How NOT to be a Consultant at a Job Interview

On a job interview, interviewers sometimes ask candidates to explain how they would solve a problem that they, the company, are having. They provide them with certain information and sit back and wait.

Now some interviewers are con artists looking for free advice. But others are honestly testing the candidate to see if they know their stuff. So allow me to provide two acceptable answers:

The first is simple and will work if the interview is legit or you are being conned:

I would not presume to tell you how to run your business. I don’t have enough information. But what you shared with me reminds me of the time…

And then you tell them about a real problem you had and a real solution.

The second is a little more complicated and more suited if you think you are being conned, although, an honest interviewer should not be offended:

Your question reminds me of a story I was once told. There was a family business. The founder was still running things. His children and grandchildren wanted to make changes. He thought he knew everything. They thought he was going to lose everything. So, without his knowledge, they brought in a consultant.

The consultant looked around the business and, after an hour, met with the owner. He complimented him on a few things but then pointed out problems and told him how he, the consultant who he had just met five minutes earlier, would fix them. The owner thanked him, politely threw him out of his office, and then handed his children their heads on a plate!

A good consultant, and that is what you are asking me to be, does their research, knows what questions to ask, how to ask the questions, and when to ask the questions. And since I would like to consider myself a good consultant, I really can’t answer your question. But you now know how I would go about finding the answer. That said, if you are interested, I can tell you about a similar situation I had and how I dealt with it.

And you take it from there.

These days, with the difficulties in finding qualified candidates for real positions, I hope that the number of employers faking job openings in the hope of getting free advice has diminished. One can only hope. But candidates still have to be prepared. Consider yourself prepared!


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