Congratulations on your interview! Getting to this point is half the battle, but there’s still more work to be done. Maureen Taylor, founder of SNP Communications, is here to guide you through the next part.
Give yourself a high five! Or a big hug! Getting the interview is the win, both for a prospective employer and for you. Both sides are hopeful, nervous and (perhaps) frustrated. But both sides would love the time together to be well spent and successful.
Let’s talk about you (you can only control you, after all) and what you can do to use the time well. Whether you are a recent grad interviewing for your first real job, or a CEO candidate, the same rules apply, and there are three of them:
- Adopt an ‘it’s not about you’ attitude
- Remember that the interviewer is a human (usually)
What does that mean? Find out who they are and prepare three smart questions. Then, mine your experience for the stories that exhibit your strengths.
Who are they? Find out about the company. This is not for you to show off what you’ve read. Rather, it’s for you to prepare smart questions. For example, if the company is talking about going public, you should know enough to ask, ‘How is your news about working towards an IPO impacting operations?’ (or whatever area you are applying for).
Prepare three smart questions based on what you’ve learned. You’ll show that you know something about the company but, more importantly, you could ignite an interesting conversation.
Also, prepare three interesting work experiences that exhibit your strengths (for example, organisation, management, dealing with conflict, managing change). Jot down the experience and the three main points that made it successful.
Practise telling the story out loud and make sure it doesn’t last more than thirty seconds. If you keep it high-level, the interviewer can always ask you for more detail. This shows that they are interested. It’s better that they show interest rather than you tell more than you need to.
And, when you answer their follow-up question, you get to speak about something that’s relevant to them, not your best guess about what they might want to know. Shorter descriptions and responses are better. But brevity takes prep. Mark Twain said: “If you want a three-hour speech, I can give it right now. If you want a three-minute speech, it will take me three weeks.”
Interviewing isn’t about you (at least, not only about you)
It’s about the interviewer. Put yourself in their shoes.
Who are they and what do they care about? If they are a recruiter, they are paid to fill the job. If they are internal, they might be a prospective teammate. Either way, they don’t want to mess up.
Make it pleasant and easy for them. Be interested. If you want them to connect with you, be totally present. When they talk, listen. That means that you can’t start thinking of the answer to the question while the interviewer is still talking. You’ll miss the point of the question. Actually listen. If you are prepped, your answer will come.
As you talk, the interviewer is also considering whether you are the solution to their problem. Listen to find out what their problem is, and try to discuss with them ideas that could be helpful. And, again, be pithy! Give short, succinct statements so they can ask you more.
Being fully present, listening (and only listening) when the interviewer is talking, and delivering digestible, relevant information is hard. But these are skills that can be learned and practised outside the interviewing setting. For the sake of your interviewer (who this is really all about), practise.
Interviewers are humans
Treat them accordingly!
Interviewers shouldn’t necessarily, but absolutely do, make snap judgments about potential candidates based on how they conduct themselves, from the lobby at the beginning of an interview to the elevator at the end.
As casual as the environment might seem, an interview is not a social hour. ‘Relaxed’ can be deceptive, so use your common sense. Take the tempo cue from them. For example, if their ‘music’ is jazz, don’t start playing a polka! Avoid negative talk about current or old roles. That just tells them how you might talk about them in a few years. And it’s just bad form.
Connection matters. Be conscious of the connection from the moment you meet them until you say goodbye. Good manners go a long way. So, do your handshake (remember, you have bones in your fingers!), make eye contact (they are the window to the soul) and speak up (don’t mumble, volume makes everything more interesting).
Always thank them for their time, it’s their most valuable resource. And, of course, send them a thank you note.
By Maureen Taylor
Maureen Taylor is co-founder and CEO of SNP Communications. Headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in New York and Dublin, SNP’s mission is to search the world for good people and help them make their truth persuasive.
Maureen Taylor will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to join us from 6 to 8 July in Dublin.