Do you Know That Telling Stories Win Interviews?

July 19, 2011

“Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.Benjamin Disraeli, British prime minister

Tell me a story

Stories persuade and land jobs

Every day, you are faced with a barrage of efforts to persuade you to buy a product or service. The vast majority of these efforts are forgettable and totally unpersuasive. Occasionally, however, one of these communications breaks through the noise, catches your imagination, and speaks to you personally. What is happening? Many times, it’s not the service or the brand that gets through, but how the information is communicated.

In every interview, interviewers listen to candidates answering questions to try to persuade them that they are the best candidate for the job. Most questions in an interview can be, and should be, answered by saying “Let me give you an example. However, the vast majority of these examples are forgettable, mundane, and totally unpersuasive- in short, they’re boring. You can avoid boring if you have a good delivery.

Good delivery consists of three factors:

     *     Sincerity and wholeheartedness. Any success story you tell has to be honest and real. Don’t make up a story to respond to a question. A fabricated story will lack sincerity; your heart won’t be in it, and the interviewer will know!

     *     Enthusiasm. These are stories about you at your best, about achievements you are proud of, so being enthusiastic should be easy. Being enthusiastic doesn’t mean you have to be artificially animated or jump up and down on a couch; just let your pride in your success shine through. However, don’t get too enthusiastic and get carried away[md]remember, no story should take longer than two minutes.

     *     Animation. A great deal of your story is communicated nonverbally, so show some emotion in your gestures, voice, and facial expressions. Smile, move your hands, change the pitch of your voice, and maintain eye contact. A great success story told with a deadpan expression and in a monotone is boring.

Learn to tell good stories and your interviewers will be more engaged and more persuaded that you are the candidate of choice.

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An Interview Presentation Is a Sales Presentation that Wins Jobs

July 7, 2011

Unlike a sales presentation, which can be for selling unlimited services or products, every interview presentation has the exact same goal: landing a job. Because the goal is well defined, similar to a resume an interview presentation has a defined format, and the content is sharply focused.

An interview attempts to answer three questions:

     *     Can you do the job?

     *     Are you motivated to do the job?

     *     Will you fit the culture of the company, and will they like you?

Using these three questions as the focus, the interview presentation includes all the information a hiring manager needs to answer these questions. Using a presentation, you will clearly communicate the information the hiring manager needs to know to make an informed hiring decision.

An effective interview presentation consists of a structure that frames the objective (presenting the reasons you are the best choice), covers all relevant material, transitions smoothly from topic to topic, and finishes strong. In addition, it should be well organized, short, focused, and relevant. A powerful interview presentation includes the following:

     *     A purpose. This is the one thing you want the interviewer to remember when you leave the interview. Typically, this is the same for any interview: “Based on my background, experience, skills, education, and personality traits, I am the best candidate for this position.” You introduce an interview presentation with this exact purpose: “I have a presentation that communicates how my background, skills, and experience match the critical requirements for this position and makes me an excellent candidate. May I share it with you?”

     *     Critical information. The critical information in an interview is how well you can perform the job. Performing well consists of doing the job tasks with high quality, fitting into the company culture, and getting along with others. To communicate your ability to do the job, there must be agreement about the job requirements. The first part of the presentation addresses the job requirements: “These are what I consider to be the critical job requirements for this position. I would like to discuss them with you to make sure we are in agreement about them.” This aligns your and the hiring manager’s expectations. When there is agreement about the requirements, the rest of the presentation focuses on your match to the requirements.

     *     Benefits. Every person listening to a presentation is thinking, “How does this affect me or benefit me?” If there is no effect or benefit, the person quickly loses interest. Each item mentioned in an interview presentation should link to a benefit for the hiring manager. For example, “You’re looking for a person with experience in new consumer product introduction. In my previous position, I introduced three mass consumer hardware products that accounted for $4.5 million in sales. As part of the introduction, I was responsible for consumer research, product development, marketing strategy, and sales. As you introduce new products, I’ll be able to provide expert leadership in each of these areas, which means that you will require fewer managers, save personnel costs, and bring products to market more quickly and successfully.”

A visual presentation (which makes an excellent leave-behind) with all of these elements and good, insightful questions make up the most powerful way to communicate in an interview. Candidates who have used interview presentations report dramatic results, and hiring managers are bowled over by their level of preparation, professionalism, and organization. And even without a written document, developing an interview presentation as part of the interview-preparation process is an excellent way to organize critical information that you can present when there is an opportunity in the interview.

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