Having a productive interview: What to do when you get in front of a potential employer
Your résumé worked! You’ve landed the interview. But abruptly your elation turns to consternation because you are unsure how to proceed in the interview.
We’ve seen this happen to clients for many years and in coaching them for interviews we always remind them that an interview is simply two professionals having a conversation about opportunities. With that mental image in mind, prepare for your “conversation” using the five tips below the follow them during the interview and you will find that your meeting will be more productive:
NEEDS. Perhaps the worst mistake people make in interviewing is coming across as being more interested in what they need (how much salary, vacation time, benefits, etc) than in how they can help the company solve a problem. Everything you do during an interview must be focused on what the prospective employer needs in order to achieve their objectives. You must direct your part of the interview conversation to how your background and expertise makes you the ideal person to meet their needs, solve their problems and become a contributor to a more profitable bottom-line.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS. We’ve always heard that we shouldn’t brag about ourselves. But if we can back it up, it isn’t bragging, it’s fact. If you haven’t got a list of career related accomplishments—get one before your next interview! Then find ways to weave them into your answers.
Notice, I said accomplishments that are career related. While it might be interesting to know that you won the Betty Crocker Bake Off in high school, unless you are applying for a Home Economics position, it is not career related. Accomplishments that are career related usually revolve around quantifiable things you have done that saved the company money, made them money or increased efficiency/reduced waste or improved customer relations.
When accenting an accomplishment during an interview, always make sure the interviewer fully understands not only the end result, but how you did what you did. In other words, briefly explain the situation (or problem), how you analyzed it in order to arrive at what you decided would be the best course of actions, and then state the results.
Use as your primary accomplishments those things that most closely connect with the needs of the prospective employer and accent them in a way that sends an unspoken message that, “This guy can do the job!”
KEEP ON MESSAGE. What is your message? That you are the one person, out of all those other well qualified people who can best solve the company’s problems and meet their requirements.
A job interview is a conversation between you and the interviewer about business. Even those pesky “tell me about yourself,” questions should be answered from a business angle. If the interviewer wants to know about your hobbies, don’t just list off “golf, fishing and horseshoes” rather put them into their proper context, for example, “I found that golf, in addition to being a good way to relax has proven helpful in getting new business. Just last quarter, I played golf with Joe Smith of XYZ Company and as a result, we signed a deal worth $100,000 in annual revenue.”
EXAMPLES. People love a good story and interviewers are people. Stories humanize us, they reveal how we process information, react to problems and implement solutions. They provide a believable platform to present quantifiable outcomes. Stories hold people’s attention and are usually remembered long after the facts and figures from the interview are forgotten. How does one organize their examples? The most effective format for a story follows the tried and true Problem, Cause, Solution, Result formula taught in speech classes.
DECISION-TIME. You’ve focused on the needs of the company, smoothly accented accomplishments in your answers. You’ve refused to allow the interviewer to knock you off message and you’ve used solid examples to buttress your case.
Now, it is time to conclude the meeting by asking for a decision. At this point, the hiring manager won’t usually reach over the desk and say, “You’re hired!” but that shouldn’t cause you to hesitate to ask for some type of a decision. Here are two effective questions you can use at the end of the interview.
“Based on our discussions, do you feel that my (background/experience, etc) are a good fit for this position?”
“What’s the next step in your hiring process?”
Asking for small decisions moves you closer to your ultimate objective—
getting hired because the interviewer is making small commitments to you.
To be more successful in your next interview, focus on the company’s Needs, accent Accomplishments, Keep on message, use solid Examples and ask for small Decisions.
For over 18 years, Vicki Hidde has been fortunate to work with professional clients every day who face the challenge of preparing a résumé. Not just any résumé, but one that will pinpoint their most marketable skills, capture the attention of the employer or recruiter and provide the foundation for financial growth and career development. Her career began as a Consultant for Professional Resume Service (later CareerPro), a national career development and résumé service with more than 500 locations. Later, she was promoted to regional director over the five southern states and then to division director with responsibility for career centers in 28 states. With well-developed contacts in the personnel industry and with human resource managers, she has provided in-house workshops on career management, as well as outplacement and termination assistance programs for companies ranging from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Learn more at resume-source.com.