The job interview is over. You leave the room and put on a pair of Interviewer Mind Vision Goggles (IMVGs) -- special goggles that allow you to see inside the mind of the interviewer, specifically the vision you created there during the interview.
What do you see?
- A blank screen.
- An indistinct, fuzzy picture; might be you, maybe not.
- A clear image of you doing the job, but without much or any enthusiasm.
- A distinct image of you doing the job, but underachieving.
- A picture of you doing some job but not the one for which you were being interviewed.
- A vision of you doing the job well, but there is a frown on your face.
- A clear and distinct image of you in the job, doing it well, and smiling.
For that interview to have been successful, only the last one on the list will do. Creating that vision in the mind of the interviewer is your goal. It is not an easy task, but you can do it, especially if you pay close attention to four precepts: Self-knowledge, Showing Interest, Interviewing Empathy, and the Power of Questions.
Self-knowledge. Advanced preparation is key to any successful interview. A major component of that preparation is knowledge -- of the position, of the organization, and, most importantly, of yourself. What are your needs? Your wants? (No, they are not the same). What motivates you? What do you really care about? Are you aware of your strengths, attributes, skills, and traits? How about your weaknesses, deficits, faults, and failures? What makes you tick? What is in your head, your heart, and your gut? Are you ready to openly and credibly discuss this information with a stranger, backing up what you say with specifics and examples?
Showing interest. You must appear interested during an interview. Just because you show up does not mean you will be perceived that way. Assuming you are indeed enthusiastic about the opportunity, you need to convey that feeling in a clear and definitive manner. Although the interviewer cannot read your mind, he or she will pick up on the signals you are sending, both verbal and non-verbal. On the non-verbal side, pay attention to your body language. Be engaging and enthusiastic. Lean forward in your chair. Smile. On the verbal side, here are the two best ways to show interest: ask good questions (see below) and say the words I am interested in . . . . Fill in the blank: learning more about this opportunity or visiting the facility and meeting the team or taking this interview to the next step or receiving an offer or accepting an offer to work for your company or something similar that lets the interviewer know how you feel. Identify the next step in the process and ask for it. Be bold!
Interviewing Empathy. Successful interviewing is the art of telling the interviewer exactly what he or she wants to hear . . . as long as it also happens to be the truth. That is my mantra and your mission. You have a long list of what matters to you and it is important to factor that into your job search. However you also must factor in what matters to the interviewer if you want the process to go forward. Knowing this and keeping it in mind throughout the interview is critical. You need to be aware of and hit the interviewer’s hot buttons. Make connections. Emphasize related skills and experience. Make sure that every word that comes out of your mouth is somehow relevant to the job, the company, the industry, or the interviewer -- assuming of course that it’s all true.
Power of Questions. First a question for you: why do we ask questions? The obvious answer is to get information. An interviewer asks questions to find out if you are the kind of person he or she wants on the team. You ask questions to find out if this opportunity is right for you. The less obvious answer has to do with conveying interest. Short of coming out and simply saying I am interested, properly chosen, worded and timed questions are the most powerful tools in your transition toolbox for showing interest. These questions need to focus on the company, the job, the industry, the opportunity, the people who work there, and the interviewer -- not on you. Selfish questions, i.e., ones about salary, benefits, perks, holidays, vacation, etc., have their place -- after the job offer is on the table. With an offer in your pocket the answers to those selfish questions will help you decide whether or not to accept it.
Those four precepts are interrelated. Strong self-knowledge enhances your ability to build empathy and ask good questions. Asking good questions also builds empathy while showing interest. Employing them in combination enhances the chances of the right vision showing up in those IMVGs.
© 2014, Tom Wolfe; all rights reserved; used with the author’s permission. For a more thorough discussion of this and other military-to-civilian career transition topics, read Tom Wolfe's Out of Uniform (www.out-of-uniform.com).