During practice and actual interviews and networking meetings, many job seekers are tensed and primed, ready to jump all over the questions they get.
This is a superficial understanding of how interviews work and interviewers think. Of course, you're being evaluated and you have a justifiable reason for wanting to appear articulate, credible and attractive. However, your goal shouldn't be to give a good performance. You actually have four goals: to build rapport, create a relationship that lasts beyond the interview, understand and address the potential employer's concerns and priorities and treat the interviewer like a human being, not an adversary. Your emphasis should be on overall fit, not fancy footwork.
Too many job seekers view the interview process as an athletic competition. They assume the challenge is to score the maximum number of points for style on each question, racking up an aggregate score that exceeds the competition's. Their performance will "win the interview," secure a job offer and, presumably, allow them to live happily ever after.
Before you answer, take a moment to figure out where the interviewer is coming from. What does he really want to know? What does the question mean? How does it relate to previously asked questions? What's appropriate in this context? What pitfalls lurk beneath the surface of this question? Where will your answer lead?
It's always wise to anticipate topics that will arise in an interview. Job seekers who wing it often blow it. The key to confidence is thorough preparation. But there's a distinction between thinking about how to approach certain issues and prefabricating canned responses that you regurgitate on cue. Your preparation should focus on two concerns:
1. the employer's needs, priorities and values and
2. what you should say about your skills, abilities, aptitudes, values, style and motivation to give the interviewer an accurate picture of you.
Every interview question probes some dimension of your capability or motivation. The problem is that interviewers sometimes ask questions without knowing why they're asking them. Therefore, they can't always distinguish a constructive answer from an evasive but adroit dodge. Moreover, some questions shouldn't be taken at face value. The challenge for job seekers, then, is to build and buttress a coherent picture of their strengths and figure out what's going on in the interviewer's head.
Assume you've just arrived for an interview and you immediately spy a copy of your resume filled with notes, underlines and exclamation points in front of the interviewer. Next, he hits you with that mushiest of all questions: Tell me a little about yourself. This information is obvious from your resume, so, you think, what does this clown want to know? What's the point of the question and why is he asking?