Last week I was invited by a colleague to participate in the final round of interviews for a key position on her team. As I talked with the five finalists, I observed certain characteristics among those who interviewed exceptionally well. Afterward I jotted down a few notes that might be helpful to others who are preparing for a job interview.
First, be aware that by the time you are scheduled for an interview you have already cleared several hurdles. Apparently you said something in your cover letter to differentiate yourself from the herd of other applicants. The content of your resume indicates that you’ve met the essential criteria listed in the job description. Without question, the person interviewing you has already Googled your name to find any additional information contained in your digital footprint.
Congratulations! You’re on base and in scoring position. You haven’t yet crossed home plate, though, so here are my coaching tips. To emerge the winner, here are several items to remember:
- Be yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable “in your own skin” during the interview, that might be an indication that you won’t be comfortable in the job itself.
- Exchange enough information so both parties can make a rational decision about whether this will be a good match. Don’t think of the interview as “selling” yourself. Think of it as a first date where you’re just talking to see if there’s potential for a long-term relationship.
- Tell stories. Make them interesting. Make them brief.
- Never denigrate a current or former employer. I was disappointed several years ago when my strongest candidate (on paper) began the interview by telling me everything wrong with her current employer. Though we talked for 45 minutes, the interview was actually over within the first seven minutes.
- Help the interviewer envision you as already being successful once you’ve been hired. Twice I’ve selected people for my marketing team who gave me written lists of things they anticipated doing during their first 90 days on the job.
- Ask good questions. When I’m interviewing candidates, I pay special attention to the types of questions they ask me. That tells me whether they are really engaged in the conversation or just going through the motions. The best candidates have the best questions.
- Ask for feedback. Make sure you have clarified everything the hiring manager will need to make an informed decision.
- Do not be the first to mention compensation. As a rule of thumb, the first person to bring up money is at a negotiating disadvantage.
- Find reasons to follow up. Then make sure you actually do follow up. Quickly.
- Have a strong closing statement. Talk about your growing interest in being part of the team. Mention specific reasons why you would be successful in the new position.
It helps to think of the interview as a two-way conversation, not an interrogation. Be a good conversationalist and you’ll likely be a good interviewee. Good luck!