A friend of mine just landed a job interview with a company he's really eager to join. He's one of two finalists for the position, and he wants to maximize his chances of success, so he asked me for some interview tips.
Especially in a contracting job market, even getting the job interview counts as a triumph. But now that you've arrived at the human-human interface of you and your potential future employer, what are you going to do, champ? How can you optimize your chances of nailing down the job?
This article is not about what to wear or updating your resume. It's about five ninja tactics that compel your interviewer to see you in a completely different light than other interviewees. Derived from a powerful course in persuasion, these techniques create structures in your interviewer's mind that bias them at an unconscious level towards hiring you.
1) Paint a picture of you already working at the company.
If you create a picture in your interviewer's head of you already in the job, doing the things you'd be doing as an employee of the company, then you're in very good shape indeed. This is because the unconscious mind can't tell the difference between real and imagined pictures.
So ask a question like this: "I'd like to have a better idea of my work if I were to be hired so I know it's a right fit. What would you envision me doing here in a typical week?"
If this does not come up during the interview, make sure it's the very first one you ask when it's time for your questions. To answer this question, the interviewer has to make a picture of you working for him. Elicit additional detail so the interviewer can make the picture more vivid -- with whom, where, what dress code. At the same time, you're getting key information about your potential future job, which is also useful. This brings us to the next point.
2) Let the employer do some of the selling.
In the early stages of courtship, if you're fully taken with the object of your affection and he or she knows it, you have no leverage. Same with this courtship. So part of your power comes from not being 100 percent taken with the job. Sure, you're interested in the position, but you still need to be persuaded a little bit.
So think that you have some leverage. How would you act if you had at least two other offers in the wings? You're a hot commodity -- present yourself as one. Ask discerning questions about the job and the company that show that you're evaluating them, too.
3) Sell the way your customers buy by appealing to their values and criteria.
Ask a question like this: "I'm sure you've hired some top-notch people in your day. I'm very curious -- what's important to you about what they do for XYZ?" "What's important to you about" is the magic question that elicits the deep criteria and values that motivate a person. Once you've found out what they are, you want to make your qualifications and work history relevant to those values and criteria.
Let's say she responds, "Well, my best employees are really on board with XYZ's innovative and customer-centered culture. They're really excited about the prospect of revolutionizing an industry."
Now you want to use the words innovative, customer-centered, and revolutionize in describing what you've done so far and what you'd like to do for the company. Sell the way your customer buys.
4) Speak aspirationally.
Ask a question such as, "Where do you see the company going in the next five to 10 years?" Then proffer your vision of what's possible and how you fit in it. This is your chance to shine, so do some homework on the industry.
Sure, it's important to tell them what you've done so far and what you're capable of doing. However, don't let yourself be limited by that. What puts you over the top is your ability to provide a picture of the magnificent things you will be doing for the company that the boss hasn't even dreamt of.
So, to expand on number one above, create that compelling vision of the future with you the indispensable linchpin of it all. In fact, there's a new book out by Seth Godin called Linchpin which speaks to this. Check it out and maybe read it on the plane to the interview.
5) Sell yourself like you're the cure for cancer.
If you had the cure for cancer, how hesitant would you be to present that to patients who needed the drug? If you possess the solution to someone's problem, you have a moral obligation to present that solution as clearly and convincingly as possible. Not in a needy way (see number two), but with appropriate grace and power. This is no time to be shy, my friend. Be your own best advocate, because no one else is volunteering for the position.
Make a list of all the possible questions they could ask you and all the questions you'd like to ask. Then get a friend to do a practice interview with you. Record it on video and watch yourself. Rehearse the answers to the questions out loud at least five times. Even better, write out all the answers to the questions. That's what I did for a series of 10 interviews for one particularly selective company, and there is no better way to think through the answers and burn them in your memory. Eight solid hours spent earnestly preparing for a job that could be paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next few years may be the best investment of time you've ever made.
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