We were sharing a turkey sandwich and a Coke on a park bench. It was spring, the air was warm, and the dogwoods were in bloom. It was one of those gorgeous days that reminds me why I love living in Asheville.
Vivian seemed oblivious to our surroundings. She was freaked; it had been ten years since she last interviewed for a job. She asked me for advice.
In addition to being everybody’s gay best friend, I help professionals package, present, and promote themselves. Over the years, I’ve helped more than a few clients become more successful interviewers. I even wrote a tip sheet on the subject. I shared it with Vivian.
Before the interview:
- Determine your unique selling proposition, which is made up of the three things that separate you from the other people who will be applying for the job. Perhaps it’s your business contacts, educational background, or your ability to influence, motivate, and inspire. Maybe your education or training gives you an edge, or your years of service in your industry. Whatever your unique selling proposition, be sure to inventory case studies, examples, stories, or other proof to support your claims.
- Develop criteria for your ideal work environment, especially those five to six “non-negotiables.”
- Research the company, organization, or agency that is interviewing you.
- Based upon your ideal work environment inventory and your research, develop questions about the position for the interview.
During the interview:
- Don’t forget your “million dollar question”: “Let’s say we’re in your office a year from now, and you’re telling me I’ve done a terrific job this past year. What did I do?”
- Remember the 70/30 rule. During the interview, spend 70 percent of your time listening and only 30 percent talking. Practice active listening skills:
- Make a commitment to listen.
- Listen to understand first.
- Don’t interrupt. Write down questions or comments for later.
- React to messages by using strong eye contact, nodding, taking notes, and asking questions.
- Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
- Think on your feet. Adjust your unique selling proposition to match the position, but only if it’s true and you can back it up.
- Work in your unique selling proposition at least three times during the interview. Use it once at the beginning to frame the interview, again when you answer questions, and finally at the very end of the interview as a summary. “If there’s nothing else that you remember about my qualification, I hope you’ll remember…”
- “Flex” your communication style to match that of the interviewer. For example, if he or she is formal and to-the-point, be very professional and concise with your answers. If she or he is extremely personable, relax and take time to build the relationship.
At the end of the interview:
Send a thank-you letter that again reinforces your unique selling proposition.
Send any requested follow-up material immediately. It’s an opportunity to show you are responsible and will follow through.
If your interview is conducted by phone:
When the job search takes you to another state, your first interview may be by phone. Making a strong first impression by phone can be accomplished as long as you approach the telephone interview with the same professionalism as you would a face-to-face meeting. Consider these two tips:
- Create the ideal interview setting. Find a quiet place and remove all distractions from your desk. Turn off your computer, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door, and spend a minute or two before the interview to gather your thoughts.
- Stand up. It will give your voice more power and allow you to think clearer.
“Do you think you can do this?” I asked Vivian.
“I know I can. Thanks!”