Monday, December 9, 2013

Three Most Critical Components of the Interview

I can go on and on with advice and I do, every week. Of the many things I suggest, there are three things people fail to do that are critical to one’s interview success. As a result, many people doom their own chances right from the start and later scratch their heads wondering what went wrong. These three seemingly obvious measures are not mere window dressing for appearances; they are integral steps without which you’re barely going through the motions.
The interview process is, in many ways, a ritualistic event; styles and methods can vary but hiring officials are watching for and expecting certain rudimentary steps, a checklist of sorts. The three components to which I am referring, that you ignore at your own risk  are one each before, during and at the end of the interview. They need to be a part of your own ritual and applied to every interview in which you participate, throughout your entire career. If you’re looking for shortcuts, the Internet already provides you with plenty but, at some point, you must personally engage and participate directly, face to face. But if that’s too much for you and you want the easy way out, if you want to zombie walk your way through life, get a government job.
For those who want to better influence their own fate, here they are:
Interview Prep – Before your interview, invest 30 or more minutes to learn about the company and, when possible, the division or group, however narrow you can focus your inquiries. It’s all available online. Start with the company website, look for new products or services, check out press releases, etc. During the interview you are very likely to be asked, “what do you know about our company?” and/or, “tell me why you’d like to work for our company?” These are a couple of basic questions and a threshold you need to meet and get beyond. “It’s a great company” will not cut it. Or take it even further; whenever possible, you might even find a career bio of a hiring official with whom you may meet. Who knows, maybe you’ll find some commonalities, such as having attended the same university, both served in the military, similar interests or something else potentially helpful. Do your homework before you shake hands at the interview.
Ask Questions – refer to my previous blog entry for more on this one but, suffice to say that if you don’t have any questions, you’re either lazy or not as interested as you claim to be and that is precisely the impression the interviewer will have. This is another critical interview threshold if you want to be taken seriously, and how will you know the right time to ask? In most interviews it is pretty obvious, and it’s near the end of the interview and sounds like this, “Do you have any questions?” Or preferably, simply be engaged in an interactive discussion and ask when the feeling hits you. Just be sure to do it before you shake their hand and depart.
Ask for the next step – a somewhat ritualistic threshold telling you it is near the end of the interview is when they ask if you have any remaining questions. So I have one more for you to ask; your final question should be, “What’s the next step?” And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a most critical threshold, indicating your interest in continuing. Or -- you can blend into the background, like countless others who leave and are quickly forgotten after they depart, by saying, “um, uh well, I hope I hear from you.”
Each of these three is important, but each is more critical than the previous. My book provides many more details and variations for these and a long list of other steps to improve your odds of being noticed. And if you’re noticed, you’ll stand out from the legions of others trudging along and competing for the same jobs by doing the bare minimum. Be different to make a difference. If you’re serious about your career you may have only one shot at a good opportunity, so don’t squander it. In my vocabulary, regret is a dirty word.
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