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Interviewing Essentials - Six Tips for Success

03-18-2009

When I asked a client recently how things were going, she replied that she was in a state of "grief relief." Grief, she said, over the daily list of colleagues being laid off, and relief that she still had her job.

Given the rising unemployment numbers, we focus this newsletter on six essential interviewing tips. If you’re experiencing "relief," consider these tips as you interact with senior leaders. If you know someone who is experiencing the grief of job loss, please forward this newsletter to them.

Show Your Substance

Usually, your interviewer's first exposure to you comes from your resume; however, your resume is one-dimensional. During the interview, you must bring your three-dimensional self to life to increase your prospective employer's interest and to help them envision you as the ideal person for the position. Follow these tips to add substance and dimension to your interview:

1. Skills & Strengths
Identify your top three skills or strengths you've developed or demonstrated in your past. Are you a strong communicator, or great with details? Can you manage complex projects? Avoid confusing "tasks" with "skills." Once you've listed three skills or strengths, jot down one or two stories you can share to demonstrate them. With each story, begin with the problem or challenge, then describe your specific actions and end with the positive outcome to your previous employer. Practice telling your story in two to three minutes.*

2. Character Traits
The value of good character has never been more important. Employers want to feel confident that when they hire you, you will serve the organization well. As you reflect on your best character traits, consider sharing examples of your honesty, integrity or creativity. Can you demonstrate that you are goal-driven, outgoing or a team player? The important thing to consider when selecting your traits is that they must be true! Again, jot down a couple of stories or collect a few facts and weave them into your responses to the interviewer's questions.

3. Value
Telling stories during the interview will help you stand out from other candidates, but at the end of the day, unless the interviewer sees that you bring tangible value to his or her organization, you may not get the offer. How can you add value? In advance, research the company, the job and the skills and qualities they require. If your pre-interview research falls short, uncover this information during the interview by asking open-ended questions such as: What are the critical skills required to succeed in this position? How does my experience align with your requirements? Link your skills and traits to the needs of your prospective employer during your responses.

Show Your Style

Studies by cognitive psychologists Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal confirm that we humans make snap decisions when we first meet someone. Not only do we form snap judgments within seconds of meeting someone new, those opinions linger, and rarely shift significantly from where they began. Whether we like it or not, interviewers will quickly form an impression of us, so improve the first impression you project by following these simple tips:

4. Show up on time
While this tip seems obvious, a lot of thought and effort go into arriving on time, looking composed and appearing relaxed. Consider your travel plans, especially if the trip involves traveling somewhere new. Check the weather forecast. Arriving wind-blown and wet with no time to pull yourself together may rattle your confidence and will make a poor first impression. Finally, respect the employer's time. If the interviewer keeps you waiting, use the time to review your strategy; if you keep the interviewer waiting, he or she may privately question your ability to arrive to work on time.

5. Smile and be friendly
No one wants to employ a curmudgeon, so smile as you meet your interviewer, shake hands in a confident manner, and always look your interviewer in the eyes when you meet and when listening to and answering questions.

6. Attend to the small stuff
Prospective employers want to know you can handle details. When you arrive looking well put together, right down to your shined shoes, you demonstrate that details matter to you. Political historians note that the momentum of Adlai Stevenson's 1952 presidential campaign slowed dramatically following the publication of a photograph showing Stevenson sitting on a stage, legs crossed, with a hole in the sole of his shoe! (He didn’t get the job). Pay attention to every detail of your appearance; your interviewer will!

Finally, always follow-up with a well-crafted and personalized thank you note or e-mail and always double check spelling! In your note, keep the tone cordial, remind the interviewer of one or two strengths you bring to the position and close with a positive tone. Never write in text speak. Thx 4 ur time 2day will not land you the job! A well-written thank you note can distinguish you from the pack.

Share your toughest interview questions or stories with us in the comments section below.

For more information on storytelling, see “Persuasion Through Storytelling,” New York Law Journal, 2007.

*For more information on your strengths, read: Discover Your Strengths or Strengths-Based Leadership published by The Gallup Organization.

Best Regards,

Exec-Comm
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