Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tips for WINNING the Face-to-Face Interview...Without a Drop of Tiger Blood!

Sorry for the lame Charlie Sheen reference, but the truth is that he can act like a raving madman and probably still find work, but not the rest of us.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so follow these tips to ensure you nail your next job interview.  We’re currently experiencing a highly active job market, meaning there are a fair amount of openings but a lot of applicants for each slot.  So, you’re likely to have plenty of competition.  Studies suggest that hiring managers interview an average of 4 candidates before making an offer.  You need to differentiate yourself, and take out those other 3 losers.  Here’s how:

1)   Dress for Success!  Please don’t use the interview as a fashion experiment.  Dress appropriately for your industry, leaning towards conservative.  You can show your sense of style, but consider limiting your outfit to basics and add one great accessory or colorful piece.  Choose high quality, well fitting, clean and pressed clothes, shoes and handbag or portfolio, and don’t stray too far from the standard business suit.  This is not the time to bathe in cologne or perfume either, and keep any makeup natural-looking.   Monster.com has several very specific articles on this topic here: http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-appearance/jobs.aspx.
2)   Pretend To Be Organized!  It’s okay if you’re not a paragon of organization and neatness, but you should pull yourself together and act like one for this event at least.  Have several printed copies of your resume readily available (be sure that it’s the same version of your resume that they’ve already seen).  Have a pen handy, as well as calling cards or business cards with your personal information, and a notepad.  Come to the interview with references already printed up, and if relevant for your role, work samples that you can share.  If you must have your mobile or smartphone on you, keep it on silent.
3)   Rehearse!  Look, we interviewers are not always that creative so you’re bound to get a few of the standard questions along the way.  “Why are you looking?”, “What is one of your weaknesses?”, “What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?”, “What makes you a good insert title here?”  There’s no excuse for letting any of these stock interview questions  derail you.  You should prepare your answers well and rehearse them several times before you actually interview.  If possible, set up a video camera or laptop with a webcam and record yourself answering basic interview questions. You’ll be really surprised with what you see when you play it back for yourself in terms of nonverbal communication, filler words, body language, nervous tics, etc…Use this feedback to make sure you are credible, articulate and insightful in your responses to those inquiries.
4)   Tell A Story! Whenever possible, ground your answers in real world experience.  Provide a moderate level of detail and frame your responses by tying things down to what you’ve already accomplished or experienced.
5)   Question Authority!  Ask questions – lots of them.   If you do not ask, the interviewer will guess that you’re either not interested, not very bright, unengaged, oddly introverted, or just not analytical enough to dig below the surface.  None of those is really a desirable impression so be sure you come armed with questions that demonstrate your understanding of the industry, the role, and best practices for your field.  It’s a good idea to have some of these written out on your notepad beforehand so you’ll be sure to ask them and have a place to jot down answers.  In addition to pre-prepared questions, be sure to ask for more details about information you glean on the interview.  Remember, you’re not just selling yourself, you’re buying a job!  Be sure you buy the right one for you.      
6)   Do Your Homework!  Find out the names and titles of everyone you’ll be talking to.  Write them down.  If possible, research them beforehand on Linked In or other online databases.  At a minimum, you should know what the company does, how they fare within their industry and who their customers and competitors are. 
7)   Close It Down!  When the interview is wrapping up, show initiative by stating your level of interest and asking point blank about any hesitations they have about moving forward.  If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what their possible objections are, and you certainly won’t be able to overcome them.  By asking, you show courage and gain the ability to restate your case if necessary.  Ask about the next steps and what you can do to facilitate them too.  

The goal is to be as prepared and in control as much as possible, so you’ll be less nervous, demonstrate greater confidence and expertise, and get the info you need to make a decision.  I’ve hired a lot of people over the years and almost no matter what role I’m filling, I’m seeking people who are resourceful, smart and engaging, show initiative, and seem trustworthy and reliable.   Consider those traits to be the universal qualities of employ-ability.  Think about how you’re coming across in all of those areas and, most importantly, be yourself.  Just focus on showing up with the best version of you that you can conjure up that day...and leave any Sheen-esque behavior to those in Hollywood.  Happy hunting.



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