Obviously the marketplace is tight, which is why it's even more important to say and do the right things in an interview. Companies are more selective now and less likely to overlook a stumble.
If you're taking the time to interview, make a good impression. Even if this may not be the job for you, a connection can be made during the interview that will serve you at some point in the future.
Here's how to have a great interview:
Tell the Story Well - People love a good story. When discussing your accomplishments make sure your story has a beginning, middle and end. What was the business problem, how did you solve it and what were the results? For example, if you're explaining how you grew a business, start with the situation. Describe the market conditions at the time, what your competitors were doing and what resources you had. Then talk about the epiphany that led to the solution and how you executed on that. Finally, discuss the results. A cautionary note: watch the "I's" when telling the story. No one succeeds alone. Most companies are looking for people who are successful in a collaborative environment.
Focus On Results, Results, Results - Companies are interested in results. Candidates sometimes shoot themselves in the foot by discussing their philosophy of growing a business, rather than focusing on the far more powerful examples of how they have successfully done it in the past. Results should be quantified. Rather than saying the business grew, give specifics around sales volume, market share, distribution gains, etc. Don't give an example unless you were still at the company when the results came in. It's a mistake to launch into a story only to say at the end, "I wasn't there when the product hit the marketplace."
Make Your Personal Story Interesting - Interviewers often want to know who you are as a person, rather than just your professional experience. We're always amazed that people get tongued tied when we asked them about themselves. This should be a fairly easy question to handle. The best way to frame this answer is to start with where you're from, why you chose to go to a particular school and what got you interested in your field. In addition you can always mention your interests. If you say you like to read, be prepared to discuss what you enjoy reading and why.
Get Your Top Three In - There are probably three things you do very well. Make it a point to weave these skills in during the course of your answers. Rather than just listing them, have a sentence or two that demonstrates your expertise.
Know the Company - Know the company you are interviewing with and what issues they are facing. Make the connection between your experience and their business problems. The more relevant your experience is, the better. If you are changing industries, you will have to demonstrate how your skills are transferable. Also discuss how this opportunity aligns with your future career goals.
Be Enthusiastic - Don't hold back your enthusiasm for round two because there may not be one. This is one of the most common mistakes that candidates make, believing that they are "buying" as well as "selling" and forgetting that their focus should be on "selling". Interviewing is a lot like dating. You want to feel like that person is interested in you. The more you can convey your enthusiasm (leaning forward, smiling, nodding) for the company and the opportunity, the greater the likelihood you'll be asked back.
Be a Good Listener - Listening is crucial to a good interview. Another common mistake candidates make is to go into an interview determined to make a point. Answering what is being asked is the best way to be relevant. Don't give a preamble to the answer, "Before I answer that let me tell you this." Importantly, when the interviewer has finished and thanks you for coming in, recognize that the interview is over. Don't prolong the interview by giving your final thoughts or continuing to sell.
Think of an interview as a focused conversation in which you have one hour to build rapport. Use your time wisely and leave them with a good impression. Interviewing is a lot like dating. If things don't click, you won't be asked on a second date.
Fred & Gladys
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success