Ensure that you try to develop a personal connection with every person you interview with. This will greatly increase your chances of getting an offer.
Some people think interviews are just conversations, and others believe they are just sessions during which they have to answer questions. These things may happen, but an interview that turns into an offer involves far more.
Think about this. Any given year, there are more than 200 million interviews in this country, and no two were the same. So how do you prepare? You do it the same way you would for a sports contest. There were millions of them and none were the same.
In an interview or a sports contest, you can't plan precisely how things will go, but you can have a game plan. That means knowing the points you want to touch on and the pace you want to maintain.
Interviewing, of course, is a selling situation. It involves the exchange of information and the building of personal chemistry. Naturally, it's not only what you say that's important. Let's look now at the seven key things you can do to build a positive rapport in interviews.
(1) Building Chemistry Starts with Good Research
This leads us to your first step for building chemistry, and it involves researching the company in advance. Did you ever meet anyone for the first time who knew a lot about you? It takes you by surprise, doesn't it? It's a great way to make a positive first impression. Many people have built successful businesses that way. One friend of mine, a consultant with a six-figure income, attributes his entire success to the research he does ahead of time.
Four out of every five of his clients tell him that he wins their business because he knows a lot more about them than anyone else. So make it your business to know as much as you can about the company, the industry, and if possible, about the person you'll be meeting.
When you arrange or confirm an appointment, never allow yourself to come across as flat or lacking in personality. Be sure to use the opportunity to gather more information. Many people have been able to get job descriptions, organization charts and brochures ahead of time by simply requesting them over the phone. That will help prepare you to be able to build better chemistry in your interview.
(2) Build Chemistry with the Front Office Staff
Can you guess what percentage of executives say their secretaries' opinions influence them? What do you think? One-third? Half? Well, about two-thirds of them do. Here's how this might affect you. Not too long ago, I was interrupted by Hattie, who stated that Mr. Baxter had arrived for his 2:00 interview. I had forgotten about the appointment and it was a busy day. I immediately asked, "What do you think of him, Hattie?" She didn't say a word. She just gave a thumbs-down signal.
That was the end for poor Baxter. No one ever taught him how important it is to make a positive impression with the front office staff. I told Hattie to have him see one of my assistants and to tell him her opinion first.
So, please be attentive to the secretary and others who work up front. Remember, you can do more than make friends. Have a conversation that gives you information that will help in the interview. If you have to wait, and the secretary is too busy to talk, give the impression that you can put the waiting time to good use.
You may find, as many people have, that when you go out of your way to be respectful to them, they will often go out of their way to help you. In some cases, a secretary even will go so far as to call you to let you know when the boss is finally there and available and in a good mood.
(3) Build Chemistry with Your Attitude and Image
Psychologists tell us that the way we expect to be treated has a lot to do with the way we are treated. So build positive expectations and picture a friendly interviewer. Of course, you have to realize that many employers reach a negative decision in the first five minutes of an interview.
Why? Well, if you have the credentials, you've either established a good initial impression or you haven't. And what determines this personal chemistry? People silently react to the image you project, your posture and body language, the things you say about any subject at all, and the way you answer questions.
Consider the kind of image you project. After all, each of us is continually projecting some kind of image. It isn't just physical image or dress either, although your appearance speaks before you say a word. It's also a matter of attitude, interest, enthusiasm and your outlook on life.
Check your image before you ever get to the interview, but don't be too kind to yourself. Go to someone who is not really close to you and ask them what kind of an attitude they think you project. Ask for their honest opinion of your appearance, eye contact and mannerisms.
Listen to what they have to say, then check out the same things with someone on your side. Somewhere between the two, there will be an accurate picture, and if anything needs to be worked on, do it.
(4) Build Chemistry in the Way You Answer Questions
The way you answer questions has more to do with building positive chemistry than with what you say. For example, suppose you get the old standby, "Tell me about yourself." After all, 25% of all interviews include a form of that question.
You'll want to answer, but chances are you're not sure what they want to hear. You could start out by talking about the kind of person you are and some of your attributes, but that may not be what the interviewer is interested in.
Faced with such a dilemma, a safe way out is to self-qualify your answer. "Certainly, Mr. Jones, I'd be happy to tell you about myself, and I suppose you are most interested in my work experience. I'll focus on the past few years and how they relate to this position. I can start with my most recent experience and work backward if you like."
When you self-qualify like that, you give the interviewer plenty of opportunity to respond, and to direct the conversation toward some other area, if that's not what he or she is really interested in. That way you can avoid talking for ten minutes about the wrong things.
Answer questions with good, action-oriented stories. If you fail to tell a story, do you think the interviewer will remember the conversation? Don't bet on it. People don't remember answers to questions or concepts. What people remember, and what impresses most of them are stories -- good stories -- action-oriented stories.
After-dinner speakers know this, famous coaches and motivators know it, preachers know it. Stories are the best way to make a point. So why not avoid the simple "yes" answer and have stories ready to make your best points. Use our SOAR technique as described in Chapter Two.
When you answer questions, remember to gear your comments to potential contributions relative to sales, profits, cost reduction, efficiency, innovations or whatever. When there is a silence, have questions about the field for which you have answers. Create an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. Being prepared builds confidence. It also means being more spontaneous. At all times, keep eye contact and establish your sincerity and integrity.
When you encounter difficult questions, one way to handle them is with the "U-turn" technique. For example, let's say an interviewer says, "You look very impressive on paper, Chuck. If you're this good, you ought to be able to solve all of our problems. Tell me, why should we hire you?" Now, of course, you know the person doesn't believe you're that good.
However, if you begin to talk about why they should hire you, you run the real risk of going on at length about all the wrong things. With the "U-turn" technique you don't give an answer. Instead, you turn the question around in a way that acknowledges the status of the interviewer and maybe even pays an indirect compliment.
Your comment might go something like this. "I have a lot of experience I believe this firm could use. But it would be presumptuous of me to tell you what you need before I've even shown the courtesy of listening to what you think the priorities are. If you'd be kind enough to share some of your thoughts on these priorities, perhaps I could give a more intelligent answer."
With a response like that, you are very likely to get a knowing smile, often followed by a careful explanation of the way things really are in that company.
(5) Build Chemistry with Sincere Compliments
Do people like receiving compliments? You bet they do. So, before the interview, read or talk to people about the company and uncover some good things to say. Somewhere in those first few minutes, find the opportunity to let the interviewer know that you heard good things.
This will accomplish the following. It will show that you know something about the company, and it's also what we call a "third-party compliment," where you are passing on the good news that you heard from others. Now, you can compliment their facilities, people, products, advertising, public relations or anything else. Whatever you do, be specific.
Don't just say that people you know are impressed by the product. Talk about why they are impressed. Maybe it's that new product they added this year, or the designs they've adapted. Or maybe it's the reliability of their products.
All of us like to hear about how our products have pleased customers. By giving details, you show that you have given it some thought and that your compliment is not just empty flattery.
(6) Listen and Build Chemistry as You Do It
I said earlier that an interview is like a sales call, and the key to making any sale is finding out what the customer really wants. So, how do you find out what they want? Well, sometimes the interviewer will get directly to the point and tell you exactly what they are looking for. That makes it easy. All you need to do is take your listening ability and put it to work.
When you run into people who are not good interviewers, be ready to ask job-related questions that will start this person talking about the areas in which you can help the company. Don't expect to be able to think of these questions suddenly in the interview, and be sure to keep them geared toward areas where you can help the company. One of the easiest ways to impress people is to ask intelligent and penetrating questions about the firm and the position.
Find out what happened to the last person in the job. Ask the interviewer about his interests and experiences and that of his superiors and the CEO. If a situation stalls, raise questions about any subject by simply asking who? what? when? where? why? and how?
Find out who the position reports to and how long they have been in the job. Pinpoint the authority that goes with the job, and find out what they expect you to accomplish in the first six months.
You could ask a simple question such as, "What would be the biggest challenge I would face?" If the interviewer has some reservations, ask a question that is likely to flush them out. Don't forget that you're better off knowing their concerns. That way you can deal with them.
Of most importance, find out how the interviewer sees the problem, what their expectations are and the progress that has been made. When you do this, you're learning what the unwritten requirements of the job are.
(7) Let Employers Know You Have What They Want
Let's assume that you've asked the right kinds of questions and done enough listening. Now you know what they want. It's time for the third essential part of the interview. It's time to let them know you have what they want -- and you need to build chemistry as you do it. To do this well calls for advance preparation. Ideally, at this stage you should have your own two-minute interviewing commercial ready to go.
One of the best ways to do this is with SOAR stories. After you've given your SOAR story, make sure you ask for feedback. You might ask, for instance, "Is that the kind of approach you think you might need here?" A positive response from the interviewer will help fix the story in his or her memory.
Your conversations may follow a general pattern. First, ask a question. Second, engage in conversation so you can listen. Third, get across that you have the required strengths. Fourth, ask a feedback question.
Now it's time to determine if you want the job, and you need to keep your chemistry while you do it. So, before the conclusion of any interview, you need to get some specific feedback. One way to do this is to verbalize a positive summary of the meeting, pointing out your enthusiasm about the job.
After the summary, ask a question that will generate feedback: "In your opinion, are my skills and strengths as closely matched to your needs as I think they are? How can we pursue our interests further?"
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