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Interviewing 101 - A Short Course in What an Interview IS and ISN'T

Interviewing is an  ART!
Successful interviewing is an art - not a science.  No one can give you a formula virtually guaranteed to provide a certain outcome. 
  • No one can predict exactly how an interview will go.   
  • No one can give you a fool-proof method for acing every interview.  
Why?  There are too many factors outside of your control, not to mention controlling your own expectations, research ability, and fears and other emotions!

But with a better understanding of the process, a foundation and a grounding in the art of interviewing, and knowledge of what it IS and ISN'T, you increase your chances of staying in the game and ultimately winning the prize  – your new job! 

An Interview is NOT a confrontation
 Recently, I heard a job seeker, inexperienced in the task of searching for a new job, comment, “Interviewing is a confrontation.  Right?”   . . . . . . Wrong! 
     ●  An interview is not a confrontation. 
     ●  Nor is it a round of “20 Questions.” 
     ● And, it is not a “tell-all” on the part of the job seeker.

An Interview IS a conversation
An interview, simply put, is a conversation between 2 or more people who try, through the art of conversation, to learn about each other in order to determine if the job seeker is the right candidate for the job.  There is a give-and-take of information by each, that naturally leads to questions being asked and answered by both throughout the conversational interview.

Interviewing generally goes best when the interviewer and interviewee, or job seeker, view the
Defenses go up in interview!
interview as a conversation - not a confrontation.   Expecting an interview to be an argument between the 2 sides, or expecting to be grilled by an interviewer, sets up defenses on both sides.   

The job seeker, bracing for a round of 20 questions, goes into a defensive posture - guard up.  The interviewer may respond by going on the offensive. 

Take a different tack.  View the interview as a conversation.  
View it as a chance for both parties in the discussion to explore mutual professional interests and get to know each other.  In the more congenial atmosphere of a conversation, both parties can participate in the give-and-take of the normal flow of a conversation, with each strategically revealing information and asking questions.  

There’s less stress, so both parties  . . .
  • Can be more relaxed, 
  • Share information more confidently, and 
  • Put their best foot forward.  Both make a better first impression..

In establishing a firm foundation for better interviewing, understand that there are 4 parts, or stages, of an interview:  The schmooze, the opening, Q&A, and the close.  Here’s what you need to know to move smoothly through each stage.

PART 1:   The Schmooze . . . Small talk counts
It is in Stage 1 where first impressions are established.  You say hello, and rapport is, or is not, developed.  Handshakes count.  Eye contact counts.  Smiles count.  Appearance, both physical and confidence, count.  Small talk counts as you work toward developing a rapport and a positive connection and impression.
Tip 1. Learn to schmooze.  Do your homework:  Find out as much as you can about the firm and your interviewer(s).  But don’t reveal all you know as you say hello - it’s way too much too soon.  But by, for instance, commenting conversationally on a positive showing of the firm’s latest product, or an accomplishment of your interviewer, you help establish a connection, develop rapport, and make a positive first impression.
Tip 2.  Learn when enough is enough!  You can comment on things that impress you about the firm or your interviewers - even a hobby of your interviewer if appropriate, but keep it short.  Your objective is to tell about you - not wind up using 20 of your allotted 45 minutes on his or her hobby.

Part 2:  Opening . . . Interview begins
Stage 2 is where the formal phase of the interview begins.  You can feel the shift away from small talk into information sharing as interviewers begin to talk about the company, its challenges and needs, leading to why the position exists.  More often than not, the most frequently asked interview question pops up here:   “So why don’t you tell me about yourself?”  This question, an ice breaker, gets the ball rolling.
Tip: 1.  Listen to the interviewer’s discourse on the company and take notes.  Obvious –   but the obvious sometimes bears mentioning    what they talk about is important to them.  Use this information when you answer the ice breaker question.  Your interviewer has just revealed needs as he/she sees them, so weave how you have met similar needs into your answer about your work experience and accomplishments.
Tip: 2.  The best answer to the ice-breaker question is your “L”vator speech.  Prepare it ahead of time, practice saying it as often as possible, and adapt it to feature your relevant background and accomplishments in relation to what you have just learned about the firm’s needs and interviewer’s interests.

Part 3:  Q & A
Interviewers have various styles and strategies for questioning candidates. Some ask straight-forward factual questions that can be answered with information only.  Others prefer behavioral questions which require providing an example of you using your skills and achieving results.  Others use a combination of the two styles.
Tip: 1.  Do some homework and learn what questions are at the top of most interviewers’ lists.  Prepare and learn – not memorize    answers ahead of time to these frequently asked
Tip: 2.  Read your resume thoroughly before the interview.  It is amazing how we actually forget what we’ve written on our resumes.  It happens - trust me - so read and review it. 
Tip: 3.  Review the accomplishment statements you have listed and practice telling the story of these accomplishments aloud.

Part 4:  Close . . . Sell yourself
There are 2 closes to the interview - the interviewer’s and yours.  Many, if not most interviews have only one - the interviewer’s.  Here the interviewer thanks the candidate, often talks of where he/she is in the process of interviewing candidates for this position, and tells the candidate, “We’ll be in touch.”
Tip: 1.  Take advantage of this time to offer your close as well.  In sales jargon, this is the first of several opportunities you will have to  “close your sale” and move the action forward to the next step.  Here’s how to Close Your Interview in 4 Steps:
Step 1:  Thank the interviewer(s).
Step 2:  State why you are a good fit for the position.
Step 3:  Express your interest in the position and going forward to the next step enthusiastically.
Step 4:  Find out what the next step is!  If you don’t, you’ll spend the next several days or weeks waiting anxiously by the phone.
Tip: 2.  Close your sale again  - this time in writing.  Send an e-mail, and/or a hard copy of a letter to each interviewer using the 4-step process for closing an interview just described.   
Forgot something? 
     -  Did you forgot to mention a relevant accomplishment in the interview, an experience, or a problem you solved?   
     -  Did you think of a better answer to a question after you said goodbye?   
Your written follow-up Thank You letter gives you another chance to include that information.

Like most things in life, interviewing goes better if you know a little something about what you are doing!  It helps to know that:
     ●  An interview IS a conversation. 
     ●  It is an opportunity for both side to explore and learn what each has to offer the other while
You got the offer!
     ● Strategically revealing information puts your best foot forward.

As we said earlier, to interview successfully, it is essential to have (1) an understanding of the process, (2) a foundation and a grounding in the art of interviewing, and (3) knowledge of what interviewing is and isn’t.  

With this understanding, foundation, and knowledge, you increase your chances of staying in the game and ultimately winning the prize  – your new job!  And, isn’t that what interviewing is all about!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
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