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.
When customers purchase services (including yours), they typically ask six basic questions. These are the questions you will be answering as well in your interviews. The actual questions asked may differ in format or content; however, the underlying information remains the same.
* Who is [company]? Customers are asking about industries or markets served, geographic presence, a layman’s expression of the value created, time in business, and the size of the company.
* What do you do for customers? Customers are asking about the value the company delivers and the top two or three ways customers benefit from it.
* Who are your top customers, and what do you do for them specifically? Customers are asking for more specific proof or evidence that substantiates the company’s claims of the value they deliver
* How are you different from other companies who do similar things? The customer wants to learn the differences between the products or services the company provides and those offered by competitors. It is an attempt to clarify why selecting the company is the best choice.
* Others have made convincing promises about these things and then not delivered. How can we be sure that you will do what you say? Customers have experience purchasing services that did not deliver the value promised, and they are concerned about being subjected to or persuaded by a clever sales pitch. They have been burned, and they are wary.
* How can we be sure that we would get the best value if we selected you? Customers have multiple companies from which to choose. Asking this question forces a company to make comparisons with competitors and helps clarify the selection decision.
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.
In a competitive and crowded marketplace, every product and service must differentiate itself. It is not enough to be simply as good as all the rest, because there are too many “all the rests” in the market. In addition, with easy access to cheap (or even free) Internet advertising, there is a great deal of advertising that makes differentiating services and determining buying decisions difficult- just think of all the pop-up ads you see online. In the employment marketplace, this is exemplified by the tens of thousands of job sites and hundreds of resumes submitted over the Internet in response to advertised jobs. To rise above the flood of advertising, successful companies establish powerful branding and distinct value-adds. You can adopt the same strategy to rise above the flood of your competition in the employment marketplace.
A value-add refers to an extra feature of a service that goes beyond the standard expectations and provides a more compelling reason to purchase. A value-add makes the service more desirable and positively influences the buying decision. However, a value-add has no value if it is not in addition to good service. Always having on-time delivery does not make a difference if the pizza tastes terrible.
The worst position for a service is to be a commodity. A service is a commodity when it is equivalent no matter who provides it. A provider of a commodity service is easily exchanged for another provider of the same service who offers a lower price. For example, many dry cleaners provide a commodity service. Customers will change to another dry cleaner if they can find one that costs less. In the employment marketplace, many employees[md]even mid- and senior-level employees[md]are commodities in that they provide a service that can be replaced easily. In bad economies, companies replace more expensive “commodity” employees with cheaper employees. Are you a commodity in the employment marketplace?
If you are a commodity, it will be difficult to differentiate yourself in interviews. However, most of us are not commodities we just have not deteremined out value-adds. To determine your value-adds:
Take a complete inventory of your skills. Do not limit the inventory to skills applicable to the job for which you are interviewing; do a full inventory. This inventory should include skills connected to your job, interests, hobbies, and leisure activities. When you have a full inventory, you can choose which skills serve as value-adds for the job for which you’re applying.
Know Your Profession
Every profession has a number of areas of concentration and a large skill base. For example, within human resources, you might be applying to be a compensation manager. However, the human resources field has a number of other specialty areas and required skills, such as diversity management, employee retention, job-task analysis, and international employment. You might have experience in international employment, and even though you’re applying to be a compensation manager, having international employment experience could be a differentiating value-add for a multinational company or a company that is expanding internationally.
With our economy it is difficult to just get a job interview and with so many applicants interviewing for the same spots, it is important to find a way to edge out the competition and win the job.
Luckily, there is a new and inexpensive resource for job seekers to use when preparing and presenting themselves at their next interview; the iBest Presentation.
The iBest Presentation, featured on InterviewBest.com, is an interview tool that assists job candidates to communicate their job specific qualifications and personal attributes during the job interview. Not only does it quickly and clearly show the interviewer how they fit each requirement, but also leaves a powerful impression of professionalism and enthusiasm for the job.
“It’s really designed to create a conversation,” said Eric Kramer career expert and creator of InterviewBest and the iBest Presentation. “The best interview you can have is a conversation rather than the typical interrogation.”
Kramer said that the design of the presentation is based on his belief that every interview is, essentially, a sales call. Therefore, Kramer said candidates should enter each interview with a sales style presentation that clearly answers the three main questions of all job interviews—can the candidate do the job well, are they motivated, and will they fit the company’s work environment.
The iBest Presentation
The iBest Presentation is a brief eight to ten pages in length, beginning with the requirements of the position and the candidate’s qualifications that directly match those requirements. The interviewer can read through the booklet to find the candidate’s personal strengths, career accomplishments, and a 30 and 60 day strategic action plan detailing the candidate’s initial goals. It finishes with a list of reasons the candidate should be hired and questions the candidate has for the interviewer.
How do I prepare?
When candidates walk into an interview, Kramer said only about 25 percent are fully prepared. He said that many do not do the necessary company research or prepare for difficult questioning. By creating the iBest presentation, Kramer said applicants walk in with a clearer assessment of the job, the company, and how they specifically fulfill the requirements of the position.
Janice Bilotti, who successfully used the iBest Presentation while interviewing for a Customer Service Supervisor position at Jones Apparel Group, said that the presentation enabled her to be prepared for the interview in addition to keeping her thoughts organized during the interview.
“iBest helps to make sure you cover the most important things that you want to discuss,”
she said, “because now it’s right there in writing and it organizes you during the interview as well as beforehand.”
Bilotti introduced her presentation in the interview when the interviewer asked her to describe herself. Pulling out iBest, Bilotti said that she and the interviewer read through it, touching on the important points she felt the company needed to know about her qualifications.
“It keeps you focused,” she said. “It makes you talk about what you want to focus on when you’re having your interview with the company.”
Bilotti said that her presentation impressed both of the individuals who interviewed her, adding that she didn’t think they had seen anything like it before.
It's a win and a job
Bilotti got a call later that same day with a job offer.
In addition to the iBest Presentation, InterviewBest.com has information for anyone involved in the interview process including candidates and hiring managers. Information includes links and tips for things to do before, during, and after the interview. The site also includes information about how to conduct an interview and ways to improve the selection process.
To create an iBest Presentation, job-seekers can go to http://www.InterviewBest.com and find an easy-to-use program that automatically generates a presentation as they add text. Included are expert libraries with phrases or words suggested for use in presentations. These libraries make developing an iBest quick and efficient. Once the presentation is made, users can either print it at home or take it to a local office supply store for professional binding.
Bilotti said that she would use the iBest Presentation in any future interview due to the positive impact it had on her last one.
“…It sets you apart,” she said. “Very few people would even go to that point of having a presentation much less having one of this quality.”
Go to InterviewBest for a Free Trial of iBest
Buy the book that will help you win your interview
It isn’t a news flash that job are scarce, competition is stiff and companies are more selective. Here is the news flash- there is a unique approach to preparing for and managing a job interview that will differentiate you, impress the interviewer, give you more confidence, and win the interview; a job interview presentation.
Imagine a structured tool that walks you through preparing for an interview, focuses your thinking about the critical requirements of the position, helps you develop a strategic action plan and then prints out a professional presentation that you can take to your interview. Would that tool improve your chances of acing the interview, you bet it does!
Here are some typical questions about using an interview presentation:
Who Controls the Job Interview?
Won’t it take control away from the interviewer and don’t they mind?
Let me answer this question with a question, who is in control of a sales call the salesperson or the customer? Neither, it is a shared responsibility of the salesperson and the customer to make sure the customer ends up with the best product or service to meet their need. The ultimate choice resides with the customer but the salesperson needs to do a great job presenting their product/service. Also, the customer has to give the salesperson the information and opportunity to do a great presentation. Every good salesperson goes into a sales call prepared to do an excellent sales presentation. Every customer expects the sales person to do a great sales presentation. Customers like good sales presentations it helps them make purchasing decisions. Clear enough? Interviewers like interview presentations, it gives them the information they need to make a hiring decision.
I am not a good presenter, should I still use an interview presentation? When used correctly, an interview presentation creates a powerful “hiring conversation”. So even if you are not a skilled presenter, an interview presentation will be of great benefit. The presentation provides talking points and guides the interview to focus on content you want the interviewer to know. It also serves as a great leave behind.
How do I know what to put in the interview presentation?
Fortunately, this is the easiest part. Simply go to www.interviewbest.com and use the iBest Presentation tool to guide you through developing a presentation (full disclosure- this writer is affiliated with InterviewBest). It can take as little as 30-40 minutes to develop a professional presentation.
Take the Risk
So here is the big question; why aren’t more people using it? Well it is new, it is different, it is not well know (hence this blog entry) and many people are hesitant to take a risk on a new approach to the old job interview. But think about it, doesn’t using a presentation in a job interview just make good sense? And where is the risk? Develop a presentation, get the great preparation, and then decide whether or not to use it in the interview.
An interview presentation is a new “technology” you can apply to the job interview. Walking into an interview and putting a professional presentation on the table lets the interviewer know you are prepared, motivated, professional and qualified. All the information they need to say “your hired”.