You'd be surprised how much money we lose by arranging interviews
for candidates who are ill-prepared, poorly dressed, and lacking in the
basic interviewing skills required to compete in a tight employment
market. In our daily activities on a desk, we're so busy marketing our
service and digging for new referrals that we sometimes forget that it's
the successful interview that ultimately pays the rent. All too often,
candidate preparation gets put on the back burner.
I've found that I can increase my sendout-to-placement ratio by making
certain my candidates are well prepared prior to their interviews. To do
so means taking the necessary time to help them understand the
fundamentals of a successful interview.
In addition, I ask my candidates to read two of the Career Development
Reports I've written, entitled "Seven Keys to Interview Preparation" and
"How to Master the Art of Interviewing." These 2,000-word essays
reinforce the messages I've communicated with them verbally, and at the
same time enhance my credibility and professional image, since people
generally respect the authority of the printed word. Here are a few
excerpts from the Reports, as told to the candidate:
Fundamentals of a Successful Interview
To a large degree, the success of your interview will depend on your
ability to discover needs and empathize with the interviewer. You can do
this by asking questions that verify your understanding of what the
interviewer has just told you, without editorializing, or expressing an
opinion. By establishing empathy in this manner, you'll be in a better
position to freely exchange ideas, and demonstrate your suitability for
In addition to establishing empathy, there are four intangible
fundamentals to a successful interview. These intangibles will influence
the way your personality is perceived, and will affect the degree of
rapport, or personal chemistry you'll share with the employer.
1. Enthusiasm. Leave no doubt as to your level of interest in the job.
You may think it's unnecessary to do this, but employers often choose
the more enthusiastic candidate in the case of a two-way tie. Besides,
it's best to keep your options open -- wouldn't you rather be in a
position to turn down an offer, than have a prospective job evaporate
from your grasp by giving a lethargic interview?
2. Technical interest. Employers look for people who love what they do;
people who get excited by the prospect of tearing into the nitty-gritty
of the job.
3. Confidence. No one likes a braggart, but the candidate who's sure of
his or her abilities will almost certainly be more favorably received.
4. Intensity. The last thing you want to do is come across as "flat" in
your interview. There's nothing inherently wrong with being a laid-back
person; but sleepwalkers rarely get hired.
Both for your sake and the employer's, try not to leave an interview
without exchanging fundamental information. The more you know about each
other, the more potential you'll have for establishing rapport, and
making an informed decision.
The Short and Long of It
There are two ways to answer interview questions: the short version and
the long version. When a question is open-ended, I always suggest to
candidates that they say, "Let me give you the short version. If we need
to explore some aspect of my answer more fully, I'd be happy to go into
greater depth, and give you the long version."
The reason you should respond this way is because it's often difficult
to know what type of answer each question will need. A question like,
"What was your most difficult assignment?" might take anywhere from
thirty seconds to thirty minutes to answer, depending on the detail you
choose to give.
Therefore, you must always remember that the interviewer is the one who
asked the question. So you should tailor your answer to what he or she
needs to know, without a lot of extraneous rambling or superfluous
explanation. Why waste time and create a negative impression by giving a
sermon when a short prayer would do just fine?