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.


An Interview Presentation is a Targeted Sales Presentation

September 19, 2011

Target for job interview

Use a presentation to target your information to the hiring manager

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, an interview presentation has a defined format (much like a resume does), 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 actively 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.

Read Active Interviewing to Learn How to Present

An interview presentation is a cornerstone strategy of Active Interviewing