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I recently did a few rounds of interviews for a company. After a few questions, I was getting the impression that the interviewer was not satisfied with my answers. They asked me to provide topics to discuss or questions that focused on my expertise. It was unusual for me so I hesitated. I didn't want to seem like I was steering them into easy areas or was unsure if they were interested to talk about anything from my resume. After all if they wanted to ask, all they needed to do was review my resume and pick any point they were interested in or have not covered yet. What should I have done in that situation? Is requesting interviewees for questions like this a normal practice?

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    Can you give a concrete example of a question you have been asked?
    – Helena
    Oct 19, 2021 at 12:43

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What should I have done in that situation? Is requesting interviewees for questions like this a normal practice?

You should have taken command of the interview, and brought up "questions" that would show off your fitness for the job.

Something like "Well, you haven't asked me about my background using Framis. So let me tell you how that process would make your shop more efficient and effective..."

While it may not be typical, you need to be prepared for the case when an interview isn't yet hitting the topics that you know can help you succeed.

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    +1: Those questions are the perfect opportunity to showcase that you did your preparation well and "sell" your skillset in correlation to the JD Oct 18, 2021 at 13:03
  • This isn't really the time to be selling yourself. This is the time for you to find out what you want to know about the company to assure you want to work there. This question is a waste of the time, and as an interviewer I'd rather just have you say no questions and let me move on with my day. If I had cared about that, I would have asked. Instead you should be asking about whatever is important to you- best practices, technologies, how you interact with other groups, what the working environment is like, more details about the responsibilities of the position, roadmap, etc. Oct 20, 2021 at 0:22
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    @GabeSechan an interview is most definitely the time and place to be selling yourself. While I agree that it is also the time for you to ask questions to help you determine if the company is a place where you want to work, an interview is the prefect time to demonstrate to the company that you are the person they're looking for to both fill their current requirement and help them move forward with their business plans. Oct 22, 2021 at 18:16
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I'd say this is common practice, specifically for more junior roles/ positions. I have been part of many interview panels where this pattern was followed.

If you have multiple proficiencies, and more than one of them interests them, they can certainly ask you to provide your comfortable zone, so that the discussion can go ahead in that route. It's also a quick way to determine whether you are actually comfortable with the "top" capabilities / experiences you have put in your resume.

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  • How about for senior roles? How should I pivot to areas of expertise without seeming like choosing only topics from my comfort zone that are not necessarily relevant to what they're looking for?
    – user33705
    Oct 18, 2021 at 9:36
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    @user33705 If that's the case, then should you be applying for the job, in first place? I'd assume, your primary skillset and the job expectation shall match - that's the first step anyways. Oct 18, 2021 at 9:40
  • They explained they were looking for people who can do their day to day work as well as have expertise in certain areas. I listed some I have working experience with, although I would not call myself an SME in any of them. I expected the interview to be difficult so I studied to make up for lack of depth and expertise.
    – user33705
    Oct 18, 2021 at 9:56
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Treasure such opportunities. You are given a chance to shine on a subject of your choosing. Tell about a great project you did in a previous position. Maybe you participate in some open source project, tell about that. Tell about your ph.D or master thesis. Some volunteer work you're doing. A book you are writing. Whatever.

As long as the expertise you are showing has at least some relevance to the work you are doing.

And in general, don't expect interviewers to know your resume in detail. They may have seen your resume last three weeks ago, after which you were invited for a face-to-face interview, and have seen dozens of resumes since. Ideally, they would have taken the time to go through your resume before the interview, but we're all human, with busy schedules. Not to mention the times where a recruiter calls me "X was going to do an interview, but she can't make it, can you fill in? The interview starts in 10 minutes, in room A at the other side of the building. Let me send you his resume".

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"I didn't want to seem like I was steering them into easy areas"

Agh! No, no, no - this is precisely the wrong thing to be thinking here.

There are supposed to be things that are 'easy areas'. If you're applying for a job of "Performance Tuning SQL Stored Procedures", then at least one of 'Testing stored procs', 'Analyzing stored procs', and 'Writing Stored procs' better already be easy for you. Because if you're not solidly proficient in one of them and it's "easy" for you, you're not the right candidate and they'll find someone that one of those aspects is "easy" for.

You were effectively asked, "What are your strengths that would be useful at this position?" and you basically avoided talking about why you should have the job.

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