Monday, August 2, 2010

Take the Next Important Step to Landing that Job –Step 5: Sort – The Interview

If you have been taking the steps outlined in this series, then you have completed steps one through three: every day you have chosen to have a good attitude, you have inventoried your unique skills and accomplishments identifying and learning to articulate your competitive advantage, you have identified your target companies, and you developed and polished your marketing materials. You have successfully conducted Step 4 - the Search - and by networking have found job leads and secured interviews.

Step 5 – Sort (Interview)

You have worked hard to find the job lead, don’t blow it now.
You want to understand the 4 P’s of a successful interview. The 4 P’s are as follows:

Purpose
Preparation
Performance
Post-Interview


P: Purpose

There are actually two different purposes for an interview: there is the employer’s purpose for the interview and there is your purpose for the interview.

The First Purpose – The Employer’s

The employer’s purpose for the interview is to sort out candidates through a series of questions and tests to identify the best candidate based on skills, experience, and the best fit for the team and the company culture.

The Second Purpose – Yours

Your purpose for the interview is more complex.

• You want to use this time to build rapport with the interviewers so that you stand out from your competition. Leave them with the distinct impression that they want to work with you and need you for their business.

• From the interview process you want to affirm the problem the company is looking to solve by hiring the person. With the current economic climate, companies are not hiring people without having a driving reason to do so. You need to find out that driving reason, the pain point they have and are trying to solve. Do not assume that purpose is obvious from the job description since the job description may have been written by someone other than the hiring manager (like someone in Human Resources).

• You need to understand what they believe makes a successful candidate. What traits do they value? What experience are they seeking? What abilities will make the candidate the right fit? What prior accomplishments will convince them you are can do the job?

You want to share your previous accomplishments that support why the company will benefit by hiring you. Remember the accomplishments you inventoried during Step 2? You want to use your STARs; your prior performance is an indication of your future performance.

• You also want to understand the hiring process and the next steps.


Understand the two different purposes, the employer’s and yours, so you don’t miss
the point of the interview.


P: Preparation

Practice, practice, practice! It is amazing how many people will practice for a neighborhood championship (ex tennis) where only bragging rights are on the line but will “wing” a job interview without practicing when a job is on the line.

An invaluable way to prepare for an interview is to practice interviewing and solicit feedback. Many job networking groups offer interview workshops. Having the practice interview filmed by a job search coach will allow you to see how you come off in the interview. How is your body language? Do you forget to smile out of nervousness and come off as negative? Do you wildly move your hands about while talking? Do you talk too much? Practice your interview; find out what you do well and areas to improve.

Network into the company. Even though you have the interview scheduled, it is not too late to use your contacts and Linked In network to network into the company. It will help you stand out if people in the company approach the hiring manager and say they heard you are interviewing, that they know you, and are impressed with you. That will help you stand out from the other candidates. Your contacts are also a valuable source of information to have before walking into the interview.

Get inside information. Conduct informational interviews with current and past employees to understand the best aspects and the not-so-great aspects of working for the company and the hiring manager.

Research the company. You need to know everything that is on the company’s web site and you need to know more than that. Check out the company’s financials. Check out the company’s competition and check out all of the news articles that have been published about the company. You may also want to check out chat rooms and blogs to see what is being said about the company by disgruntled customers and former employees.

Your questions. Develop a list of questions you need answered. During your aptitude assessments and inventories you determined the type of environment in which you will flourish. You determined the style of manager you work best with. Ask questions about the company, the department, the position, the manager, and how the current economy has impacted the company. Show you are discerning about where you work.

Study your STARs. You inventoried and documented your previous accomplishments. Review that list so they are embedded in your memory. You will want to have these stories ready for the behavioral interview questions (“Tell me about a time….”).Use STARs to anchor even Yes and No questions. Example: You are asked if you know Microsoft Excel. Don’t just say yes. Add an example of a time you used it, the most advanced features you used, and what you successfully did with the information.

Drive there. Unless you are very familiar with the location, drive there ahead of time so you can discover anything unexpected about the route (ex. construction). You can also checkout the layout of the property and parking. Remove that from your stress the day of the interview.

Do’s and Don’ts. Another part of the preparation is to review the interview do’s and don’ts (included later in this article).

Pray/ Mediate. The best preparation you can do is to pray. Pray for peace and calm so you can get a good night’s sleep. Pray for wisdom and, if the job is not right for you, pray that doors will be closed.
The better you prepare for the interview, the more confident you will be during the actual interview.


P: Preparation

Pray: Praying for peace and wisdom is a great way to begin the day of the interview.

Arrival: You want to arrive at the reception area 5-10 minutes ahead of the appointed time. Do not arrive more than 10 minutes ahead though. If you live in an area (like Atlanta) where many factors can impact travel time, plan to arrive in the area at least 30 minutes ahead of time to allow extra time in the event something unexpected happens. During your test drive because familiar with the area and pick out a location at which to wait until it is time to drive to the company’s property and head into the reception area.

If you left for the destination with plenty of extra time and something catastrophic happens (an interstate is shut down due to an accident), call the interviewer at that moment (which should be well ahead of the appointed time) and explain the situation. Offer to contact him when you know more information about your status or to go ahead and reschedule at his convenience.

Be courteous to everyone you meet. Your interview begins before you set foot on the company property. The person who cut you off in traffic may be the hiring manager rushing to get to the office before your appointment. Keep in mind that receptionists are valuable sources of information for the hiring manger. The hiring manger does not even have to specifically solicit their opinions. After the hiring manager walks you out the front door, the receptionist may make a simple comment about whether you were nice or rude and that could easily impact your chances. With some companies, even what you do while waiting in the reception area may be factored into the hiring decision.

Smile! Breathe! There are two things that many nervous interviewees forget to do: smile and breathe. If you are likely to forget to relax, smile, and breathe, you may want to write yourself a note that you see periodically during the interview to remind you.

Meet their need. The company has a need that will be met by hiring the right person. Their need is not to give you a job. You want to determine what that need is and concisely address your points to how you can help meet their needs.
Use your STARs. In the answers to the interview questions, you want to add weight to your answers (anchor them) by using your STAR statements. You could easily say “I have done that before and I can do it again” but anyone can say that. It is not enough to state at which company you had that experience. You want to share the situation you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved to make your answer real for the interviewer.

Listen! Too many job seekers feel this is their only chance to share their skills and do what can be referred to as a brain dump: sharing everything that is in their head. Using the cliché “we have two ears and one mouth for a reason” we should do twice as much listening as talking. The best conversationalist is one who is a good listener. During the interview, many hiring managers will share valuable information in their side comments that could be missed if the job seeker is not listening intently. By listening you can understand what they are looking for so you can tailor what you say to address those points.

Ask questions! Asking questions shows your interest in the interviewer and, since asking questions is one approach to active listening, it shows your interest in what the interviewer is saying. You do not have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions either. Throughout the interview, as needed, you can ask clarifying questions. You can ask the interviewer how long she has been with the company, what she likes best, what she thinks is the biggest challenge for the company, where she worked before joining the company, and what she feels are the traits in a successful candidate. Be sure to ask questions to determine if this is a good fit (company and position) for you. Do not ask any questions that can easily be answered by searching on-line. Listen closely so you do not ask about something the interviewer already addressed. One last question you can ask is what concerns, if any, she has about your ability to perform the job so you can address them.

What to do before you leave. There are several steps you want to take before you leave the interview.

• You want to thank them for their time.

• You want to express your sincere interest in the position (if you are interested).

• You want to ask what the next steps are in the interview process and approximate timeframes. The hiring manager or company recruiter may not have exact timeframes but she should have an estimated timeframe for the hiring process.

• Get the business card of every interviewer. If some of the interviewers don’t have business cards, get the spelling of their names and their e-mail addresses. Do not assume the spelling of their name (ex. my name is Judy but I spell it with an “i”). As long as you have the name, you can call back to the person on the switchboard to get the correct spelling.



P: Post Interview

Although you have left the company property the interview is not over yet.

Thank you. The moment you leave the interview, go back and write an electronic thank you. Thank each interviewer individually for his / her time and reiterate your interest in the position.

Thank you again. Do not stop with an electronic thank you though. Write a handwritten thank you note and get it out in the mail that same day. Compose it on a computer first so you can develop the phrasing you want to use and to spell and grammar check the message. Personalize each note with something that he / she said that you had in common or affirm you as a great fit for the position.

Follow-up. It is the job seeker’s responsibility to follow-up no matter what was said or who committed to doing it. Because you asked at the end of the interview, you know the next steps and approximate timelines for each. There are ways you can follow-up without sounding desperate or nagging. You can contact the hiring manager with a follow-up or clarifying question. Make it a good question though or she will immediately see through it. Another contact can be made to just check in and see if they had any further questions.

There are other ways to stay in the minds of the decision makers. One approach is to send a copy of an article you think they would be interested in reading and may not have read.

Continue your job search. No matter how well the interview went and no matter what the hiring manager said about you getting the job, until you have a final offer in writing continue your job search.

While you wait to hear. While you wait to hear back, continue to pray for open and closed doors. If this is not the job for you, the one that will prosper you, and not harm you, the one that will give you a hope and a future, then you don’t really want it. Pray that the door closes on that one.

Now let’s look at the list of tips and do’s and don’ts of the interview.

Tips / Do’s and Don’ts

Cell Phones & other electronic devices. Do NOT leave your cell phone on, even on vibrate. The constant NNNN, NNNN, NNNN is just as annoying as a ring. You should turn it off before you walk into the company’s building so you do not forget. If you have a watch with an alert, turn off the alert or leave the watch in the car.

Be careful with your humor. Humor is good even during an interview; just do not cross over a line that you don’t want to cross. It is wise to be conservative with your humor until you know the other person better.

Know yourself. Only have items on your resume (especially technical skills) that you are familiar with enough to hold a conversation about them.
Know your accomplishments and know why the company should hire you for the job. Prepare answers ahead of time to all of the tough questions you may be asked.

Practice your handshake. Men and women should have the same handshake. If you are not used to shaking hands, you should practice and get feedback from a trusted person.

If you tend to have sweaty hands, consider running cool water over your wrists before going into the interview. Another approach is to slyly wipe your right hand on the side of your outfit as you raise your hand.

If you have a cold, you can excuse yourself from shaking the other person’s hand by apologizing and saying you are getting over a cold and don’t want to give it to him. It will be appreciated.

Body Language. 85% of all communication is non-verbal. Body language is the most spontaneous and honest form of communication. People trust your body language over the words you speak. Learn to read body language and control your own.

Do not talk too much or too little. Many job seekers blow the interview by talking too much. This is usually not intentional; it is done out of nervousness but has the same results regardless. Practicing will give you a feel for where the fine line is between answering the question and giving a “brain dump”. Look for queues that the interviewer is ready to move on such as looking at the time, flipping papers, or looking down.

You don’t want to go too far the other way either. If you speak too little the interviewer may think you are hiding something.

Pay close attention to grooming. From head to toe, be sure you are giving your best impression. Some jobs are lost before the job seeker has uttered the first word. A practice interview is a great place to get honest feedback about the image you are projecting.

Be sure your attire, eyeglasses and accessories (ties, jewelry) don’t date you. Out of date attire and accessories will give the impression that you also let your skills age as well.

If you do not have the right clothes for an interview and truly can’t afford them, there are organizations that will provide an outfit at a greatly reduced price or even for free. Don’t let an outfit stand in the way of your success.

Phone Interview tips. If you are on a phone interview, be sure to be in a quiet area without background noise. Stand up while you talk so your diaphragm can expand to breathe. Stand in front of a mirror to echo your body language and to remind you to smile.

If you receive an unexpected call for a phone screening, regardless of what you are doing at the time, express your interest in talking with them and propose a time to talk. No company expects you to put your life on hold waiting for a call and you will not blow your chance at the job if you propose another time. Use the time to get your materials organized before talking; review the description of the position, the research you did on the company, take one more opportunity to review your accomplishments, and get to a quiet area.

Do not ask about salary or benefits. There is a common belief that the first person to talk about salary is at a disadvantage. If you are asked what salary you were earning or want, defer the salary discussion for the later.

Do NOT lie on your resume or application. Assume that everything will be verified even if no company has before.

Lunch interviews. Your main purpose at a lunch interview is not eating. Know what not to order during a lunch interview. Use the rule of thumb that you should only order food that is easy to get on your fork, to your mouth, and chew quickly. There are many books available on common table manners.

Do not talk negatively about a former company, boss, or co-worker. When you have a bad experience at a company, it is tempting to talk negatively about it. Save that venting for a close friend. Talking negatively during an interview reflects negatively on you. Before you have an interview, take the time to develop the right words to explain your experiences. Be sure to include what you have learned from that experience and have put into place to not repeat it.


For a copy of RightChanges’ interview checklist, send an e-mail to Info@RightChanges.biz with the subject line Interview Checklist.


In the next installment of the “Take the Next Important Step to Landing that Job” series Judi Adams, Senior Job Search Coach of RightChanges.biz will cover Step 6 – Select the Right Job and Action Items Once You Are Employed.

Copyright: The 6 Steps of a Job Search are copyrighted by Crossroads Career Services.

1 comment:

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