to 10 very experienced and qualified managers, and no salespeople. Then they ran the interviews.
Each interview was a series of questions by the company to the candidate of how the candidate would run the sales department. What do you see as the 3 greatest strengths of the product? What are the top markets would you want to cultivate? What are the top three strategies you would implement to make your sales staff successful? When the candidate would ask a question, the company wouldn't answer it. You're welcome to ask us questions when we're finished. Why would they do this?
At the end of all the interviews, the company had a list of 30 ideas in each category from qualified professionals; how to position their product in the market, who to target in sales and marketing, and how to develop a strong sales staff. They had achieved a coup! Free consulting from some of the best talent in the business! They developed a sales plan incorporating the best ideas from all of the interviews, and then called back the people who best fit their new plan. They offered each of them a sales job (not management.) That sales manager job? They gave that to someone who would agree to implement their new plan.
True story: A medical office looked for an office manager. They ran an ad. They narrowed the field to 6. They asked each of the six a series of management questions, including questions on accounts receivable policy suggestions, staffing solutions, benefits mapping, and more. They took all of those ideas, had some meetings, and presented the best ideas to their current office manager for implementation. No one was offered a job.
How does a qualified job seeker handle this new interview trend? How does anyone break into a new field? How can you tell if there really is a job? Easy - don't fight it. You won't know. Besides trolling for free business consulting, these companies have a good reason to interview in this way. It shows them quite a bit about your social skills, your industry competence, and your willingness to be pushed around!
When asked these types of questions, I suggest you answer with your best idea, and stop at one. Indicate that you'll be happy to follow up with them at a later date to provide your answers after you've had more time to consider, and hold your ground. You've done your homework about the company, and you should show it, but you're not a teammate yet. You're showing skill and competence, and you're also showing you won't be rushed into answers by pressure from anyone. If you go in and answer every single question with all your best material, you are demonstrating a lot of knowledge, but you're also showing you'll fold a bit under pressure.
Be ready with questions of your own: who will be your manager, what is the specific scope of work, how are certain responsibilities handled and implemented now, is the incumbent in the position doing an effective job and why... It's important to show interest, and that you can think on your feet without giving away all of your expertise. Their answers to these questions will tell you a good bit about whether you're a good fit for their position. Ask them directly if they see you as a good fit for the position, and why. You'll either get the job, or learn some of your interviewing strengths, or both!