How to Effectively Reframe Interview Questions
The word "control" is frequently used with regard to interviewing. Often it is used incorrectly, by giving the candidate the impression they should attempt to take full "control" over the questioning in the actual interview. This is, quite simply, a mistake which shows a lack of understanding of typical interview dynamics. If you attempt to take one-sided control of the interviewer and the interview, you may win the initial battle, but will certainly lose the war. They may let you take control, but will press the reject button as soon as you leave the office.
The Reframing Technique
The right use of control in the interview is your ability to control both the context and perspective of your answers. You can do this effectively by effectively reframing. To do this, you should always attempt to answer the questions as straightforwardly as possible initially, but then reframe the original question to illustrate an area of your background that can further enhance your overall image. This requires a thorough understanding of your strong points so you have a planned direction and course. By properly using the Reframing Technique, you will find yourself redirecting to the same core topics (which reflect your best points), regardless of the initial questions used as the launching point.
For example, if you are asked who your favorite professor is, you might give a short answer about a particular professor, then reframe the question by telling why that professor is your favorite and use it as a connection to your internship experience. "She has the ability to tie in all of the classroom theory with practical business applications; in fact, it was her inspiration that encouraged me to participate in a four-week internship over winter break, where I combined my classroom knowledge with practical experience in the field of _____."
Reframing can take many forms, but at its best there is always a solid connection between the original question and the reframed emphasis. If the reformatting of the original question goes into a totally unrelated topic area, it will be counted against you. The key is to stay within the same general frame and use the question as a launch pad in a new, yet related direction (the reframed question). When done smoothly, the interviewer will not even be aware of the slight shift in focus. And you will have the opportunity to put forth your strongest points. Know your key attributes points and all the bridges you can use to reach them so that you can use reframing to your advantage in the interview.
The Parroting Technique
If a question is unclear to you, it is entirely appropriate to ask a clarifying question or paraphrase the question to make sure you understand. "Parrot back" the question in your own words to make sure you have the correct meaning. Do not assume you understand or make a "best guess" of what the interviewer is seeking. They are the only ones who truly know what they want, so a well-placed "Just so that I understand, what you are asking is…" response will serve you far better than treading down a potentially incorrect path.
The Parroting Technique will also serve you well as a temporary stall when you do not have a ready answer. This will buy you a few precious seconds before you need to begin your response. If you still cannot put together the answer, you have two "safety valves" left. First, comment on the importance of the question and its context—"I understand the importance of this in regard to…" If you still haven't formulated your answer, turn the question back to the interviewer for comment—"Can you tell me how _____ (subject area) specifically plays a role within your company?"
This takes some practice to avoid the snow job look, but if you practice it enough, you will find yourself quite ready and able to squeeze precious seconds out of even the most seasoned interviewers.