Most job seekers don't have the necessary skills needed to excel in an interview, become a finalist and then win the job. You need training and coaching to help you learn the latest interviewing strategies. You also need to role play an interview with mock interviewers who ask you tough questions and have observers who take notes and give you feedback to improve your performance. But what do you need to know to be successful at the interview game? Here are some elements you have to learn and master:
Types of interviews
Telephone prescreen: This is usually done by an HR person to see if you are a strong enough candidate to be brought in for a face-to-face interview. Here are a few tips for a successful phone interview:
• First, stand up during since it will increase your energy.
• Put up sticky notes on the wall with your key points and answers to tough questions.
• Smile and be enthusiastic since this comes through on the phone.
Face to face: There are three types of face-to-face interviews. Each includes the hiring manager, but others would be involved, such as people from the hiring manager's team, managers from other departments or senior management.
One-on-one interviews: You meet with one person. This is the simplest and easiest type of interview.
Panel interviews: You face a group of people who take turns asking questions. This type of interview can be unnerving since you are facing so many people, but if you remember to just focus on the person asking you a question, you can manage it well. As you get more comfortable, try to look at all the interviewers in the room to connect with them.
Round robin interviews: You are interviewed by several people but one at a time in succession. This makes for a long interview, and you have to pace yourself to maintain a consistent level of energy. After you meet with each person, ask for a break so you can get some water, get your center and relax before you face the next person in line.
Four stages of interview
Open the interview: When you first see the interviewer, introduce yourself and shake hands. As you do, say hello and use the interviewer's name. Then give your name and the title of the job you're interviewing for. Finally, ask the interviewer if he/she has a copy of your resume and if not, make sure you have extra copies available to give him/her and anyone else on the interview team.
Do brief ice breakers for 1 to 2 minutes at the beginning to help you and the interviewer feel more comfortable.
Ask stage-setting questions that will lay the foundation for the interview. First, ask the hiring manager to leave you 10 to 15 minutes at the end of the interview to ask questions about the company and the job. During this time, you'll also want to show samples of your work and tell a compelling story about why each one was needed, the action you took to create it and the benefit/value it produced.
Get a thumbnail sketch of the duties and responsibilities of the job from the hiring manager. It's possible that the job duties have changed since the original job description was written, and if you learn of some new requirements, you can address them during the interview.
Conduct the interview
• When you're asked a question, take your time and think before answering.
• Take notes during the interview so you can properly assess whether the job, manager/co-workers and company are a good fit for you.
• Use the Situation, Action, Benefit (SAB) technique to structure your answer, and keep your response time to about 30 to 45 seconds: Situation (What happened), Action (What you did), Benefit (Benefit to you, co-workers, manager/company, customer/supplier).
The trick is to keep the Situation part of your answer short and to the point. Say what happened quickly, and then get right to the most compelling part of your answer, which is the Action and Benefit. Tell the story like you're reliving it in the present; it makes it more compelling and is easily remembered.
Closing the 'sale'
Ask the hiring manager the following questions. "Based on our discussion, my resume and my portfolio examples, do you think I'm a good fit for the job?" If the answer is yes, ask "Do you have any reservations or concerns about me in this job?" If he says yes, provide examples from your work history to eliminate these concerns. Keep asking this question until there are no more reservations. Remember, these reservations might not be in the hiring manager's consciousness at the end of the interview but often surface later to eliminate you from contention. If you address them before leaving and resolve them, you win. Now you want to find out what the next steps are and when the process will be completed.
It's time to shake hands, thank the interviewer, and then present your sales pitch to end the interview and leave the interviewer a strong image of your value and fit for the job. Keep this short, and make it compelling and memorable.
Tips and strategies
• First, speak as if you're talking to your best friend. This will make you look friendly, and people hire people they like.
• Be sure to smile and maintain eye contact. Show enthusiasm in your voice, and vary your tone of voice to keep it lively.
• Maintain good posture and avoid fidgeting. It's distracting.
• For tough questions, take five seconds to think of an answer before responding so you can think of a good answer.
• Keep you answers short and concise to be effective.
• Use concrete work examples to support your answers, and include quantifiable accomplishments whenever possible.
• Address the question from the employer's perspective, and provide enough detail so interviewers don't have to dig to get the information they want.
• Answer the "What is your greatest weakness?" question with a weakness that you have worked on and overcome.
• Practice answering questions with family and friends to get feedback on your performance, or leave a voice mail for yourself with the answer to see how it sounds to you.
• Don't forget to send the interviewer a hand-written thank you note.
Larry LaBelle is president of Training Tamer, which provides comprehensive training, coaching and support for job seekers, HR staffers and hiring managers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Training Tamer, visit trainingtamer.com or call (813) 924-8404.