A job interview is similar in many ways to a social conversation, but it requires more than just conversational skills. How well you do in a job interview will depend on how well you can elaborate on your accomplishments and qualifications as they relate to what the employer wants and needs.
What Employers Are Seeking
– Positive attitude
– Interest in the company and position
– Stable work history
– Clear sense of purpose
– Communication skills
– High performance standards
Make an Interview Work for You
The interview is the determinable part of the job hunt – nobody gets a job without interviewing and a bad day can blow an otherwise good thing. So to get you prepared, here are some tips for making an interview work for you:
Research the company and be prepared with a “good” level of knowledge and insight. You do not need to know gross margins in the South-Western region for the past 8 years, but you should know enough to show the interviewer that you respect the opportunity and you respect his or her time.
Be on time calm and confident, with a clean, well-presented copy of your resume; even if you know they already have a copy. I know this sounds simple but you would be surprised at how many people do not leave 10 minutes early in order to get there 10 minutes early!
Dress the part with business-like and professional attire -no matter how groovy the company may be.
Be kind to every employee you meet – the receptionist, yes, but also the parking lot attendant, the janitor and the intern. You know, Southwest Airlines used to have the flight attendants on flights anonymously assess the candidates they were flying in for interviews – it just goes to show that you need to mind your manners all the time.
Be aware of your non-verbal communication skills – handshake, body language, tone of voice, eye contact, etc.
Ask questions – One of the best ways to sell yourself in an interview is to ask good intelligent questions – ask some big picture questions, such as about the industry, sales trends, corporate culture and management style. Ask more tightly focused questions, such as regarding the department’s organizational/reporting structure or duties and responsibilities of the position. And, think JFK – ask not what the company can do for you, ask instead “what can I do for this company?”
Three of the best questions to ask during an interview:
1. What does a “day in the life” of this position look like?
2. What are the top two or three most critical issues that need to be addressed in the first couple months?
3. In a year from now, if we were to sit down for my annual review, what would I have accomplished for you to consider me successful in this role?
Promote yourself – This is not a filming of “Biography” on the A&E Channel, it is a sales presentation in which you are selling your capabilities to do a job for the company. Stick, mostly, to the business side and how you can solve problems. Do not go into a half-hour long disquisition on the relative merits of Mozart and Beethoven, the reason you love/hate the Yankees or the intricacies of your college rivalries. The interviewer does not want your life story – they want to know your business capabilities.
“Bad mouth thee, bad mouth me.” Whenever you trash talk your former or current employer, guess what the interviewer thinks? “Oh boy, if we hire this guy, I’m next on his firing line!” Never ever say bad, mean, unkind or even true things if it makes you look like a prospective ingrate, gossip or ne’er-do’well.
Regarding compensation focus on the job, your ability to contribute and all the great things you can provide before discussing money and/or benefits. If the issue of compensation comes up always be honest about how much are currently making or have made in the past. If you are asked how much you are looking for, be a little vague. Let the employer know that you expect to be compensated based on your credentials, experience and what would be expected of you in this role. It can work against you if you define a specific salary amount that you are seeking… perhaps the employer was thinking of a higher number. Or, if you shoot too high you might knock yourself out of the running of a good opportunity that you would have considered at a lower amount. Whenever possible, let the employer be the first to define the compensation parameters.
Thank the interviewer for their time and ask follow up questions – again, this shows good manners and good sense.
Send a follow up e-mail to thank the interviewer again and reiterate (very briefly) what you discussed and how you can contribute to their company’s success. This serves as a good memory jog to the interviewer of your conversation and reminds them of the points you want them to make for you in the hiring meeting.
Most importantly, be yourself! Do not try to be somebody you are not.. It never works!