THE ART OF EFFECTIVE INTERVIEWING
There is an art and etiquette to interviewing just as there is a balance of etiquette in good table manners. The people interviewing you will know whether these skills are present, just as the people you dine with will know whether or not you have basic table manners . . . by the impressions you leave.
There are a number of procedures/techniques that can be followed to increase your chances of obtaining a job. Your desire, willingness and effort to apply these techniques can mean obtaining the job of choice. This discussion outline is intended to cover only fundamental interviewing techniques. There are entire books written on the subject of interviewing.
We will assume that most of the individuals reading this know how to dress and present themselves in a physical sense for an interview. If you do not feel comfortable in this area we would highly recommend reading Dress for Success for men or Women’s Dress for Success by John T. Molloy.
The first rule of interviewing that overrides everything else is “Be yourself, be natural and be honest above all things!” We have seen people that get so focused on techniques that they forget to relax, to be real and to be themselves. If you aren’t comfortable with a technique, by all means, don’t use it!
A one or two hour interview gives both parties only enough time for a “snapshot impression” of each other. This is why it is critical that you are prepared for the interview. Preparation for the interview is discussed below.
Research the company history; you need to know something (even if it is only a modest amount of information) about the company before you walk into the interview. Some companies are very impressed, even flattered when a candidate has taken the time to understand their operations. They note that you have gone the extra mile and have done your homework. Companies hire candidates that are in love with them!
Prepare a well-organized story/outline about who you are and rehearse the outline. The outline should consist of a chronological list of accomplishments and achievements in a story form. The outline should be one page in length and consist of key words and events. The resulting story told during the interview should be five to twelve minutes in length. The well-organized story should be tailored to the interviewer’s company’s primary areas of interest and should be rehearsed again and again until the story is both natural and extemporaneous. Rehearsing the outline builds tremendous self-confidence. It will also help you to stay focused and avoid tangent stories, which can be quite annoying.
Mnemonics can be used to assist in instant recall of your outline during the interview. A mnemonic in this context is a pseudo word created in a vertical fashion down your one page outline where each component letter of the pseudo word represents the first letter from a key word from each line or point of your outline. It is much easier to memorize one word, knowing which point of the outline each letter signifies rather than memorize the entire outline without any memorization tools.
The outline can follow/track your resume to a degree. You would be surprised how many people do not read your resume thoroughly before an interview. Going over some of your resume points will serve to expound on and bring to life the significant highlights in your resume. If you have a project that demonstrates your skills (such as a successful business plan or computer program), take the project with you. Do not show the employer a project that is marginal or one that would be considered compromising or confidential.
During the interview you want to leave the very best impression possible. Most employers would rather hire someone that is enthusiastic with a great attitude. You are there to sell yourself! An interview is a time to tell someone about your accomplishments. If you don’t tell the interviewer how you have excelled in your career, no one will ever do it for you. And if you aren’t sold on yourself and can’t demonstrate this in an interview, then no one else will be sold. You are, in a sense, in the role of a consultant or businessman trying to close a sale during the interview. List the number of times you have brought new business to your company, saved the company money or streamlined operations. Try to quantify and attach a dollar amount to these events.
You would be surprised how many people cannot express what they have done or who they are in an interview. They would rather sit and wait silently until the next interview question is asked. If you have the opportunity at the beginning of the interview to say, “Can I tell you a little bit about myself?” . . . and the interviewer responds, “Yes,” and you have the good fortune to get through your outline, it can leave an excellent impression with the interviewer. You have all of a sudden put him at ease . . . he is thinking (to himself), “Sure tell me about yourself, that’s why we are here isn’t it? It has been a long day and I’m tired of digging for the normal 20 to 40 interview questions.” Psychologically he is saying, “Yes,” you have put him at ease, he doesn’t have to work and if you have done your homework in preparing the outline, the interviewer shouldn’t have more than a few questions about your background after you finish your “well organized story.”
If the interviewer interrupts your outline and asks a few questions, follow his lead! You will use most of your outline even if he does end up asking you 30 questions. Always follow the interviewer’s lead. Some interviewers know precisely where they want to go with the interview and will ask a series of questions to get there quick. Other interviewers will want to hear your well-organized story from beginning to end. Try to gain a sense of which direction the interview will go during the initial stages of discussion.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER bad-mouth your former employer. If you absolutely need to discuss the negative points of a former employer as a result of an interview question, use extreme discretion and limit what you say. Criticizing your former employer can be viewed as being in poor taste. The interviewer will also see this criticism as an example of the way you will discuss his company in the future. Always maintain your professionalism.
One of the most important things to establish with the interviewer is the intangible bonding called “rapport.” This comes with a great deal of interpersonal communication experience. It is a common ground that is established by knowing the same people, having the same business experiences and quite simply having the heightened sensitivity that allows you to communicate effectively with all people. This sensitivity will demonstrate the need to communicate at the same level the other person is communicating in order to bond with that person, gain their respect and truly communicate beyond just the words and body language expressed.
Do you have the presence to know that you must communicate at a “different level” with the maintenance person versus the Chairman of the Board? Part of this involves understanding the mirroring process, and we do not mean mirroring people to the point this becomes annoying!
You should have four to eight good solid questions about the company, the industry, management style, etc. for the interviewer at the end of the interview. The questions should be memorized and should be pensive questions that the typical candidate would not ask. Interviewers look for “people with the light on upstairs.” You would be surprised the number of times a client says, “John really asked some great questions; he was really thinking/analytical; I like that type of person; we need more people around here like that!”
Finally, when you walk out the door, let the client know you really appreciated the time he took to meet with you. Express that you are really interested in the position offered, the company and tell him why. Above all, be honest with yourself and with the interviewer. Do not express an interest in the position if you do not have an interest!
Companies hire people who are in love with them! I had a CEO tell me a story over lunch. He recently hired someone, took him to breakfast the first day of work and found out from him in so many words that he was using the job as a stepping-stone to his next career move. The CEO fired the new employee on the spot! Your date wants to know you enjoyed his or her company when you say good night. Saying good-bye in an interview is no different. No interviewer wants to hire someone that does not express a high interest in his company.
Leaving an interview with a CPA firm once, a recent college graduate told the partner, “I appreciate the time you and the other partners took to meet with me. I am well aware that the staff working for you must be profitable to you and your clients. I can assure you that if I am given the opportunity to work for your company, I will always be profitable.” The candidate had empathized with the partner and his needs. The partner found an awareness here that he had not found in most college graduates. The candidate was offered a position the next day.
Whether you know or don’t know the art and etiquette of how to write a cover letter, how to design a resume, how to interview and how to search for a job in general, the interviewer will know it. We recommend that you spend 40 to 80 hours reading some of the best books you can find on these subjects. An interviewer is either consciously or subconsciously aware that you have mastered the art and etiquette of marketing yourself and as a result you have left an impression with the interviewer. This impression then leads to what we call the “Law of Transference.” The interviewer then concludes consciously and/or subconsciously: “This candidate invested a great deal of time and energy in preparing for this interview and job search . . . I’ll bet he spends the same amount of time, energy and detail in the job he is assigned by our company.”
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