Like a Pro in Five Easy Steps
by Linda Matias
It’s an inescapable fact that interviews are the “make or break” factor on
whether one lands the job. So it is surprising to find that most job seekers
approach interviews with a cavalier attitude, without any preparation – they
simply wake up the morning of the interview, cross their fingers, and hope for
Unfortunately, walking into an interview cold rarely works. Human capital is
the biggest expense an organization has. When all is said and done, a wrong
hiring decision costs a company time and resources. Through a series of well
thought out questions, a skillful interviewer will use the interview process to
distinguish between those candidates who have experience and those who are
experts in the given field.
An interview can be won or lost within seconds, and by implementing simple
strategies, you can vastly improve your interview performance. Interviews can be
challenging but they are manageable when approached as a five-step process.
1. A successful interview depends in part, on whether you understand your
role and that of the interviewer. As an interviewee, you have two obligations –
(1) to sell your qualifications and (2) to evaluate the position and leave the
interview with a solid understanding of the job’s requirements. Interviewing is
more than just answering questions; it is about preparing, understanding and
responding to the hiring organizations needs.
The role of the interviewer is to sell the company, assess your commitment to
working for their organization and determine if you are the same person that is
represented on paper.
In reality, your role and that of the interviewer overlap. Both of you are
gathering information, selling a product and evaluating whether or not there is
a match between you.
2. Before each interview select 3-5 accomplishments or skills that you
consider to be your major selling points. Every time the interview shifts in a
direction that doesn’t support your agenda, figure out a way to steer the
conversation back to your major selling points. When determining your selling
points, consider situations where you demonstrated initiative, overcame
challenges, and/or streamlined a process.
While it may be difficult to define the specific needs of every company that
is hiring, all organizations are looking for an employer that has the following
characteristics: advanced communication skills, teamwork skills, honesty and
self-confidence. Whenever possible, integrate these qualities in your responses.
3. Build personal credibility by adapting your communication style to that of
the interviewer. The way you communicate goes beyond the words that you choose.
Your appearance, demeanor, posture and attitude all play a part in the way your
message will be received.
Trust begins to form during the interview and by flexing your communication
leave the listener with a subconscious message that says, “I can sit next to
on a daily basis.” Once you have accomplished that, you are one step closer to a
4. Turn the interview into a conversation by asking questions throughout the
interview. Ask questions that reflect your interest in the organization. If you
leave an interview without asking relevant questions, the interviewer will
question your sincerity. By asking questions you show the interviewer your
commitment to your profession and the industry.
5. Don’t get blind-sided with questions that you should have been prepared to
answer. There are several questions that are interviewers canned favorites and
they include: Tell me about yourself, Where do you see yourself in five years?
Tell me about a time when you successfully handled a situation?, and What do you
consider your major achievement?
Rehearse interview answers, but don’t sound rehearsed. Practice your
responses until you feel that they clearly reflect your skills and personality.
Don’t just make statements that you think the interviewer wants to hear.
Going in unprepared is a sure-fire way to sabotage an interview. When it
comes down to the wire and it is between you and another candidate with a
similar background, interview performance will probably be the deciding factor
on who gets hired.
Job offers are not won by accident; time spent preparing for an interview
produces significant results. The more you practice your interviewing skills the
more confidence you will gain and the more polished your presentation.
Linda Matias is President of CareerStrides and The
National Resume Writers' Association. She has been quoted in The Wall Street
Journal, New York Newsday, Newsweek, and HR-esource.com. Visit her website
or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.