WorkWise column offering interview tips.
While landing an interview is one of the most difficult parts of job seeking, conducting a successful interview isn't much easier. Why? Self-consciousness and nerves can undo you.
You can read all of the books on interviewing techniques and do everything they tell you to do. You can be a walking expert on interviewing but still not get a job. If you can't leave most of your uncomfortable emotions outside the interviewer's door, you'll sabotage yourself. In that case, you can only hope that the employer understands your discomfort and can see beyond it to the person you really are. That's a lot to ask of any interviewer who's busy getting information from you and attempting to assess your personality to find a "fit" with potential co-workers.
You should know that the interviewer might be even more nervous than you are. Remember, his job is to represent the company well and find the best talent possible.
Avoid "informational" interviews. If you're serious about finding work, let employers see that seriousness. You're not just collecting a bunch of contacts for your Rolodex.
When you speak with the employer over the telephone, don't say that you're looking for a job. Instead, imply that that's what you want by stating that you want to discuss how you've helped companies increase sales, reduce costs or whatever major benefit you offer.
On the day of the interview, prepare yourself emotionally. Follow your usual routine for the day, but intersperse a few calming moments. Take deep breaths as the day progresses. When you arrive at the company and get out of your car, take another one. As you walk to the receptionist, take another. Do the same as you walk into the interviewer's office, then sit up straight so you can take other occasional deep breaths without being detected. Controlling yourself is the first step toward controlling the situation.
Focus your thoughts on that organization and the person sitting in front of you. Don't spend your precious interview time critiquing yourself. Interviewing is a skill, not a science. Listen, and ask probing questions, such as:
- "If you could drop one aspect of your work, what would it be?
- "If you had a larger budget, how would you spend it?
- "What have your current employees not been able to do that is still necessary?"
The best interviewers are so busy learning about employers' needs and expectations that they leave their self-consciousness outside the office. Because they're able to do this, they're relatively relaxed and comfortable in a situation that often makes both parties uneasy. If you’re relatively calm -- or at least appear to be -- you’ll make the job of interviewing easier and more comfortable for the employer.
Of course, in being yourself, you're striving to be your professional self. Know what you've accomplished for previous employers and what you think you can accomplish in a new situation. This is the selling part of the conversation. It has nothing to do with blowing your own horn. You're simply communicating critical information about yourself that the person won't otherwise know. How can you expect anyone to hire you if you don't give him information that will help him come to a decision?
To land a job, try to persuade the employer to create a position for you or hire you for an existing job. If he can't or won't hire you but has treated you well, ask for names of three people to contact. Follow that question with another about whether you may recontact him, and, if so, when. If you don't recontact the person, you sacrifice one of your most valuable sources of information about possible opportunities in his organization and others. Some of that information will never make it onto a job posting or classified advertisement.
Dr. Mildred Culp, an award-winning journalist, also writes two syndicated columns -- WorkWise Interactive, on youth employment, and the classic WorkWise, on emerging workplace trends. Contact her at 708-672-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Passage Media.