In many interviews you will be asked on how you would improve on something that the company does or is offering to its customer. The temptation is to “go to town” in regards criticism so you can exemplify how you can improve greatly on what is currently a poor offering.
A typical example would be in an interview for a Digital Manager position where the candidate will invariably be asked “What do you think of our website?” The temptation is to list everything that is wrong with the website and then make suggestions on how you can remedy each fault, one by one. However be cognizant that the person interviewing you may have spent many hours burning the midnight oil or writing copy or editing the websites current offering, however poor in your eyes, which you could potentially destroy by being overtly critical. What is the solution?
The best strategy is to include a few positives about the website before launching into your suggestions for improvement. Find a few things to like about the website and emphasise that to take the website to the next stage you propose implementing a number of improvements. Business owners in particular can be particularly protective of every aspect of their business, warts and all, so tread carefully in regards criticism. Sometimes this can even be viewed as a personal attack on their hard work and you will notice that your interviewer suddenly goes on the defensive as you have put them on the back foot and the atmosphere is suddenly soured.
General compliments pre-interview are usually a nice touch. You could compliment them on the location of their business “You are in a great location, just a minute from the M50” for example. Alternatively you could compliment them on the quality of directions you received prior to the interview. Of course, complimenting a particular product or service in the company offering usually goes down very well. The key here is to deliver compliments with sincerity and to pick on something they should be proud of. “I love your chairs”, for example, may come across as strange especially if the chairs are standard office fare.
Paying a compliment in an interview can put you in a good light in the interviewer’s eyes and can be very useful when you are asked suggestions for improvement. However if not delivered with a level of sincerity and believability, a well-meaning compliment can often back-fire.