From recent HS graduates to C-suite executives, a job interview can be an overwhelming experience for job seekers if they are not fully prepared. So here are what for mnemonic sake I will call the Five T’s For a Successful Interview.
THINK: Never go into a face-to face job interview without giving considerable thought to what questions you will be asked and the responses you will offer; and if you are not capable of preparing for an interview on your own I recommend finding a coach to help you.
The reason is simple. From my experience job seekers who have not been properly coached on how to anticipate and respond to questions before beginning a job search tend to be more anxious and frustrated than their competitors who got professional help. This is particularly true among job seekers who are unemployed. Conversely job seekers who have been properly coached tend to come across as more polished and likeable throughout the interview process, and they are more likely to get a job offer as long as they are qualified for the job.
Another important point to remember is this, if you’re asked a question you didn’t prepare for; take a mental moment to “think before you speak.”
Because interview prep is important in landing a job, I use specially developed resume building exercises I designed with a dual purpose; to help me to prepare a compelling resume and to help my client prepare for a grueling job interview.
A side benefit is that a well written resume intrigues even the most professional interviewer and leads them to ask you questions that you want to be asked and answer. These are much easier to prepare for than ones that are unexpected.
TRUTH: From my vantage point as a recruiter, hiring authority and resume writer/career coach I’ve found too many job seekers are unaware of their rightful value and therefore tend to underestimate what they have to offer. On the other hand I’ve also run into job seekers at all levels whose opinion of them, what they’ve accomplished, and their true value to a new employer is overblown and fails to stand up to scrutiny, especially during an interrogation style interview and subsequent background checks.
So before you enter an interview you need to truthfully determine your full value and how it coincides with what you have to offer a new employer in terms of the position you are interviewing for, past history not withstanding.
This is where truth and a good coach come in. The worst thing a job seeker can do on a job interview is tell an outright lie. The next worst thing is to stretch the truth to the outer limits of believability and investigative due diligence.
So whether you lack self confidence, have an overabundance of it, or fall somewhere in between, before you even begin to plan your job search you must discover the boundaries of how far you can “toot your own horn” without going too far or not going far enough. This is an exercise that is harder to do alone, so again I suggest you get someone who is objective to work with you to see if the answers you are providing sound like the truth and can be verified when the time comes.
TONE & TIMING: Back in the last millennium when I first started preparing candidates for interviews I discovered that to help them be successful I had to preach and teach them what I called a Freud / Stanislavsky mentality.
Thinking and Truth are the introspective components of the Freud mentality while Tone and Timing are integral parts of the Stanislavski mentality.
Think of it like this, ten people tell the same joke but they do not all get the same results. A few get belly laughs, some get polite chuckles, and most get raised eyebrows. As I have been told throughout my life, and I pass this bit of old fashioned advice along to others at every opportunity, “it’s not what you say but how you say it!”
Once you determine what you expect to be asked and how you will reply, it is time to work on your communication skills. There is a major difference between speaking and communicating with others. You need to understand the difference if you want to become proficient at answering questions during a job interview.
Your tone of voice is very important. Depending on your natural speaking voice you’ll need to control how loud or soft you speak, and you must practice when and where to inject excitement, confidence, sincerity and humility into your vocal responses.
The same holds true for timing. Every interview question requires an answer that’s concise and goes straight to the point. Here is to me the most critical timing mistake I’ve seen people make. Many interview questions will require clarification or a follow-up question by the interviewer. What I found is that many people in anticipation of the clarification or follow-up question answer it before it is asked and in doing so rush to fit both answers. The mantra every job seeker must adopt is the same as what an attorney tells a client before a deposition,” only answer the questions you’re asked and never volunteer information without being asked to do so, unless you are prepared for an unknown follow-up question.”
Another important point regarding timing is the need to practice gathering your thoughts before you begin to speak and being conscious about pausing to take a breath while you’re speaking.
Just as there are run on sentences in a written speech that are not properly punctuated by commas periods question marks and exclamation points and although the words that are being read convey a very well thought out and lucent point the point gets lost because it is impossible to comprehend what the writer is saying – the same holds true when you speak to someone face to face. You need to add vocal punctuation to your words or they will be lost in the translation.
Think of it like Stanislavsky would in preparing great actors. Your tone of voice and timing is what turns mere words into poignant answers during a job interview.
Getting this right is also something that is hard to do alone, although today you can use a videocam or webcam to practice your presentation, or even your cell phone. However here too I find having someone there to ask you the questions and critique your responses is much more effective.
THANK YOU: One of the forgotten values in life today is appreciation of others. How many times do we take the use of the words ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ for granted? When was the last time you heard “Please pass the peas,” instead of “pass the peas,’ or even more common today just seeing a finger pointing to the peas without a word being spoken.
At the conclusion of an interview the last thing you should do, whether you are a man or a women, is to walk over to the interviewer, extend your hand and say “Thank you for your time, I really enjoyed meeting with you and look forward to hearing back from you soon.”
With that thought in mind I would like to thank all the readers who read this post and all the people who emailed or called me, or posted a comment to tell me how much they enjoy what I have to say. Thank You all.
Perry Newman, CPC CSMS is a nationally recognized executive resume writer, career coach, AIPC certified recruiter and SMMU certified social media strategist known for his ability to help his clients get results. You can view his sample resumes at http://www.perrynewman.com, and email him your resume at firstname.lastname@example.org for FREE resume critique.
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