Use the Proper Terminology in Your Questions

April 9, 2013

Know the nature of the organization and the appropriate industry terminology-
Not all employing organizations are companies, for example. Governmental agencies and not-for-profit organizations are not accurately referred to as companies. Some for-profit organizations may call themselves firms, businesses, or agencies. Supermarkets, manufacturers, and marketing companies may talk about CPG. In these industries, it is important to know that CPG is an acronym for consumer products goods.

Most industries have their own terms, acronyms, and language. In addition, many companies have their own way of referring to various activities; one company’s team meeting is another company’s huddle. The more your questions reflect industry- and company-specific language, the more prepared and knowledgeable you will appear. Prior to your interview, make a list of terms and acronyms that you want to use in your interview. Also, if an interviewer uses a term or acronym with which you are unfamiliar, ask for a definition. Once you know the definition, try to use the term or acronym later in your interview.


Job Interview- Who do You Think is in Control?

January 3, 2013

  1. Active Interviewing

    Who is leading this process?

Here is an interesting and pertinent question: Who is in control of a sales call? One might argue that the purchaser decides the time, place, format, participants in the sales call, and service requirements, and they make the final decision; thus, the purchaser is in control. This is all true; however, a skilled salesperson actively manages the sales process, influencing and guiding the sales decision. When you walk into a car dealership or an appliance store, the salesperson takes you through a sales process, hopefully leading up to a sale. You are in control of the purchase decision, and they are in control of the sales process. If they are good, then even if you spend more money than you intended, you end up feeling positive about the experience and your decision.

So who is in control of the interview? Over the years, I have spoken with thousands of job seekers about their interview experiences. The most common complaint is that the interviewer spent the entire time speaking about himself or the company and didn’t get to know the candidate. I often ask the job seeker, “Why did you let the interviewer get away with that?” Their typical response is, “What could I do? They control the interview.” Well, what would a good salesperson do? A salesperson would take charge, guide the interview, and introduce the information she thinks the interviewer needs to know about her.

A very common misconception about interviews is that the interviewer likes being in control, and any effort to take control will doom any hiring chances. My clients’ experience has been exactly the opposite: Hiring managers love to share control and be “sold” by candidates. Remember, typically you will have an unskilled interviewer stressed by making a critical hiring decision. When a candidate essentially says, “Sit back; let me take the lead and present the information you need to know to make a good decision,” most interviewers are thrilled and relieved. Only once in hundreds of interviews has an interviewer not wanted to see and hear a candidate’s interview presentation. That one time was a human resources representative doing a screening interview; the hiring manager loved the presentation.

This brings us to a related question: Who is to blame for a bad interview? The answer typically depends on whom you ask. The interviewer will blame the candidate for lack of preparation, lack of company knowledge, poor answers to questions, lack of good questions to ask, improper interview behavior, and so on. The candidate will blame the interviewer for lack of preparation, withholding information about the position, turning the interview into a cross-examination, showing up late, and/or asking questions unrelated to job skills. My answer is, the blame for a bad interview is shared, although the problem of a bad interview is unfortunately yours. Good candidates are prepared with a number of interview strategies that will save the interview and win the job.

Interviewing- What’s Your Implementation Plan?

October 22, 2012

Implement Your Skills and Experience

Implement Your Skills and Experience

As part of a sales presentation, a salesperson tells the customer how the product or service will be implemented: “Once you sign the contract, the first thing we’ll do is x, and this should be completed in y days.” This helps the customer understand and visualize how the service will begin to provide value. A good implementation plan includes a number of steps or goals and a timeline.

You’re selling your services- do you present an implementation plan? Almost all candidates ignore how they will begin their employment, assuming that implementation is up to the employer. But by presenting an implementation plan, you communicate to the interviewer a motivation for the position, knowledge of the position requirements, and a message that you will add value to the organization quickly- all strong “hire me” messages.

A strategic action plan consists up to seven goals that you want to accomplish in the first 30 and 60 days in the position. I suggest this time frame because it is long enough to develop specific goals but not so long that you will be suggesting goals that require a far better understanding of the position. Some candidates prefer to develop 90-day goals, and some of my clients have been asked in interviews about their goals for the first 100 days. The more senior the position, the more sense it makes to develop longer-range goals.

Be S.M.A.R.T. with Your Goals

Coined by George T. Doran in the November 1981 issue of Management Review, S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is a well-defined goal. You probably won’t have all the information you need to develop comprehensive S.M.A.R.T goals for your interview, but you should try to come as close as possible. Also, questions interviewers ask are typically related to S.M.A.R.T issues, so you will be prepared to answer the questions.


You’re more likely to accomplish a specific goal than a general one. To set a specific goal, answer the six “W” questions:

*     Who. Who is involved?

*     What. What do I want to accomplish?

*     Where. Where is the location?

*     When. What is the timeframe?

*     Which. Which requirements and constraints do I need to consider?

*     Why. What are the specific reasons, purposes, or benefits of accomplishing the goal?

For example, a general goal would be getting to know the customers. A specific goal would say, “Within the first 60 days, schedule a customer meeting at our headquarters location with the top 10 revenue-producing customers.”


Establish criteria for measuring progress toward attaining each goal you set. When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the achievement that motivates you to continue the effort required to reach your goal.

To determine whether your goal is measurable, ask questions such as how much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? For example, meeting with the top 10 revenue-producing customers in 60 days is a measurable goal. Becoming 100 percent proficient on company-specific information systems in 30 days is a measurable goal.


Attainable goals are achievable, acceptable, and action-oriented. As a strategy for your strategic action plan, focus on smaller attainable goals rather than larger, more audacious goals. For example, restructuring the department’s workflow is probably too large, but identifying and fixing one workflow bottleneck is not.

Also, be sure to make your goals active rather than passive. For example, reach out to customers as opposed to waiting for sales numbers to be reported.


A realistic goal is one you are willing and able to work toward. The goal is probably realistic if you truly believe you can accomplish it. Also, you know your goal is realistic if you have accomplished something similar in the past; ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal. For example, if you have been able to implement a new training program or you participated in a training program that had a positive impact in a prior position, implementing that program in a new position may be a realistic goal.


A goal should be grounded within a timeframe to give it urgency and “trackability.” When you have a timeframe, it focuses the goal and makes progress measurable. As suggested earlier in this article, the recommended timeframes for strategic action goals are 30 days and 60 days. These timeframes will make your goals timely. For example, “In the first 30 days, I will meet with all the department heads that this position supports and identify their most critical needs.”

To see a list of 30/60 day goals broken down by professions go to www.interviewbest and develop an  iBest interview presentation

A Good Interview Requires a Good Job Description

September 5, 2012

The decision to purchase any item or service depends upon a set of requirements that must be met before the item or service is acquired. Think about your purchasing decisions- each one has a set of requirements that determines the item you select. Some requirements are set in stone; if the item does not meet the requirement, there will not be a purchase. Other requirements are things that are nice to have; if the item does not have them, you might still purchase the item. In other words, some requirements are critical while others are preferred or optional.

A job description is essentially a set of purchasing requirements, both critical and optional. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are poorly written and don’t provide the information a candidate needs to gain a deep understanding of the job, nor do they have enough detailed information to help a hiring team communicate the specific role that a new hire will fill. Providing a poorly developed job description to a candidate is like saying to a computer salesperson, “We want to buy a computer that does the work we need it to do. Got one?”

A Good Job Description

Once you know the elements of a good job description, you will know a good one when you read one. You will also recognize a bad job description when you read one. A good job description is based on a job analysis, which includes examining the tasks and sequences of tasks necessary to perform the job and states the nature of work, tasks to be done, skills expected, responsibilities and duties to be fulfilled, educational eligibility, qualifications needed, and other specifications related to the job. A good job description has the elements discussed in the following sections.

Job Description

*     The job title

*     The nature of the job

*     Job type: full-time or part-time

*     Location of the office

*     Salary and benefits

*     Physical demands

Education and Specifications

This covers qualifications and prior experience in the particular field that the applicant must have to be successful in the job, which may include:

*     Education level

*     Diploma and vocational training

*     Experience in prior jobs

*     Number of years of experience

Duties and Responsibilities

This covers major areas of responsibility and roles the candidate will play, including what the person in the position actually does, the primary goals and objectives of the position, and its overall contribution to the organization.

*     Managerial requirements

*     Supervisory level

*     Any corporate or individual objectives

*     Working conditions

*     Goals to be met

Skills and Knowledge

These are attributes the employer is looking for in a candidate to be successful in this job, including knowledge, skill, and abilities required to perform the job. These may include:

*     Communication skills

*     Networking skills

*     Analytical ability

*     Teamwork skills

*     The ability to deal with stress

*     Flexibility

*     Persistence

Look for these elements in a well-written and comprehensive job description. If the job description lacks these elements or is not sufficiently detailed, it becomes your task to find the job description details you need to sell yourself into the job.

Bring Your Vision and Mission to Your Interviews

July 26, 2012

Your Vision and Mission

There is nothing more important or attractive in a personal brand than passion and dedication. Think of the people around you who are committed to excellence and make the effort to be excellent. They are typically charismatic people with valuable brands. One way to ignite your passion and establish your brand is to develop a personal vision and mission.

A personal vision is a big, bold goal that articulates your dreams and hopes for your career, reminding you of what you are trying to accomplish. It is a large, often unobtainable goal that inspires you, gives you energy, and directs your career choices. A doctor may have a vision of achieving a 100 percent error-free medicine or a pain-free world. An airline scheduler might have a vision of every plane being on time every day or a 100 percent safety record. My vision is for everyone in the world to have a job doing the work they love and earning the money they deserve. These are big, inspirational goals that give direction to work, fuel passion, and build personal brands. What is your vision for your career?

A mission statement is how you are going to achieve your vision. The doctor’s mission statement might be, “I am achieving an error-free medicine by developing medication tracking systems and protocols that enforce safety procedures and quality assurance routines.” My mission statement is, “I am developing innovative hiring procedures and helping employees discover and articulate their value in the employment marketplace.” How are you achieving your vision?

During interviews, it is powerful to tell the interviewer, “This is what I am about [vision], and here is how I achieve it [mission].” One of my young clients (25 years old), who has a passion for sports marketing, has established a goal of being recognized as the Top 40 Under 40 in sports marketing. He communicates this goal during interviews. Having a clear and powerful goal helps the hiring manager see how you fit the organization, it projects a valuable brand, it makes you more charismatic, and it answers the question, “Are you motivated for this job?”

In Job Interviews Find the Pain and Get the Job

June 20, 2012

Discovering the “Pain”

Many sales training programs instruct salespeople to look for the prospect’s “pain” points. Their contention is that customers are motivated to purchase services only if the service relieves a pain or problem. In many sales situations, the prospect knows the pain and is looking for a solution- for example, “My computer is broken. It can’t be repaired, and I need to purchase a new one.” In other situations, a salesperson has to identify the pain for a prospect and then sell her the solution: “Are you aware that your computer isn’t being backed up offsite to a secure location, and you could lose all your information? You need a backup service.” When you are buying something, consider what pain you are hoping to relieve.

Candidates can do both- sell to the obvious pain and identify additional pain points. The obvious pain is the company’s stated reasons for hiring- replacing a person who has left or staffing a new position. There are typically more subtle issues beneath the obvious reasons for hiring someone. Your task is to discover the subtle issues beneath the obvious ones and include these in your interview.

You already know how to discover the pain points: Ask good questions and listen. When interviewing with the hiring manager, listen for subtle statements related to pain points. For example, suppose you’re interviewing for a call-center supervisor position. In the interview, the hiring manager mentions that she spends so much of her time doing reports that she is not able to implement new money-saving programs that would make her look good. The obvious pain point is supervising the staff, but the subtle pain is all the time-sucking reporting. The first step is to gather more information about the reporting pain by asking, “What kinds of reports are required and how often?” When you have this information, talk about things you have done in your past related to reporting and how your experience with reports can save her time. This could be just the differentiator you need to win the position.

Consider that a hiring manager’s work pain may be related indirectly to personal issues. For example, a hiring manager might do a lot of traveling and thus sacrifice time with his family. If you can take some of the travel burden, he can spend time with his family, and you’ve addressed that pain. Once again, by asking good questions and listening, you can hear pain points that, if addressed, can be the pain reliever you can use to land the job.

The Best Pain of All
The best pain of all is the pain a hiring manager begins to feel when she thinks about working with someone other than you- another candidate who could be less than satisfactory, less efficient, less ethical, less timely, less friendly, less enthusiastic, and less able to solve her pain points. When you have done a great job of interviewing, the hiring manager will begin to experience this pain, and she will work hard to hire you. No one wants to hire number two, and she will negotiate with you to bring you onto her team. You are in your strongest negotiating position at this point in regard to compensation negotiations.

Here’s How to Interview Better- Hey Are You Listening?

May 23, 2012

A number of listening pitfalls will trip you up in your job interview. Don’t fall in these listening pitfalls:

  • Being so intent on what you have to say that you listen mainly to find an opening to make your point. You may be thinking that you have a very important point you want the interviewer to know, and if you don’t say it now, the opportunity will be lost. In reality, you won’t lose the opportunity, and this pitfall often results in an interruption[md]never a good thing during an interview.,
  •  Formulating and focusing on your answers quickly, based on what the speaker is saying. Candidates often are so concerned about giving the “right” answer that they get nervous and stop listening. They also have the misconception that they have to answer a question immediately after it is asked. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “Let me think about that,” and then take 30 to 40 seconds to formulate an answer. A thoughtful, considered answer is better than a quick, confused, or off-target response.
  • Focusing on your own personal beliefs about what you’re hearing. Your personal beliefs form a filter that may distort the interviewer’s meaning. It is important to be aware of how your beliefs distort what you hear and adjust for the distortion. You can do this by becoming consciously aware of your beliefs. For example, the interviewer might be talking about the importance of offshoring certain functions in their department. Perhaps you are opposed to sending jobs overseas. Your opposition may impact how you listen to the interviewer’s message. However, if you say to yourself, “This is an area of disagreement for me. I need to stay in active listening,” you will be able to focus on the message and not your internal resistance and judgment.
  • Evaluating and making judgments about the speaker or the message. While the interviewer is busy making subjective judgment about you, you are busy making subjective judgments about her. Judgments can distort how you hear things- both positively and negatively. If you have a positive impression of the interviewer, you might tend to believe what she is saying and not ask clarifying questions. If you judge the interviewer negatively, you might prematurely dismiss what she is saying and not listen fully. Be aware of your judgments, which can be as simple as whether you like or dislike the person, so that you don’t lose the message.
  • Not asking for clarification when you know you don’t understand. Many candidates think that asking for clarification is a signal to the interviewer that they don’t understand and that, as a result, they will appear stupid. A candidate of mine walked out of an interview sweating because the interviewer used an acronym he did not know, and he didn’t ask what it meant. Throughout the interview, the candidate was hoping he wouldn’t be caught; as a result, he was a nervous wreck and performed poorly. It turned out that the acronym was an obscure, little-known term that he couldn’t have known anyway. The interviewer was either impressed the candidate knew or guessed that he was covering up- probably the latter, since there was no job offer.
As it is in all sales situations, listening is the most important activity in a job interview. The more time you spend listening and understanding the job, the better you can match your background, skills and experience to the critical job requirements.