In celebration of my first book, Give Your Speech, Change the World, now becoming available as an eBook, I’m excerpting a bit from the book on how to ace a job interview. I’ve edited the text slightly to fit the blog, but I still like the advice. Enjoy!
How to Ace a Job Interview
The secret of successful interviewing is to focus on accomplishing two tasks:
- Conveying something relevant to the interviewer about yourself; and,
- Creating a bond—the beginning of trust—between you and the interviewer.
How do you manage those two objectives in what is admittedly a high-stakes, high-stress, artificial situation? Here, audience-centered speaking will get you the job almost every time, as long as you remember that the audience is the interviewer in front of you, and not yourself. You’re there to connect, not to show off.
Have an Agenda
All too many interviewees see an interview as a largely passive activity, answering the questions that are asked. A successful applicant needs to have a prepared agenda, of no more than a few items, which he will cover in the interview, no matter what questions are asked.
The interview is a chance to bring your résumé to life. What are your three key accomplishments that this prospective employer needs to know that will help her decide to hire you? What particular skills do you possess that will help you get this new job done? What makes you stand out from the pack of other applicants?
Develop a few well-stated, articulate mini-speeches that you can easily and tactfully slip in during the interview. Practice “bridging” from the question to your “answer.” You can tailor these set, prepared answers to specific job openings by doing a little research on the company before the interview and asking yourself, “What is the problem this company faces for which I am a solution?” Then, tell the interviewer!
Mirror the Interviewer
Most interviewees are focused on their own nervousness. This heightened self-consciousness can lead to inadvertent errors in what they say and do. Focus instead on making the interviewer’s job easier. The interviewer is trying to determine, on the basis of very incomplete evidence, whether or not you will make a good “fit” with the team or company.
Many interviewees agree to anything in an effort to appear cooperative, while at the same time betraying their resistance inadvertently with their nervous body language. “Yes,” they will say, “I’d be happy to move to Borneo,” while crossing their arms defensively and turning slightly away from the interviewer. The interviewer may notice this behavior consciously, or she may simply have an uncomfortable sense that the interviewee is not truly enthusiastic. The result is a lack of trust, and a mediocre interview.
Create Some Trust
Instead, focus on making your body language congruent with the interviewer while honestly and forthrightly voicing your concerns and issues as they come up. In this way, you will create an atmosphere of candor with an underlying feeling of connection and trust.
If the interviewer leans forward, wait a second and then lean forward yourself. If the interviewer leans back, do the same. Sit when the interviewer sits (and invites you to do the same) and stand when the interviewer stands. The idea is not to mimic the other person exactly, but rather to adopt the same general physical posture.
If you’re interviewing with Bill Gates, and he starts rocking back and forth, you might not want to imitate that. Keep your mirroring within generally accepted norms of behavior.
My new book, Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact, will be published by Harvard next month. You can pre-order it here.