– THE INTERVIEWING PROCESS –
The questions asked may vary and the interviewer’s style may be different, but all interviews tend to be a logical progression of events. In fact, you can think of an interview as a four part process; (1) the greeting, (2) the interrogation, (3) ask your questions, and (4) ask for the job. Each part plays a critical role in how you are perceived, and if you fail at any point the entire interview may be lost.
Part One - The Greeting
If the interviewer starts the meeting by mentioning something about the weather, traffic or some other piece of trivia, go with it and get involved with the conversation. Try to be socially gregarious and aggressive, without being obnoxious. Adjust your rhythm to match the interviewer and strive for a natural dialogue. Do not attempt to take control of the interview, but try not to let the interviewer establish a superior-to-subordinate relationship.
Many people will tell you that these first few minutes are as important as all the other minutes combined. While this premise is certainly overstated, there is a large degree of truth associated with it. Most interviewers subconsciously make rapid judgments, particularly in support of an initial negative impression, and will then spend the remainder of the meeting trying to find information that supports that opinion.
Just remember that even in the best of situations you may lose, so avoid becoming discouraged by setbacks. If you foul up an interview, don’t waste time regretting the experience or feeling embarrassed. You should be too busy exploring other opportunities.
Part Two - The Interrogation
Focus on the interviewer’s face and look for the nonverbal clues. If the interviewer seems confused by one of your responses or statements, ask if more detail would be helpful. By paying close attention to the interviewer’s reactions you may also discover that some of your thoughts and opinions seem to make stronger impressions than others. It is these subtle connections, as much as the right answers, that most interviewers will remember long after the interview is over.
Do not continually refer to your job duties and responsibilities. Since most other candidates are likely to have the same general responsibilities as you, such an approach can make you appear quite ordinary. Rather, try to focus on past accomplishments that relate to sales and profit gains, cost reductions, quality improvements and corporate growth. In other words, make the interviewer understand the benefits you can offer the company.
When discussing an accomplishment, briefly identify what the situation was like prior to your taking action and reinforce your success by providing quantified results. For example, don’t just say, “I improved productivity by 25%.” A more effective statement might be: “When I arrived my group was averaging 11 days of unauthorized sick leave a year, but through some effective leadership I was able to reduce absenteeism by 87%. As a result, group productivity increased by 25% and saved $200,000 in overtime expense.” Your goal is to set yourself apart from the competition, while conveying your unique set of strengths and abilities. Be ready, of course, for the natural follow-up questions. For example: “What do you mean by effective leadership?”
Do not hesitate to mention one or two laudatory quotes or awards you have received to show what others think of you. For example, “The CEO told the executive committee that I was the primary reason the company was able to avoid a half a million dollars in litigation expense.” (NOTE: “A half a million dollars” sounds better than “five hundred thousand dollars.”) A quote or award, used at the right spot, can impress on the interviewer what you did and how well you did it. Conversely, more than two quotes or awards can make you sound like a braggart.
Try to develop a reasonably equal professional relationship with the interviewer, but never attempt to ‘take over’ an interview. This is likely to antagonize the interviewer and will cast serious doubts about your manageability. Conduct yourself in a professional manner and display confidence that you expect to be offered the job. Even if you feel there are some questionable aspects to the job, leave the door open. Remember, you can always reject an offer at a later date, but it is almost impossible to open a door once you have closed it.
Part Three - Ask Your Questions
Interviewers expect you to ask questions, so if you fail to respond properly when offered the opportunity, you are likely to damage your credibility. Most of your questions will flow from the content of the interview and represents your best chance to learn some in-depth details about the job, organization and management team.
A few of the questions that you might ask include:
If properly prepared, you should have little difficulty in developing questions that deal with the company’s mission, objectives, challenges, opportunities, products, services and management team. Never inquire about the salary, bonuses, benefits or perks during the first meeting, unless the interviewer mentions them first.
Part Four - Ask for the Job
If it does not appear that the interviewer is ‘sold’ on your ability to fill the job, you may still be able to correct any misconceptions that are preventing you from becoming a viable candidate. If the interviewer seems to feel that you do possess the skills and abilities required, you may then ask for the job. Do not be one of the great majority of job seekers that close their interviews by saying, “Well, I'll look forward to hearing from you.” Rather, reinforce your interest in the position by questioning the next step in the process. This may be accomplished by saying:
Do not be pushy or obnoxious in your request, and depart in the same polite and assured manner as you entered. Do not forget, of course, to follow-up with a targeted thank-you letter within 24 hours of the interview.