Regardless of your educational background, degrees, work experience or accomplishments, your future employment depends on one thing: how well you can sell.
I'm not talking about selling a specific product or service. I mean selling yourself and your ideas. Your ability to do this will determine whether or not you get the job.
Selling is simply effective communication, and the first rule in communication is that people prefer talking to listening.
So, success in a job interview is determined by your ability to get the interviewer talking. It's her job to get information from you, but that isn't what will get you the job.
That's because, in a typical job interview, the interviewer asks all the questions and you do all the talking. Sure, she needs to know about your background, education and experience. But as you're rambling on and on saying the same things every other job applicant says, she's wondering how quickly she can terminate the interview so she can get on to more important things.
Using some principles, you can gain control of the conversation, get the interviewer talking and glean the information you need to succeed in the interview and get the job.
The following are seven insights for job interviews:
One: The first few seconds of the interview are critical - the way you look, dress, say "Hello" and shake hands. These give the interviewer clues about your personality, social skills, confidence and experience. To make a positive first impression, use these seven tips:
- Smile (the universal sign of friendship).
- Be sincerely interested in others.
- Talk in terms of others' interests. Remember your interviewer always has time to talk about what she wants to talk about.
- Say their name. The sweetest sound in any language is the sound of a person's name. Overusing someone's name, however, is worse than not using it at all. We've all been in situations where an overzealous salesperson uses the other person's name ad nauseam. Use the interviewer's name, but do it judiciously.
- Compliment. Don't comment on frivolous things like the art on the wall, fish in an aquarium or trophy on the desk. Come prepared to offer two sincere compliments to your interviewer - on his position, achievements, promotions, or about the company's recent success.
- Be a good listener. I've never heard an interviewer say, "This applicant listened too much."
- Make the other person feel important. Do it sincerely.
Two: This is when the interviewer determines if the applicant is qualified. Typically the interviewer asks a question about the applicant's past experience, background, etc., and the applicant rattles on and on, instead of just answering the question. To be successful, you're going to need to gain control of the communication process by asking questions and getting the interviewer talking.
One of the biggest mistakes applicants make is asking closed-ended questions that turn the interview into an interrogation. Avoid questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no" response. Rudyard Kipling once wrote, "I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When, and How and Where and Who." Almost any closed-ended question can be easily transformed into an open-ended question with the use of one of these words.
Three: In this step, you'll determine if the position fits you and your qualifications. Don't jump to conclusions about the information or questions you may get from the interviewer. Several years ago, a friend of mine applied for a senior management position. During the interview, the interviewer asked questions that didn't seem to relate to the position. Later my friend learned from the interviewer that he was more qualified for another senior level position and was subsequently hired to fill it. If the position doesn't fit, or you're not interested in it, however, gracefully terminate the interview.
Four: You are the company you're selling. Begin with something like, "Linda, let me tell you a little about myself."
The following are areas to cover during this step because they are questions the interviewer will likely have on her mind: "I don't know who you are," "I don't know your background," "I don't know your education," "I don't know what you stand for," "I don't know your past employers," "I don't know your track record," "I don't know your reputation" and "Now, why should I hire you?"
Five: In a selling situation, this is where you would talk about your product or service. However, on a job interview, you are the product/service. Therefore, relate how your education, experience, background, etc., will benefit the company with a series of feature-benefit-reaction sequences. "My experience working with multiple channel distribution in the Northwest (feature) will allow me to immediately impact sales in this important territory (benefit). How would that help you achieve your sales goals for the first quarter?" (reaction)
Now you'll utilize the information you obtained through listening and questioning in the first four steps. Come prepared with a standard list of three or four feature-benefit-reaction sequences (keeping your reaction questions open-ended), then customize them based on the information you gathered. Conclude this step by asking, "What questions do you have?" At this point, you can inquire about compensation and estimated start date, "When would you like the new person to start?"
Six: Now use this closing statement: "If I can arrange my schedule to start on the date you would like, can you think of any reason why you wouldn't hire me?" The wording of this statement should be exactly as I've stated - concise and to the point. You're not asking for a determination that you're qualified or that the interviewer is interested in hiring you - it's simply a mutual agreement to move forward. If you get an objection such as, "I have several more interviews scheduled," or "I want to give it more thought," acknowledge the objection with "I see," "I understand," or "I can appreciate that."
Seven: Regardless of whether you get the job, cement the relationship by expressing your appreciation and thanking the interviewer for her time and interest. Follow up the interview with a handwritten, mailed thank you card. It shows you are a professional, and it's something tangible the interviewer can keep for future reference.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.