The ultimate goal when you are in the search mode is always the job but for those who set daily goals it is getting the attention of the Search Committee or the “Headhunter” and procurring that intereview. The interview is the means to the end and the vehicle that can make you shine or unfortunately kill your hopes for that position that you believe is just right for you.
In preparation for that interview it is imperative that you rehearse and plan for the event just as if you where particiating in a sporting event or more importantly having a dialogue with your teenage children. As someone who has certainly had his fair share of interviews (both good and bad) it is important to remember that you are showing this stranger, who is taking his or their time to meet you who you are and that you, if given the opportunity can be a strong asset for their company or association. Above all, this is not the time to be modest. You are selling yourself and your leadership qualities. Of course you want to describe yourself as a team player but always emphasize your involvement within that team. Remember it is a thin line between self-confidence and ego-mania. Be direct on what you have done to improve your previous companies standing but don’t over do it. No one likes to hear a candidate use the work I to excess.
It is also important for you to prepare and memorize your elevator speech. Be prepared for that unfortunate opening question: Tell us about yourself. Though we all know it is a stupid start to an interview, too many times inexperienced interviewers use such a question as an ice-breaker. Make the elevator speech no longer than 90 to 120 seconds but make it memorable with action verbs and a quick synopsis of your goals and achievements. Include growth markers, both personally and for your previous employers. A well designed and well delivered elevator speech can set the stage for a positive interview.
Do remember your non-verbs. It is important for you to keep impeccable eye-contact with the interviewer. If it is a group of individuals make sure you share your eye time with all those involved. Don’t stare but make sure you don’t look down when answering a question – look around and look directly into the soul of those participating in these venture. It is always interesting to see how long it takes for the questioner to look away or down because he/she becomes too uncomfortable with the interaction. This action gives you a hint of their comfort-level and will prompt you to not be so focused in on just one set of eyes. Always sit straight in the chair, lean forward to show involvement and inclusion and feel free to use your arms and hands to show emphasis. Make sure you don’t overdo the hand usage – it can become very distracting if not varied or if mechanical.
Make sure you are prepared for the usual questions about your strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths can be such personal peccadiloes as: innovative, open-minded, hard-worker, goal -motivated, creative, while your weaknesses can be such traits as: perfectionist, difficulty balancing work and family time, expecting the team to work as hard as I do. You certainly need to impress that your weakness can certainly be a strength if needbe. Please do not make the weakness answer too personal or too insightful. You are not being interviewed by Dr. Phil after all.
Finally, always have 2 or 3 closing questions for your interviewers. It is important to show these folks that you have done your homework and such questions can ace the interaction. Don’t talk terms but you can ask how the process will play out. Also, ask about other candidates – I always inquire about internal job-seekers but that is a topic for another time.
Since it is so difficult to get an interview these days it is important to be prepared. Rehearse and plan and even if the first stage is on the telephone, most of the techniques, including the non-verbals can still be in play. Remember a good interview will get you a good job but it takes practice and planning and that should take place now and often.