by Pierre G. Daunic, Ph.D., CCM
How are your interviewing skills?
Other than gaining exposure to job marketing channels, perhaps no other part of a career search is as neglected as preparing for an interview. Job hunts are thus often unduly prolonged, costing the job seeker time, money, and peace of mind. So here are 10 easy clues that will, if you follow them, lead you to more success and a shorter career search!
1. Tell employers what they want to hear.
Far too many of us forget to stick to the reason we are being interviewed: our ability to meet the employer’s needs. Instead, we squander valuable interviewing time talking about our needs, interests, or the irrelevant. It would be more productive, however, to focus on how we can be of help to them. To that end, we must study the company beforehand and listen attentively during the interview to make sure we have a clear idea of what they need. Once we do, we are in a much better position to point out how our qualifications meet their needs.
2. Plausible, not perfect.
Perhaps the only perfect answers you can give during an interview are “Yes” and “No,” so any attempt to deliver a “solid gold” reply to a question beyond that is usually doomed to failure. If it doesn’t sound stilted or canned, it lacks credibility. So in your own words, tell them what seems the most plausible answer. Speak from the heart, as simply and directly as possible, keeping their needs in mind. Your sincerity will win points!
3. Keep your answers short.
There is nothing worse than boring the interviewer. Yet many an interviewee, unsure of having answered a question correctly, drones on, often repeating himself as he tries to “get it right.” Solution: Make a conscious effort to keep your answer short, but if unsure about whether or not you’ve answered correctly, ask, “Does that answer your question?” If the interviewer needs more info, he can ask for it.
4. Follow the Rule of 3.
A good way to keep your answers manageable and on target is to frame them in three parts. For example, if asked, “Why should we hire you?” a marketing executive might say, “First, I meet all of your stated needs. Second, my experience in solving problems such as those you mentioned is especially strong. And finally, my knowledge of how to gain exposure to hidden markets should be of immediate value to you.” Such tripartite answers are easily composed on the fly (with a little practice) while conveying a sense of certainty and logic.
5. Avoid negativity.
There are many ways interviewers can draw you into being negative. They can ask you about your past mistakes, weaknesses, poor reviews, gaps in employment or education, bad bosses, your dislikes, etc. You should always answer honestly, of course, but as noted above, keep your answers short, the better to avoid “raising a red flag.” And remember too that truth is often subjective and relative, so be as positive as possible. Always put yourself and others in the best light consistent with the truth rather than being overly and unnecessarily hard on yourself or others.
6. Ask them questions.
You miss opportunities to make a good impression if you fail to ask questions of your own during the interview, especially those that relate to the job. Asking questions, often as a comeback to a question you were asked, shows you have been listening and that you are sincerely interested in their needs. Not asking questions, on the other hand, can be construed as indifference or uncertainty.
Remember too that since not every interviewer is adept at telling you what he needs, you must be ready to draw those needs out of him. The better you know what they want, the better you can convince them of your suitability.
7. Anticipate problem questions.
Most of us can guess where our weak areas are; e.g., our lack of education or experience, our age, gaps in our work history, etc. So, remembering the rules about “plausibility, not perfection,” and “keep your answers short,” explained earlier, have credible rebuttals ready—you don’t want to be struggling to think of something at the last moment.
8. Avoid “canned” answers.
Inexperienced interviewees study lists of commonly asked or problem questions, and then struggle to compose and deliver their answers virtually verbatim. Aside from sounding rehearsed—a turn-off—their answers often aren’t appropriate to the question being asked. A much better way to approach practicing for interviews is to remember three words [See the “Rule of 3” in Part I] associated with how you might answer this or that question. Then, just build your answer on each word or thought in turn, not worrying about being perfect.
9. “Mirror” the Interviewer.
Any good salesman [and you are selling yourself in an interview, right?] tries to “mirror” his prospects; i.e., he tries to imitate their attitude, facial expressions, or body language. Why? Because it sends a subtle psychological message that he is like them, that he understands the importance of their needs. So, if it seems appropriate, when they smile, he smiles; when they lean back, he leans back; when they knit their brows, he knits his, etc.
Remember that half of any interview is “chemistry,” how you and your interviewer interact. Yes, you want to be appreciated for what you can do, but you also want to be seen as someone who will fit in.
Related: Body Language in an Interview
Too many people fail interviews simply because they don’t take the time to practice, not because they can’t do the job. No, you can’t anticipate every question, but the very act of practicing, remembering to use the rules above, will allow presenting yourself with much more self-assurance and credibility. If you can’t get a friend or spouse to critique you, then play back and analyze questions and answers you have tape-recorded.
In most respects, interviewing is like public speaking, often regarded as one of the things we fear doing most. But since confidence is built upon knowledge, if you take the time to investigate and internalize the rules set forth above, you won’t get “stage fright.” So get your mind straight before and during an interview. Take deep breaths, visualize yourself as calm and in control, see yourself making a good impression, and … relax! You’re going to do fine!
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Pierre Daunic is a highly trained, industry-credentialed Career Services expert who focuses on providing top echelon writing and editing of resumes, CVs, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, bios and other career marketing materials for executives and managers in all industries at all levels. He is a senior writer at Career Resumes. In addition, he assists those needing help in changing careers or returning to the workforce. Pierre’s primary goal is to continue to assist those in need of career help in either a group setting or one-on-one. To find out more information please visit Connected Careers.