OK. So you have spent time pulling an awesome resume together and have researched and sourced companies leveraged your network and … behold! you are invited in for an interview. Let's take a look at the types of interviews and some strategies which will help increase your probabilities of success in each situation.
- The Telephone Interview: These days, an ever increasing number of companies are screening candidates on the phone prior to inviting them in for a face-to-face meeting. This has some distinct disadvantages – as well as some unique advantages.
- Disadvantages: Nothing beats pressing the flesh. The greatest communicators are as adept at speaking with their body language as they are with words. The phone removes that advantage. As a result, it is far more difficult to express passion, enthusiasm, and other non-verbal clues that can add life to a discussion that is filled with empirical data. Likewise, it is harder for the candidate to "read" the body language of the interviewer. Also, most people have different phone personalities than they do in person. I've met people that have had the personality of a brick on the phone while displaying a very charismatic in-person presence. Likewise, I've met some that are very fluid and expressive on the phone, yet shy and withdrawn in person.
- Advantages: Unlike a face interview, the candidate can have unlimited resources at his or her disposal. Your resume can be laid out in front of you for quick reference. You can have strategy notes in front of you. You can have internet access to the company website along with job descriptions, company data and Executive Bio's at your finger tips.
- Strategies: Concentrate on being expressive in tonality and succinct in communication. One way to see this in action is to turn on your radio and listen to someone who uses their voice for a living – especially commentators. Be yourself, but be enthusiastic, courteous and personable. Your goal is to secure a commitment for a face interview.
- The In-person Interview: Let's look at some strategies that will apply to any interview situation:
- Prepare: Make sure you bring several hard copies of your resume along with references and any supporting documentation (more on that in a minute). You can communicate as much (if not more) about your competency by what you ask than by what you say. Prepare two or three thoughtful questions that will engage the hiring manager in meaningful dialog ("Do you offer benefits?" doesn't qualify). If you are meeting several people with varying titles, then prepare questions that are germane to their function. You don't want to as ask a CFO about sale territories or a CEO about benefits. Align the questions to the function. By creating discussion that your interviewer is passionate about will make the exchange more enjoyable and meaningful for THEM. Everyone wants to be heard. The content that is exchanged in the interview is important, but personal chemistry is what often separates candidates of equal qualifications. Preparing your "talking points" in advance will go a long way towards creating positive chemistry.
- Know your resume: Make sure you are ready to discuss details about your background. There isn't a question that is addressed to you that should throw you for a loop. Be concise in your answers without being overly terse or overly verbose. On more complex issues, remember to ask the interviewer if you answered their question satisfactorily. Be particularly adept at explaining job changes and reasons for leaving previous employers. NEVER trash a former employer but always maintain a professional demeanor and stay away from personal or corporate criticisms. Speak positively about your accomplishments and frame everything as positively as possible.
- Be Balanced: Be sure to adequately stress and articulate your quantitative assets (your success and accomplishments) with your qualitative assets (your character, personality and work ethic). You're good not only because of (your success and accomplishments) with your what you've done but because of who you are!
- Be proactive: Every candidate will be telling the company about their accomplishments, how they made previous employers money or how they saved them money. As mentioned above, establishing chemistry and rapport with the hiring manager is a huge distinctive. Show your uniqueness by being uniquely "you". Still, what you can do (and what you have done) is of vital interest. At the end of the day, the manager needs to determine which candidate is best suited for the position by balancing data and gut-feel. The vast majority of people will wait for the company to drive the interview process – dictating next steps and the speed at which they occur. I suggest that you tell the manager that hearing your exploits from your mouth isn't good enough. Proactively come prepared to offer the company (without first being prompted) references and other documentation (sales rankings, awards, etc) that will back-up your claims. This straightforward approach and display of confidence in your achievements will certainly impress them.
- Close the process: Know what your next step in the process is and be prepared to close for a commitment from the company to move you forward in the process. Always ask the interviewer for feedback regarding the interview. Most (but not all) people do this, but how you do it will make the difference between a return invitation and an early exit. Do NOT ask how the interview went or how they "liked" your qualifications. "Yes Mr. Jones, the interview went well and I enjoyed our time together (enjoyed it about as much as a sharp stick in the eye)!" In the context of your personality and communication style, qualify the interviewer's interest. "On a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 meaning you want me to start tomorrow and 1 meaning you wish I never came in – how would you rate my qualifications and your interest?" "Can you compare and contrast me with other people you have recently interviewed? Compare and contrast me with people you have hired in the past that were successful hires?" Be creative, but try to get any objections on the table before you leave the room. It's far better to handle objections in person at the interview than later when you are trying to turn the deal around. Also, don't be shy to ask the interviewer for a specific time and date of the next interview and "ink" it in your calendar right there in the meeting. I always coach my candidates to aim at knowing – good or bad – how they fared in an interview when they walk out. If they did well, why do they think so? If they didn't do well, then why. The worse case is to leave an interview and have no clue how you did.
- Follow-up: Be sure to send an email follow-up within 24 hours of the interview. Make it to-the-point, but personable. Reiterate your appreciation for the interview and the managers personal time, express your confidence in performing the job (particularly in light of the information you received from the interview) and your excitement to meet them again along with other company people as the process moves forward.
Again, this isn't an exhaustive list, but deploying these strategies will increase your odds of going deep into the interview process or even getting an offer of employment.