Pick Me! Five Steps for a Successful Interview
You’ve found the job of your dreams, penned the perfect résumé and cover letter, and been invited to interview. All the effort invested into putting yourself on paper has paid off. But your work’s not yet done. Now it’s time to put yourself out there on that proverbial interview hook.
Are you prepared?
All too often we’ve found well-qualified candidates are not primed for the all-important, and oft-dreaded, job interview. But you don’t have to be relegated to interviewee no man’s land, the place from which the unprepared may never return. Follow these five easy steps for coming out on top.
1. Be Informed
Prior to the interview, most candidates know something about the job and pay, but surprisingly few know much about their hopefully future employer.
No matter what the position, whether full-time or project/contract-based, you’ll be supporting the company, their mission and objectives. So know what they are!
Prior to the interview, immerse yourself in the company’s website. Learn about their history, mission, vision, markets, products, services. Peruse the company news; read press releases, financial information, even about other job opportunities. Go further. Check out industry information portals or social media. Yes, knowledge really is power.
Now that you’ve taken the time to dig for treasure, use those nuggets of information in the interview. Set yourself apart with questions like, “How will this position support the launch of your new product?” Intelligent questions show initiative and convey not only that you are genuinely interested, but also well informed.
2. Be Engaging
This is a two-way conversation. The job interview is not the time to lapse into monosyllabic mode. Your interviewer has questions, and so too should you. As soon as practical, engage the interviewer. Ask him or her about the position or specific project for which you putting yourself under the microscope.
You can even take control, but don’t be controlling. As soon as you’ve responded to the expected pleasantries – “How are you?” – with the expected rejoinder – “Good, and you?” – try asking for a 30,000-foot overview of the role, it’s importance, and how it fits in with the company’s mission.
Not only is such a request perfectly reasonable, but it shows confidence, and that you’re smart enough to ask how deep the water is before jumping in head first.
If the interviewer is open to the question, then listen carefully to the answers. He or she is effectively giving you the keys to shaping your responses and more questions later.
And don’t be alarmed if they decline your request, preferring you answer their questions first. You’re potentially only seconds into the interview, and already proven yourself to be self-assured and interested.
Now about those questions. Yes and no answers may suffice, but certainly won’t set you above the rest. First, ensure you understand each question. There is nothing wrong with asking the interviewer to repeat a question, or in restating your understanding of it in your response. Such techniques steal a few seconds with which to gather your thoughts.
Your answers should be thoughtful and direct. Differentiate yourself by selectively expanding on responses. Use what you learned in researching the company, and include information that you believe may be relevant. Highlight responses by not only talking about solutions, but their impact. And be sure to re-engage by asking the interviewer if they have any further questions on the subject.
3. Be Positive
Most of us have a skeleton in our business closet – either too many positions in too short a period of time, no positions in too long a period of time, or maybe recent positions that don’t seem to reflect your skillset. How you deal with such employment history gaps during the interview says a lot about how you handle stress in your everyday life.
Remember, your interviewer is not your enemy. He or she knows that times have been tough. And obviously you’re there looking for a job. It’s OK. You’re not alone. But don’t kid yourself. Now is not the time for being defensive or sharing your personal trials.
Instead show you’ve been dedicated and, yes, working: working at finding work, working at leading or volunteering, working at learning, working at spending more time with your family, working on your health. Show you’ve set and achieved goals, been purposeful, constructive, organized. In short, show them the positive energy and can-do attitude you’ll be bringing to the job.
4. Be You
Hiring decisions are often based on the needs of the company, and the requirements of management personnel. That is, your future boss. Factors such as experience and education will get you only so far. When the decision comes down to the finalists, your personality comes into play.
The interviewer may well consider characteristics as displayed in the interview. These include, for instance, clarity of responses and composure under stress, as well as adaptability, creativity, confidence, positive attitude, thoughtfulness, problem-solving ability and even good old-fashioned civility. Bottom line, when the race it too close to call, the differentiator is you.
5. Be a Closer
Most any interviewer will give you an opportunity to ask one final question. This is your big chance. If you haven’t asked a question yet, at least do it now. Having no questions when you’ve been invited to turn the tables shows a lack of interest, and may even be regarded as disingenuous – you’re lying to the interviewer or perhaps yourself.
So what do you ask? What are the hours? How many personal days do I get? When do I get paid? Such self-serving, albeit honest, questions like these will likely get you noticed. But not very favorably.
No, now’s the time for action. Efficiently summarize your knowledge of the company, opportunity and expectations. Make a declarative statement of how you can make a difference through the application of your knowledge and experience. Assert your interest and availability. And close with: “So when do you want me to start?”
Yes, we’re serious. It’s direct, on-point and frankly why you’re there.