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.

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Why is Hiring You A Good Idea- Does the Interviewer Know?

December 3, 2012

Good Idea

Hire You- Good Idea!

Why Hiring You Is a Good Idea

Good salespeople lead a buyer through a sales process toward a purchase. They begin by understanding the buyer’s needs and linking the features of their service to those needs. They then talk about value-adds, tell success stories about purchasers who’ve used their service, provide an implementation plan, and finally summarize why they are the best choice based on the benefits their service provides. Good salespeople understand that prospects won’t understand why they should buy a service simply because they’ve been told about it. Buyers need to be informed very directly, in simple language, of why the salesperson’s service is the best purchasing decision.

The critical element in a purchasing decision is the benefits. No buyer purchases a service without clearly seeing the benefits she will get from the service. But most job candidates focus on the skills and experience they bring to the job and don’t clearly state the benefits the company will derive from hiring them. They never clearly communicate, “This is why hiring me is a good idea.”

Don’t Let Hiring Managers Guess about Hiring You

The traditional interview consists of a question-and-answer format resulting in the hiring manager putting together the information she has heard and making a decision (guess) about which candidate to hire. But why let the hiring manager come to her own conclusion? Following your interview(s), the hiring manager should have a clear picture of why hiring you is a good idea[md]because you have told her exactly why!

Part of your interview preparation is developing a list of the benefits the company will get from hiring you. These benefits are even more powerful if they differentiate you from the competition. Going into an interview with this list of benefits will help you be focused and more confident. However, this list is of value only if you share it with the hiring manager.


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.

Are You Mis-Representing Your Brand? Shame on You!

December 5, 2011

Your Brand Has to Stand Up to Scrutiny

“Let none presume to wear an undeserved dignity.” William Shakespeare

Imagine a company trying to claim a false brand- Philip Morris claiming health, BP claiming safety and corporate responsibility, or Facebook claiming privacy. It wouldn’t work, and it would actually hurt their image. I have led team-building meetings where people shared with their co-workers what they thought their personal brand was. Many got nods of agreement, but many got puzzled looks and even expressions of derision: “Yeah, sure- in your dreams.”

For your brand to be of value, it has to be authentic and true. If you want your brand to be that of a caring leader, you must actually care about people and have good leadership skills. If you want your brand to be as a reliable and trustworthy co-worker, you must be dependable and not break confidences. Everyone wants a positive brand, but you can’t have a positive brand simply by declaring it- you have to deserve it. False personal branding is exposed quickly, resulting in an even worse brand.

During interviews, be prepared with stories and examples that support your brand. If you declare yourself a good communicator, have examples of using communication to achieve a success, and be sure you communicate well during the interview. If you brand yourself an expert[md]which you probably are have stories and examples that support your expertise.

Here is an example of a well-supported brand: One of my clients sold large, expensive medical devices, including MRI machines to hospitals. When developing an interview presentation, he chose the personal brand word “competitive” as one of the terms to represent his brand. I asked, “Joe, every salesperson brands himself as competitive. How are you going to prove your competitive brand?” He replied, “Eric, let me tell you how competitive I am. When I sell large medical equipment, I only have a few competitors. So when I go into a sales situation, I study the hospital to which I am selling, and I study the salespeople against whom I am competing. I know their strengths, weaknesses, track records, and employment history. So not only do I sell to the hospital, but I sell against my competition. In at least two situations, my competition did so poorly that they fired their entire sales staff[md]that’s how competitive I am.” I was convinced!

Active Interviewing

Go to http://www.activeinterviewing.com to learn about using branding in interviews


Are You A Commodity in the Employment Marketplace?

September 30, 2011

Keep Ahead of the Competition

Competition is Fierce

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:

Know Yourself

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.

Once you have determined you value-ads, use an interview presentation to clearly communicate them in your interview. To learn more about value-ads in interviews go to Active Interviewing.

Read Active Interviewing to Learn More About Value-Ads

Read Active Interviewing to Learn More About Value-Ads


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.

InterviewBest

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101 Interview Strategies

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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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