Be Like Abe to Interview Your Best

December 23, 2008


Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln

On November 19, 1863, part of the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield was dedicated as a cemetery for the northern soldiers.  Edward Everett, considered one of the greatest orators of that era, spoke for two hours.  President Lincoln, chose just 272 simple words and spoke for two minutes. Everett’s monumental effort full of pretentious words was forgotten almost as soon as it was delivered.  Lincoln’s plain words are remembered. Don’t dismiss simplicity… try to achieve it.

Many candidates believe, like Everett, that more is better. In interviews they talk about all the tasks and activities they engaged in on prior jobs in the hope that the interviewer will be impressed by something they did and out of fear they might omit just the right item that will win the interview. Brief and focused is better.

Preparing for an interview includes learning the critical requirements of the position. By focusing answers on the critical requirements, your answers will be pertinent and will address the hiring manger’s needs. It will also help you avoid adding additional tasks/experiences you have done which is of no interest to the hiring manager and may undermine your match with the position. For example, if you are being hired to do call center work having done accounts payable may just be confusing

Keeping responses brief  is more effective and powerful. As a guideline, your answers should be no longer than two minutes. If you are speaking for more than two minutes, end your answer and ask the interviewer  if you have answered their question and if they would like additional detail. Use their response to decide to go on or stop. Also, ask if your answer was on target and if it addressed their question.

Brief highly focused answers that are specific to the critical job requirements are the most persuasive answers in an interview. Supporting these answers with a visual presentation, (a printed interview presentation)  increases retention, improves your chances of winning the interview, and landing the job.

Use an InterviewBest Presentation to Interview Your Best

Use an InterviewBest Presentation to differentiate yourself, impress the interviewer, and Interview Your Best


Think About Hiring Yourself to Interview Your Best

December 21, 2008

hiring-managerLike most job candidates you are probably concerned about being able to answer interview questions. You might resort to reading book after book about the most frequently asked interview questions or cruising numerous web sites to find interview questions. However you may be overlooking the easiest and most effective method of preparing for interview questions – consider hiring yourself.

In preparation for your interview, ask yourself this question;
“If I were  hiring someone for the position for which I am interviewing what would I want to know about them?”
Make a list of these questions and develop answers for them. I is helpful to organize the questions into the three basic interview question categories. These are:

1- Can you do the job and do it well?
Questions in this category are typically about background, experiences, skills and education that you have shown or acquired in prior positions and prove you can do the job. Develop a list of questions that elicit information about exactly what you have done on previous jobs.

2- Will we like you, will you fit our culture and will you take supervision?
Questions in this category are focused on your personal qualities and job success factors that give insight into how you work with others and if you are likable. Develop a list of questions that elicit answers about your work style, strengths/weaknesses and your preferred work culture.

3- Are you interested in and motivated for this position?
The questions in this category explore if you are interested in the work required in the position and if you will apply yourself and work to improve your skills and performance. Develop a list of questions that elicit your career interests and where you see yourself  in the future.

Using your knowledge of the position and the above three categories, you should be able to develop a comprehensive list of questions and answers. Even if you are not asked the exact questions, your preparation will inform you about how to focus the answers to the questions you are asked.

Develop an Interview Presentation to interview your best

Develop an Interview Presentation to interview your best

Why Curiosity Helps You Interview Your Best

December 14, 2008

Curiosity actually saved the cat

Curiosity actually saved the cat

Most job candidates interview for jobs in industries in which they have experience. Some candidates have 15 plus years of experience in a specific job in a particular industry. Many experienced candidates make the mistake of assuming they know all they need to know about the industry, the company, and position for which they are interviewing.

It is easy to understand how a candidate may make this mistake. Take for example a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Information Officer, or an experienced manager who has 10 plus years of experience in their job. For years they have been exposed to industry trends, competitors, new developments in their field, colleagues and other professionals,  etc. It is natural for them to assume they know all they need to interview well and they short change themselves on their interview preparation and do not listen enough in the interview. This is the same mistake experienced sales people make when they think they know as much or even more than their customer.

Here is what even experienced candidates don’t know- they do not know about the job from the hiring manager’s perspective.

As in any good sales process, the initial part of an interview should be spent getting to know the needs of the customer (hiring manager). Listen for the following in the hiring manager’s words:

  • What specific problem is the position solving
  • What are the immediate, mid-term, and long term priorities of the position
  • How will success be measured
  • What are the specific skill sets the position requires
  • Significant industry trend/challenges
  • Personal success factors that fit the company culture

To learn the above information, maintain an attitude of curiosity. According to, curiosity is “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.” Curiosity also includes an openness to view things from others’ perspectives.  The challenge is to avoid having your preconceived notions and existing beliefs block learning the hiring manager’s views and perspective. You may think the hiring manager’s thoughts are incorrect, however it is her thoughts and you need to know them. I am not suggesting agreement only awareness.

Curiosity exemplified by good questions and open mindedness communicate positive traits in the interview. Also, it is a good approach to disagree by asking questions. For example, “I understand you think the emerging trend in energy is drilling for more oil, I am wondering what your thoughts are about alternative energy such as electric and hydrogen?’ You may learn something very interesting about the hiring manager’s thinking.

Once you are aware of the hiring manager’s perspective you can target your answers more specifically to the requirements of the position. In addition, you can determine if the job is for you.


Differentiate yourself with an interview presentation

Avoid These Sales Mistakes to Interview Your Best

December 1, 2008

The following list of sales no-nos is written by Geoffrey James and posted on bnet. I have included them here because they are almost completely applicable to an interview. With the exception of #8 (although these days there are stories of candidates bringing their mothers to interviews) each of these sales warnings should be heeded for an interview.

#1: Discuss politics or religion. Such subjects are almost always a trap into opinionated quicksand that’s hard or impossible to get out of.  Fix: keep the discussion on business or neutral ground.
#2: Dive into your product pitch. Sure you’ve got something to sell, but if you pitch too soon, you’ll get pitched out the door. Fix: Ask questions to understand needs, before you pitch.
#3: Arrive late to the call. If you don’t arrive on time it tell the customer clearly that you don’t give a damn about them or their time.  Fix: Always arrive 15 minutes ahead of time.  If you drive to calls, get a GPS.
#4: Appear flippant or sarcastic. A good-natured laugh at a joke might be taken personally by someone watching out the window, without hearing the context.  Fix: Watch your demeanor at all times.
#5: Lack requisite product knowledge. The prospect doesn’t want to hear “I need to get back to you about that”…over and over. Fix: make sure you’re trained on your current products and policies…before the call.
#6: Fail to plan the call. Sounds simple, but trying to close when should be qualifying (for example) is a lost sale.  Fix: Never enter a door without first thinking about what you plan to accomplish.
#7: Be too business-like at first. Remember you’re building bridges with another human being, not just a notch in your sales gun.  Fix: Smile and be friendly… but don’t get too gushy.
#8: Show up with a crowd. If you bring too many people, it will draw customer’s comments about why your costs so high  Fix: Use webconferencing when you need to include additional resources.
#9: Fail to check your appearance. Don’t show up with something amiss that a quick stop in the client’s bathroom could head off.  Fix: Make a quick pit stop – with a look-over – before the call.
#10: Forget the customers’ names. What could be more embarrassing than actually forgetting whom you’re talking with?  Fix: Write down the names down of everyone in the room with a small table diagram.
#11: Be rude to the admin. No flirting, of course, but if you act all arrogant and superior, you’ll just antagonize the help.  Fix: Be friendly and respectful of the staff – admin and otherwise.
#12: Ask personal questions. You may think that the customer is your friend, but you can easily screw up if it gets too personal.  Fix: Keep the conversation focused on business issues, especially the customer’s needs.

The appropriateness of this warning list further supports the InterviewBest philosophy – an interview is a sales call.