How to Win at the Interview

June 24, 2009 by Rose Cook

With U.S. unemployment rates at a 26-year high (9.4% in May),  it’s prudent for everyone –  unemployed or not –  to keep their interview skills in tip-top shape.  Read on for a different perspective…
So, you’re fortunate enough to have landed an interview this week.  How do you prepare?  Yes, you should research the company’s product line, history, financials, etc.  Yes, you should know your own resume inside and out.  This is the obvious “no-brainer” stuff.  Every well-prepared candidate will be on par with you here.

Assuming all the candidates are equally qualified, how do you get the edge?  What’s the differentiating factor to get you to the top of the list?  Ready for the big secret?!….  If they like you, they’re more likely to offer you the position. OK, maybe you were hoping for something much more profound.  Hear me out.
There’s an important “human relations” aspect to the interview process that we sometimes take for granted.  It’s easy to get so focused on touting your qualifications and overlook the importance of establishing rapport.  It may not even be a conscious decision on the interviewers’ parts, but if they don’t connect with you on some level, they are not likely to offer you the position.
While I’ve always been a fan of Dale Carnegie’s success principles, only last week did I read his bestseller “How to Win Friends & Influence People” cover to cover.  I’m amazed at how relevant his 1936 teachings are today.  Proves how timeless these principles are.  Do yourself a favor and read his book before your next interview.  It’s a terrific reminder (with many practical examples) about the importance of good listening skills and how critical they are to human relationships.  I’ve incorporated some of his key concepts in my suggestions below.
I know what you’re thinking… “But I only have 30 minutes with these hiring managers.  I want to make sure they know about all the skills I have to offer.”  Here’s my advice to you:  Resist the urge to do an all-out sales pitch about your entire resume!  The interviewers just want to know about the parts that are relevant to their specific needs.  How will you know what those needs are when you are too busy talking and pitching?
Ask relevant questions and encourage the interviewers to talk about themselves, their business, and their particular needs.  Then, LISTEN.  And, do it with genuine interest.  When you truly understand what they want, then you can elaborate on how your skills can help them solve their problems and ultimately ease their pain.  When they feel understood, they end up liking you.  Their confidence in you goes sky high and they see you as the right person for the job!  This is how you win at the interview!
Still not convinced?  Think about your personal friends for a minute…  Who are you the most fond of?  Is it John who’s always willing to lend a listening ear?  Is it Jill who is truly interested in what you have to say?  Is it Tom who remembers your favorite food or favorite author?  When someone makes you feel important (in a sincere way and with genuine interest), you just can’t help but like the person.  Every individual wants to be heard and understood.  It’s a basic human need.  There’s so much power to the simple act of listening, yet it’s not practiced often enough.  
So next time you are on an interview (or engaged in any other conversation for that matter!) rather than trying real hard to get others interested in YOU, try a different approach and put the focus on THEM.  You’ll be amazed at the results!

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