Understanding the Employer's Perspective in an Interview

Updated: December 23, 2019

Sometimes, you don’t get an offer, and there’s no good reason why. But one of the best ways to up your odds of internship success is by trying to understand what the employer is looking for—and where they’re coming from. So, what’s the best way to understand the employer’s perspective? By listening, and by focusing on the company’s needs, rather than your own.

You can learn about the company’s needs straight from the source: your interviewer. In order to get them to talk about the company, rather than drilling you with nonstop questions, you’ll want to use bridging questions.

Bridging questions are questions that prompt feedback and advice. The goal is to ask questions that bridge your past accomplishments to the company’s present issues. This encourages the interviewer to share information with you. To create a natural dialogue, respond to the interviewer’s question, and then pose a related question of your own.

Here’s an example:

Interviewer: “How do you work on a team?”

Interviewee: “I’ve been involved in many team projects, and my style tends to vary based on the environment and project needs. There have been times where I’ve assumed a sort of mentoring role with team members, when I had significantly more experience or expertise in a relevant area. And there have been other times when I prefer to focus on a single task, particularly under tight deadlines, so that we can each do our part and get the job done efficiently. All in all, I can quickly adapt to the needs of the group. Do you think that that being an adaptable team player is particularly important here?”

Here are some additional bridging questions:

  • Was that the type of information you were looking for?
  • How will the experience I just shared be of value here?
  • Can you tell me how these skills will be important to this position?
  • Are there any additional details I can share that might relate to your specific needs?
  • Has this been a challenge for your company/department in the past?
  • What I hear you saying is … Do I have that right?
  • What kind of personal attributes are most valued here?

Bridging questions not only open opportunities for interviewers to engage and share perspectives, but they also demonstrate your active listening skills.

In the end, interviewing is like a chess game. It’s not the person with the most assets that wins; it’s the person who uses their assets most skillfully. The reality is that you can be the absolute best candidate for a position and still not get an offer. Being talented, motivated, and sharp isn’t enough; you have to show the interviewer you have these attributes.

Interviewers are people, too, and they base hiring decisions more on how they feel about you than on what you actually say.