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.
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Did You Know That Actively Selling Yourself Wins Interviews?

April 16, 2012

Companies acquire talent the same way as they acquire any other service, and job seekers benefit by taking an active sales-oriented approach and using sales techniques in their job search. Using a sales approach will empower you to be more assertive, directed, and organized in your search. The more you use these skills, the more interviews you will be invited to. And the more interviews you have, the more interview practice you will get[md]and the more skilled you will become.

The benefits of using a sales approach include the following

*     You will have a well-defined service you are selling to the job marketplace and a strong set of marketing and sales documents.

*     You will be more focused on establishing a good sales process and less focused on the outcome of landing a job. Focusing on the process rather than the outcome will improve your chances of landing a job.

*     Companies know how to purchase services, and if you use a sales approach, it will be easier for them to purchase your services.

*     Many candidates have a hard time “bragging” about themselves in an interview. Selling is not bragging, and it will empower you to present your most commanding reasons for why you should be selected for the position.

*     You will have a better answer to questions regarding your strengths and weaknesses.

You have all the selling skills you need to do well in interviews, you just need to learn how to apply the skills!


Interviewing? Know What Your Selling!

March 5, 2012

active interviewingWhat Are You Selling?

Most job seekers can easily classify their professional identity and what their services generally include- for example, they may be an IT project manager, a banquet chef, a state representative legislative aide, a stockbroker selling energy stocks, a brand manager for consumer packaged goods, or an accountant. However, most job seekers do not sufficiently define the full range of services they provide, including intangibles that make them successful at the job. In addition to high-quality services, in a competitive marketplace intangible success factors differentiate you from your competition.

Services, Features, and Benefits

In defining your services, think like a business. What is the full range of features and benefits you offer? One business might differentiate itself by promising outstanding customer service, or it might offer a highly specialized component of the service that other companies do not have. One business might offer the base service but have ancillary services that add value and tip the buying decision in its favor. For example, a veterinarian might provide excellent pet care but may also have a mobile van for house calls.

What is the full range of base and add-on services you provide? For example, one of my clients was applying for a position as a manufacturing-plant manager. The position to which he was applying did not include reading blueprints or managing construction in the job description; however, during his interview he spoke about how he learned to read blueprints and manage construction contractors after having been involved in building a plant. The interviewer told him, “That’s great! We’re not currently building, but we anticipate that within 18 months, we will be expanding our current plant or building a new plant.” My client was hired

As another example, a client was applying for a staff accounting position. During his interview, he spoke about having been involved in evaluating, selecting, and implementing an accounting system. The posted job requirements did not include selection and implementation of accounting systems; however, coincidently, the company was beginning to consider purchasing an accounting system. My client was hired.


Are You an Expert? Probably, So Say So!

February 23, 2012

active interviewingWhen I’m helping clients with resumes and preparing them for interviews, I often get into a debate about using the word “expert.” Clients are concerned about overstating their skill and experience, coming off as immodest or arrogant, and turning off the hiring manager. But there is a difference between being the expert and being an expert. I contend that anyone with three or more years of experience in a profession is probably an expert.

Dictionary.com defines an expert as “a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority.” This is differentiated from a novice, who is “new to any science or field of study or activity or social cause and is undergoing training to meet normal requirements of being regarded a mature and equal participant.”

Marie-Line Germain, assistant professor of human resources and leadership at Western Carolina University, developed a measure of perception of employee expertise called the Generalized Expertise Measure (GEM). Ask yourself whether you meet the following criteria for being an expert. Borrowing a line from a well-known comedian, you might be an expert if:

     *     You have knowledge specific to a field of work.

     *     You have the education necessary to be an expert in the field.

     *     You have the qualifications (certifications, licensure) required to be an expert in the field.

     *     You have been trained in the area of expertise.

     *     You are ambitious about your work.

     *     You can assess whether a work-related situation is important.

     *     You are capable of improving yourself.

     *     You can deduce things easily from work-related situations.

     *     You are intuitive in the job.

     *     You have the drive to become what you are capable of becoming in your field.

     *     You are self-assured.

     *     You are self-confident about your profession.

Using these criteria, the term “expert” can be applied to any job. A janitor can be an expert at janitorial services, just as a lawyer can be an expert at criminal law. If you qualify as an expert in your field, include that in your self-image and your brand and communicate your expert status to the world and your interviewer.

Active Interviewing

Go to http://www.activeinterviewing.com to learn how to sell in your interview


Do You Interview to “The Ask”?

September 22, 2011

Sell to the Ask

What's the "Ask"?

Tom Searchy, a master sales person, tells sales people to “sell to the ask”. He is referring to what the customer wants to do next- which may be considerably less than you want. For example you may want a signed contract and the buyer wants to have you present to the next higher decision maker. Or, you may want a full blown program and the customer wants a pilot program. Searchy states that when you sell past the ask you are moving too quickly, asking too much, and you will create resistance in the customer. Moving too fast indicates you don’t understand his needs or the culture of the company and trust is shot.

The same is true in interviewing, don’t interview past the “ask”. In your interview, ask questions to understand the “ask”- what are the next step in the interview process, who will be a part of it, and how long it will take. If the next step is a second round of interviews, don’t try to sell yourself into the position. Getting to the second round of interviews is your “ask”.

Here are some examples:

In a phone screening interview you just have to qualify for a face to face interview. There is no reason to give all the details of your work history and sell yourself into the position, you just have to communicate that you are qualified for the job and you are someone who should be considered further. The screener’s “ask”  is simply winnowing down the slate of candidates and then sending the qualified candidates on to the hiring manager. Once you get a feeling that the screener considers you a good candidate, become more relaxed less salesy and more conversational/relational. One way to do this would be to ask question of the screener- how do they like the company, how long they have been there and so on.

In a first round of a multi-round interview process, don’t talk about getting the position, talk about being invited to the next round. So instead of asking, “Am I someone you can see on your team?”, ask “Am I one of the candidates that will be asked back for a second round of interviews?”  Asking to be considered for the position is a commitment that you have not earned. However, you may have earned a second interview.

By keeping the “ask” in mind, you will go at the hiring manager’s speed, you will not come off as pushy or arrogant and you will develop a winning level of trust.

Active Interviewing

Go to http://www.activeinterviewing.com to learn more interview winning strategies


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.

iBest Presentation
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Focus on Your Contributions to the Company to Win Your Interview

June 22, 2011

Focus

Focus on Them

Focus on the buyer

Nobody cares about services or solutions. That’s the hardest thing for sellers to realize. Buyers only care about the benefits the services or solutions will provide his or her organization. Similarly, buyers don’t care about the gains a salesperson makes from a sale. Would you be more motivated to buy if a salesperson said to you “Buy this car and I will make my quota for the month, I will get a bonus, and I can finally put that addition on my house”, probably not!

If you mention to a hiring manager that the job is a good career move for you, it is a shorter commute, and it is a higher salary with better benefits, they’re not interested. Focus on them, talk about the tangible outcomes they’d get from using your skills and they will be interested. In interviewing, focus on your value to the organization. Avoid talking about how the job will benefit you.

For example, if asked where you want to be in five years rather than talking about the progress of your own career, relate your answer to the organization. “In five years I want to have taken on more responsibility in the organization and have increased the value I bring to the job.” Similarly, if the interviewer asks “Why should I hire you?” focus your answer on the benefits you will bring to the organization in general and the hiring manager specifically.

InterviewBest

Use an interview presentation to communicate your value

101 Interview Strategies

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