Category Archives: Interviewing skills

The Secret Behind an Excellent Interview

The Secret Behind an Excellent Interview

The secret is: be brief

What is the secret behind an excellent interview?  Be brief. Now that the secret is revealed, I will support my tenet with a few facts. Actually, you can do what I did: I watched some television with a stopwatch to see how long an answer people provide for a question. As samples, I used, among others, Presidents Obama and Clinton because I consider them excellent communicators with media people in a question-and-answer setup. Typically, one of their answers would be 30 to 90 seconds long, with very few deviations. In order to get to such a level of excellence, one needs two ingredients: innate talent and lots of practice. Not all of us are born with this type of talent, but all of us can achieve it through practice and in fact should if we want to excel at interviews.

As an interview coach, I help people become better at answering difficult interview questions. I’ve found it interesting that regardless of people’s professions, backgrounds, or titles most are not good when facing a job interviewer—despite the fact that some think they are, because after all, they’ve gotten jobs in the past, right? Universally, though, people are long-winded, and their answers tend to be paragraphs instead of several bulleted items supported by examples. Some provide protracted answers that go way beyond the listener’s attention span. The danger here is that the job candidate is not made aware of losing the listener’s attention, since regrettably, interviewers don’t have digital readouts on their foreheads showing their listening level at that moment.

The best way to overcome that obstacle is to prepare for interview answers by first writing out the answers longhand in SARB format. (SARB is the acronym for situation, action, result, and benefit.) Next, review each answer with an eye toward shortening them. If an answer can be delivered in about 60 seconds, you’ll achieve your objective. Now, it’s practice time. Best if you work with a career coach who can give you not only honest feedback but also the correct answers. Otherwise, ask a friend, family member, or someone else who also might benefit from such practice.

 

The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

The Interview Is Not a Chat But Trust Building

Interview or just a chat?

Even if you’re told the interview is just an informal chat, don’t believe it. The interview is a business transaction whereby both parties are exploring the opportunity to initiate a work relationship. But if you stop and think about what is at the core of that potential future work relationship, the logical answer is mutual trust. Yes, we all agree that the interview is a process whereby the employer wants to determine whether you have the skills that employer is looking for, and if so, whether you’d be good at them or just average, whether you could solve work-related issues, whether you’d be well accepted by your peers—meaning, whether you’d fit into the organizational culture—and so forth. The employer knows there are other options and so reviews other applicants. But the candidate, too, knows there are other options and can explore other prospective employers. Above all, though, both parties are asking themselves—actually during the interview process—whether they can trust each other.

Mutual trust and confidence

This basic concept of mutual trust and confidence was solidified by the legal system in the distant past when it referred to the employment relationship between employee and employer carried an understanding that there is an implied obligation between the two parties to behave in a way that does not undermine that mutual employment relationship. Simply put, both parties should have each other’s back. This means that each party is expected to trust the other.

What does trust mean?

If you asked people how they interpret trust and what trust means to them, you’d get many and various answers. I’ve tested this numerous times when presenting to large groups, and the answers have clearly demonstrated to me that trust means different things to different people. For me, trust means you do what you said you’d do. On one hand, similar to the establishment of a personal reputation, trust is not something someone can establish instantly; it takes a long time to establish one’s trustworthiness because trust is based on behavior that is cumulative and over time. On the other hand, trustworthiness can be destroyed in an instant.

How to evaluate—and demonstrate—trustworthiness during an interview?

An easy way for an employer to test a candidate’s trustworthiness is via the common and mostly dreaded interview question, What are your weaknesses? I have never met anyone who likes that question. Here the employer is testing the candidate’s honesty and, thereby, trustworthiness. A good answer here is to talk about an occurrence in the not too distant past—something that is common and plausible wherein the candidate admits failure but then claims to have been smart enough to learn from it and by now has so well fixed it that others ask for his advice. This is a turnaround tactic that works in most cases.

In a job interview, the candidate should give several examples whose common thread shows honesty, dependability, reliability, and credibility. They all lead to trust. Conversely, the candidate, too, should look for those same qualities in the prospective employer. Mutual trust will lead to a long-term employment relationship.

How to Detect the Interviewer’s Personality

How to detect the interviewer’s personality is not an easy task. During all of my corporate working years, my subordinates and associates heard me say, “Nobody impresses me the first 60 days on the job.” I must have said that dozens of times because I truly believe the thought. Basically, via that sentence I was expressing the concept that the impression one makes in the job interview doesn’t always pan out in real life on the job after, say, 60 days, once reality begins to set in. At times, the real person appears to be very different from the one that made certain impressions during the interview process. I am a career coach focusing on the specialty of the interviewing process. I teach clients by practicing mock interviews with them so they can become appealing to cadres of interviewers. Those interviewers of course have various personalities and wide-ranging needs, and a candidate that is one size fits all will not fare well without being able to assess and then adapt to the interviewer’s style and interests. For example, the interests of the hiring manager are different from (1) those of the human resources interviewer and (2) those of potential future peers and (3) those of the hiring manager’s own supervisor. How can you find out the style of the interviewer? Many of us have developed through the years an intuition for assessing people we talk with. Some of us are better at such assessment than others, and some of us are not so good at it. For those who feel challenged in this area, I prepared a short video, which is available via my LinkedIn profile under the Summary section. In this video, I describe four types of people who conduct interviews. Of course, no one type is pure, with only one type of personality; we each have in us a combination of personalities, but most of us have a dominant personality. Once you read the person interviewing you, the learned adaptation should come automatically. For example, if the interviewer is an executive interested only in brevity and the bottom line, then a candidate’s long-windedness is a prescription for failure. If the interviewer is the friendly type, feels talkative, and likes working in teams with others and a job candidate is too brief or focuses exclusively on self, which would not work out either. Can you emulate a chameleon? Please don’t misunderstand my intention. I am certainly not one who admires an insincere or fake personality. For me that would be an instant turnoff. But my suggestion for you is to learn how to change your communication style so as to adapt to or accommodate a variety of people and situations. In other words, a story can be told by emphasizing extensive and minute details in order to be thorough, or it can be summarized briefly and get quickly to the punch line. So, open your eyes and ears early into the interview, make an assessment of the person sitting on the other side of the desk, and respond in that interviewer’s style. Such a skill will bring you much closer to being liked—and hopefully, to receiving the job offer.

I wonder about his personality

How to detect the interviewer’s personality is not an easy task. During all of my corporate working years, my subordinates and associates heard me say, “Nobody impresses me the first 60 days on the job.” I must have said that dozens of times because I truly believe the thought. Basically, via that sentence I was expressing the concept that the impression one makes in the job interview doesn’t always pan out in real life on the job after, say, 60 days, once reality begins to set in. At times, the real person appears to be very different from the one that made certain impressions during the interview process.

I am a career coach focusing on the specialty of the interviewing process. I teach clients by practicing mock interviews with them so they can become appealing to cadres of interviewers. Those interviewers of course have various personalities and wide-ranging needs, and a candidate that is one size fits all will not fare well without being able to assess and then adapt to the interviewer’s style and interests. For example, the interests of the hiring manager are different from (1) those of the human resources interviewer and (2) those of potential future peers and (3) those of the hiring manager’s own supervisor.

How can you find out the style of the interviewer?

Many of us have developed through the years an intuition for assessing people we talk with. Some of us are better at such assessment than others, and some of us are not so good at it. For those who feel challenged in this area, I prepared a short video, which is available via my LinkedIn profile under the Summary section. In this video, I describe four types of people who conduct interviews. Of course, no one type is pure, with only one type of personality; we each have in us a combination of personalities, but most of us have a dominant personality. Once you read the person interviewing you, the learned adaptation should come automatically. For example, if the interviewer is an executive interested only in brevity and the bottom line, then a candidate’s long-windedness is a prescription for failure. If the interviewer is the friendly type, feels talkative, and likes working in teams with others and a job candidate is too brief or focuses exclusively on self, which would not work out either.

Can you emulate a chameleon?

Please don’t misunderstand my intention. I am certainly not one who admires an insincere or fake personality. For me that would be an instant turnoff. But my suggestion for you is to learn how to change your communication style so as to adapt to or accommodate a variety of people and situations. In other words, a story can be told by emphasizing extensive and minute details in order to be thorough, or it can be summarized briefly and get quickly to the punch line. So, open your eyes and ears early into the interview, make an assessment of the person sitting on the other side of the desk, and respond in that interviewer’s style. Such a skill will bring you much closer to being liked—and hopefully, to receiving the job offer.