Sell yourself well, regardless of interview dynamics
Go to every interview with the intention of getting the offer. If you decide you don’t want the job, you can turn an offer down. But you are not in control of the process if you don’t attract an offer. Interviewing without a winning attitude is just a waste of time.
Tell two-minute stories that give examples of your strengths. People tend to talk in broad terms, for example “I’m a quick learner” “I handle stress well” “I’m an excellent manager”. If you tell compelling stories, you are much more likely to be remembered, and hired. If you have a variety of examples prepared, you can insert them into the conversation where needed, even if someone asks a very broad question like “what are your biggest strengths”. Just make sure your stories last two minutes, not ten.
Answer the question first, THEN provide details. People tend to think and talk chronologically. The trouble is, your interviewer wants an answer right away and may stop listening if you don’t get to the point quickly. Just like we advise with resumes: lead with a good headline and keep them begging for more.
The best interviews are interactive. You’re not just there to answer questions, but also to ask them. Ask intelligent questions about the company’s competitive position, corporate culture, and other areas that might not be discussed clearly on the website. Ask the interviewer about their background – most people like to talk about themselves at least a little bit. Whenever you’re the one speaking, pause occasionally so the interviewer can jump in without interrupting you. Do NOT interrupt your interviewer.
Be prepared. Research the company and the job before you get there. Understand their requirements so you know exactly how to address them. Make sure you have the correct address, parking details, and direct dial of the person you are meeting with. Make sure you know the dress code and dress just a little nicer. If you are not prepared for an interview, or if you’re sick, it is better to reschedule.
Be gracious. Be appreciative of people’s time. Most people you meet do not interview for a living, so they might be under stress, distracted, or nervous. It has nothing to do with you, so don’t personalize it. ALWAYS be nice to the administrative staff. Send a thank you note. Follow up, but do not become a stalker.
Be a good listener. ‘Nuff said.
Be aware of body language. Watch your hands, and hold them in your lap if you tend to fidget. Look people in the eye, or at their forehead if eye contact makes you nervous. Sit up straight – we would not say this if we didn’t see people slouch so often. Pay attention to your interviewer’s body language as well. If they look interested OR bored, you can adjust your answers accordingly. Body language is often your best indicator of success or failure in an interview.
Ask for feedback. When the interview is drawing to a close, tell them you are interested and ask what are the next steps. Ask if they have any concerns based on the conversation so far. Many times, if asked, the interviewer will tell you their concerns on the spot. It gives you the chance to address them immediately. This can make the difference between a second interview or a ‘thanks but no thanks’.
What if you blank on a question or stumble on an answer? Well….how’s the rest of the interview going? If it’s not a fit, then don’t worry about it. If you are genuinely interested, take a breath, apologize, and gather yourself. Then glance at your notes and pick a two-minute story that sounds good and hopefully relates to the question. Two minutes stories FTW!
If you’re working with a recruiter, call them as soon as you leave the interview. They’ll want your immediate feedback so they can follow up with the client and hopefully talk about next steps.