By: Rob Henderson
So, you’ve put together a résumé that got you a callback for that all-important job interview. Now, instead of a hundred other applicants, it’s now you vs. four or five others.
You already know the basics:
Arrive on time,
Be clear, concise, and correct.
But what are the things that you can display that will give you the edge? More to the point, what are those things that you can display that will give you the job?
Most managers today certainly look at “fit;” with the team, the corporation or with themselves as direct reports, and some will say it is as important as job competencies.
Other employers will concentrate more on the nuts and bolts – what the job is and why you are the best person to do it. These interviewers care less about who you are rather than what you know and what you’ve accomplished.
The one thing you have to remember is that the interview is a SALES CALL. It’s where you have to draw upon every advantage you have to beat out the four or five other people who want to sell the same thing: themselves. So, even though this may be for a position that has NOTHING to do with sales, it’s not always the applicant that has the best qualifications that gets the brass ring, it’s often the best salesperson.
Of the hundreds of interviews I have hosted or attended, without fail, the jobs went to the candidates who displayed their proficiency in displaying the following traits best.
It’s about the sizzle, not the steak. Passion, enthusiasm, drive, call it what you want, it’s something that interviewers know cannot be taught. And employers are always looking for it. If I could give prospective interviewees one piece of advice, it would be that no matter WHAT you talk about: your job, your hobbies, your ambition, your former colleagues, your family, for goodness’ sake, make sure you say it with passion! And when you talk about the prospect of joining the company, draw upon those aspects of the job that appeal to you most and speak enthusiastically about them. Employers want applicants who get excited about the prospect of working for them.
It’s often the echo, not the voice that is truly heard. Take one part human nature: “We usually like people who like us,” and add a pinch of psychology: “We tend to like people who reflect aspects of our own personalities.” The most successful sales people are those who can quickly detect and then reflect the personalities they are dealing with. The psychology of sales has driven this point home a thousand-fold. In an interview, this means you should initially come across positive but personality-neutral and use the first portions of the interview to find out what kind of interviewer is at the meeting, and then reflect those key personality traits in the way you answer the questions. If the interviewer seems shy and reserved, you need to curb your gregarious nature and emphasize cool, collected and thoughtful answers. If the interviewer is jovial and informal, you need to come across a bit more relaxed and comfortable and less formal. This is even more difficult in a panel interview, but the same principle applies. This is not to say you should become someone you are not, but reflection is a key part of sales and of any workplace, and an interviewer will analyze it to ensure your personality is one that can mesh and adapt to different clients, colleagues and management.
It’s not what you know, it’s how it applies. Like a letter of introduction or a CV, the most effective interviews are those that are tailored to the opportunity in question. Throw out stock answers to “greatest accomplishment” and “toughest challenge” questions and tailor your responses to what you know about the company, the opportunity or the challenges the company or market is facing. You can bank that everyone short-listed for an Administrative Coordinator position knows how to use MS Office and Database software, so don’t waste time talking about it. However if you were fundamental to a project that consolidated legacy systems into an integrated CRM that increased efficiency for a former employer, this may be VERY relevant. And it’s here where you need to use your questions wisely at the end of the interview. Ask questions that allow you to provide additional context for your key skills that may not have been brought out in the formal part of the interview itself.
It’s not just about how it applies, it’s about who’s willing to attest to it. This is where your own references, network, former colleagues and social networks come in. When answering questions in context, make sure you mention for/with whom you did the work and who can attest to it, and then make sure these people are the references you use. Interesting contextual facts that you point out can stick out in employer’s minds and they will seize upon an opportunity to validate and verify. In the age of Social Media, third-party testimonials can be among the most powerful decision factors, so make sure your LinkedIn profile, endorsements and references are valid and updated, and don’t torpedo your chances by ruining the personal brand you’ve built in a great interview by a short-sighted and embarrassing social media presence. Clean up your online presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and remove any references of visuals you wouldn’t be proud for a prospective employer to see.
Don’t let an invitation to the interview short-list weaken your focus on the end goal. It’s a sales call, pure and simple, and no one wins the bonus if they can’t close the deal. It may be a narrower field now, but there’s no prize for second place.