Tag: small talk

3/18/12 “Effective Interviewing – Part 2”

Good day, team.

As promised, the subject of this week’s challenge is effective interviewing – part 2 — interviewing tips for the candidate.

I think it’s fair to say that interviewing for a job is an experience most people dread. None of us likes to be put on the spot to talk about ourselves, and when we interview for a job, that’s exactly what happens. Many candidates go into an interview filled with fear and loathing, which is not a great way to start. For one thing, it’s impossible to know what to expect because the person interviewing you could take any number of approaches. That’s why it’s best to be prepared and have a good idea of how you’d like to present yourself.

The following suggestions come from feedback given to and from both interviewers (hiring managers) and the interviewees (candidates). I gleaned these tips over many years while working as a recruiter helping companies find the best candidates. Lots of excellent interviewing techniques also can be found on the Internet, http://www.helpguide.org/life/interviewing_techniques_tips_getting_job.htm and I suggest you do some reading before an interview.

Do your research. The most prepared candidates have a much better chance of getting the job. Read up on the company in advance. Find out everything you can about the organization’s financials, product lines, values, executive management team, board of directors, employee experiences, etc. Websites such as LinkedIn can offer good information about the person interviewing you, such as where he or she has worked before, where they went to school, and who they are connected to.

The best interviews start with a strong connection. That invisible thing we call “chemistry” often has the strongest affect on how an interview goes. If you can make a strong emotional connection within the first five minutes of an interview, there’s a better chance that the rest of the interview will go well. Of course, chemistry can’t be determined in advance — you either have it with another person or you don’t. Still, it’s always a good idea to be yourself and try to make a connection right in the beginning.

Allow for small talk. The first three to five minutes of any interview are generally filled with small talk. It’s the chatter we do when we’re initially checking each other out. We make comments about the weather or the adventure we had trying to find the office or how busy we have been leading up to the interview. This small talk gives us a chance to connect when we first arrive, and these first few minutes are very important. Not only do they give the hiring manager his or her first view of you as a human being, but they also give you the chance to get settled in your seat, take a deep breath, and observe what’s around you. Is the interviewer’s desktop filled with papers? Does it look disorganized? Or is it neat as a pin? Is there dust on the furniture? Are there pictures of family members nearby? What’s on the walls? All of these things will tell you something about the person interviewing you. People like to talk about things they can relate to. Observing your interviewer’s environment gives you immediate indications of relevant subjects you can address during the interview, if the need arises.

Come prepared to be proactive in the interview. As a recruiter, I often heard hiring managers complain to me that the candidate seemed to be waiting for them to do all the work in an interview. “They never really asked me any good questions, and they just seemed to sit there waiting for me to ask the next question. Frankly, I couldn’t figure out what made them passionate or why they would want to do this job.” These complaints stem from candidates who don’t take an active role in the interview. Don’t be afraid to ask for more specifics about the job. Ask what the hiring manager’s biggest challenges have been in the past six months. Find out if there was someone in this job previously and ask what made him or her successful. Ask what he or she could have done differently to be more successful in the job.

Don’t be afraid to show your passion. “It’s not the steak that sells, it’s the sizzle.” Whoever said this understood that it’s the sizzle we experience that encourages us to buy. Whether you’re selling brown sugar water, better known as “Coke,” or selling yourself, nothing grabs attention like an impassioned experience or story. If you can get excited talking about how you’d do the job, you’ll get the interviewer excited about you. And don’t be afraid to tell the interviewer that you want the job. If you feel like this is the one, show it and say it. Enthusiasm sells!

Get the job by doing it in the interview. I’ll never forget the feedback I received from a chief financial officer who was interviewing four of my candidates for a controller position at his company. Three out of the four had excellent backgrounds for the job. The first two candidates had been assistant controllers previously for companies in a similar business, and the third had worked for the same public accounting firm the CFO had worked for and had come highly recommended by one of the firm’s partners, who was the CFO’s good friend. The fourth candidate was the weakest on paper, and the CFO came close to not interviewing him at all. But I encouraged him to do so because the fourth candidate was probably the hungriest for the job. And hungry candidates often go into jobs with the most commitment and drive.

After interviewing all the candidates, the CFO came back to me with his feedback and decision. He admitted that after interviewing the first three candidates, the public accounting candidate, who was recommended by his friend, was the top candidate. As he said, “I’ll know what I’m getting if I hire him, and that’s worth a lot to me.” But when the fourth candidate came in, he soon became the chosen candidate even though he had the least experience. This candidate proactively asked the CFO how he wanted to change things in the next six months to help make the finance and accounting departments more effective. When the CFO shared some of his thoughts, the candidate then started making recommendations and brainstorming on the spot. “I felt like he was already working for me, and he was making some great, practical suggestions that I could envision us doing to make things better. I almost told him to put a detailed plan in front of me by next month so we could start implementing the changes until I realized that I hadn’t actually hired him yet!”

Know you’re in a position of strength. Over the years, I’ve seen lots of hiring managers use job interviews as a way of intimidating candidates. Hiring managers often assume that candidates are only going to tell them good things about themselves, so they think they have to trick the candidates into revealing their hidden weaknesses. This approach makes candidates feel weak and defensive. The irony of this situation is that it’s actually the hiring managers who are in the weakest position. They have the opening and not enough people to get the work done. They have the problem, and you could be the solution. Most candidates who have made it to an interview have the upper hand because they have many of the skills that the hiring manager needs to solve the problem. So go into the interview with confidence.

Don’t brag, but don’t be afraid to crow. No one likes to hear anyone brag about what they’ve done, but talking about your achievements is appreciated. The best way for an interviewer to learn more about your achievements is for you to describe them. Your tone of voice and facial expressions will say it all. When we’re proud of what we’ve done, we tend to light up when we talk about it, and that level of inspiration is often what makes the difference between a memorable candidate and a ho-hum candidate. Once you’ve done it a few times, your fear of crowing about yourself will diminish and you’ll get over the fear of speaking about your accomplishments in a positive way.

Most important, be present. Don’t forget that we make the greatest impression on others when we can be present with them. People love when they receive another person’s undivided attention. It shows respect and demonstrates your ability to actively listen. Nothing is more disturbing to an interviewer than realizing that a candidate isn’t listening or didn’t hear a question because he or she was thinking about something else. And if you try to answer what you think you were asked but get it wrong, you may end up looking pretty foolish. Being present in an interview means releasing what you thought might happen so that you can experience what actually is happening.

I hope these suggested interview techniques will help those of you out there who are experiencing the fear and loathing of job interviews. It’s a daunting process, but with a brave heart, some good advance preparation and the ability to put some of these suggestions to work during an interview, you might just land that next exciting job.

Have a good week,


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