Step 2; Some Interviewing Tips

Okay, so let’ suppose my sage advice from the previous post got someone to want to set up a call or site visit for you. Now what? Well, the first thing I can tell you is that you never ever go into a call or site interview cold. Be prepared, do your research on the company and if possible, on the people you will talk with. And have a specific game plan in terms of what you want to find out and how you are going to get across to them that you are a fit for their needs.  How do you do that? Well, I am glad you asked that question. Let me offer a few ideas that may help you out.

The things I am about to lay out here work equally well on a phone call or in person with a little modification of the verbage.

First let’s talk some really basic stuff. Now I don’t want to sound demeaning here, but I can tell you that over the years I have had more than one person fail to understand these inital basics. So, if they sound too obvious have a good laugh at the thought that someone before you has failed to follow these simple rules and tanked before they ever got to say a word.

The Basics

  • Be on time! The first mistake many make is simply not being there when they were told to. Often your potential employer looks at this as your first test. I.e. if you can’t be on time for your interview how can we believe you’ll meet any other deadline? If it’s a phone call, be sitting by that phone 15 minutes before the call and make sure you are in a place where you can talk without interruption. I do most of my work over the phone and there’s not much I hate more than having to compete with the screaming kids or barking dog in the background while trying to interview someone. If it’s a site interview make sure you are sitting in that waiting room 15-20 minutes before the interview. The guy/gal that’s interviewing you isn’t doing that for a living nor for the fun of it. They have changed their schedule to meet you and they have things to do after you leave. Don’t hold them up.
  • Dress for the interview. No matter what job you’re interviewing for and no matter what they say the work environment is, wear a suit!  Humans, especially men, are very visually oriented and what they see is going to be their very first impression of you. Make it a good one. You’re a professional. Look like one. If everyone else is in slacks and a polo you’ll have a good laugh and an something to break the ice with.

The Interview

Now assuming you have made it to the phone or their office on time and you’re scrubbed up and ready to go here’s a few tips on how to conduct the conversation/s.

When I prep folks for interviews I always start by asking them what it is they want to make sure they find out or accomplish during the interview. And usually the response has to do with some specific information they want to find out about the job or the company. And that’s fine. You certainly need to get your questions answered to make a decision. However, there is something even more basic to focus on here. If it’s a telephone interview your main goal is to line up an in person visit. And if your interviewing on site your primary mission is to get an offer. And don’t lose sight of these things. Because without achieving these two objectives you will in the end have no decisions to make. They will all have been made for you.

Okay, so now you have a goal. How do you focus the interview to get to the goal?  Simply put, by being proactive and matching your skills and interests to the company’s and the hiring manager’s needs. To do that I would like to offer a methodology of asking and answering questions that goes by an acronym called Q.L.R. That stands for Question, Listen and Respond. And in practice it works pretty literally that way.

For example start off asking something general like; “I looked over your web site and I think I have a pretty good idea of the company in general, but tell me a little about where the company sees itself going over the next few years” . The response is going to be sort of roadmap of what they want to accomplish. Well, if true, a good way to start matching interests is to say something like; “That’s great, I like the fact that you’re being proactive about things and that I would be working for a company that is trying to stay ahead of the game”. So in one fell swoop you have got some info and let them know you’d be on board with the plan. Next you might ask something more specific like; “Tell me what you’re looking for someone to do in this job”. The response will be a job description, and obviously this is a great place to match skills and interests. Again your respond with, if true, why you fit the job and why you would like to be in that position. I’m sure you get it now and can use the same pattern with the rest of your questions.

About the only thing I suggest not bringing up in a first conversation is the topic of compensation, and I say this for a couple of reasons. First it can easily give the impression that you care more about money than the job which in turn suggests that if someone comes along and offers you more money you’re going to take off, thus making you a less than stable employee.  Secondly, at this stage of the game things are still pretty preliminary and until you find out more it will be hard to place a value on what the job is worth. Lastly, you just don’t want to lock yourself into a specific amount. For example, let’s say that you ask for $45K and they were going to offer you $50K. Then you’ve just shot yourself in the foot for $5K. On the hand let’s say it’s a great job and you really want to pursue it but all they have is$43K so they don’t make an offer because they think they can’t afford you. Either way you end up on the short end of the stick.  If asked directly what you’re looking for I suggest a response something like “You know, it’s probably more important for us to match ourselves up personally and professionally right now and if we can do that I am sure you’ll make me a fair offer”. This way you get across that money is not the important thing and you throw the ball back in thier court.

The reason I tell people to use this methology comes down to a few specific things. First never assume that someone is going to read between the lines and figure out what you meant to say or what you were thinking. Your interviewer is not a mind reader. Second, one of the most common things I hear from employers when following up on an interview is “Doug the guy was a decent fit but we’re not sure if he likes us”. Why? Because the guy didn’t tell them!  Third, this methodology gives you a framework from which you can show your enthusiasm for the job without coming off looking fake. And ultimately people like people who like them. So, given a choice between some schlunk who just sits there through the whole interview and the guy/gal who tells them at every step why he/she fits and that he likes the sounds of things, who will they like most? Duh!

 

Getting an Offer/Interview

So, now you created this great impression and it’s time to accomplish the goal of your conversation. What’s the best way of doing that? The same way your mother told you to do it, which boils down to the old saying “you get what you ask for”. And you know what? It’s pretty much that simple. However, I can offer you a wordtrack that will make it a little easier on you.

The time to do this is as your phone call or interview is drawing to a close. For starters you want to end every conversation on a positive note because we always remember best what happens last. At which time you say something on the order of; “Thanks very much for taking the time to talk with me today. I really appreciate all of the information you passed along and I liked the sound of it because (insert three or four very specific reasons why you like it here) and as a result I would very much like to meet with you in person/ get an offer from you”. Now if you’re asking for an interview have your calendar ready and say “And I could be there on this day or this day, which works better for you?” This takes it out out of “if” you’ll interview and into “when” you’ll interview. If you’re asking for an offer you follow it with “when do you think I will here back from you?” At this point make sure you know who is supposed to do what to who next. You don’t want them thinking you’re calling them or vice versa and have everyone sitting there waiting on the other only to watch the thing die on the vine.

Some of you may think asking for the offer or interview is a bit too forward. Well, it’s not. In fact a bunch of times in my career I have asked my clients why they were making an offer to a particular guy as opposed to anyone else they interviewed. And quite often the response is something like “Well, all of them could do the job and were pretty nice folks. But this guy came out and asked for the offer/interview so we think we’ll have a better chance of acceptance with him/her”. (Remember, these folks don’t like interviewing. It takes them away from their jobs and they want to get the process over and done with the right person as soon as they can.) And a lot of time that’s just what happens. He/she gets the offer or interview and accepts and the other people that interviewed are left standing there empty-handed.

This was a pretty basic version of this process. So, if you would like to get a more detailed lesson just drop me a note and we can set up a time to talk by phone. I would be glad to help you out.

As always let me know what you think and if this was helpful.

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Responses

  1. Lots of good advice! Thanks!


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