TIPS FOR A PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW
First and foremost is preparation! This is an important business meeting. Research the company, the industry and the people interviewing you. You should always be able to answer the question, "So, why do you want to work for this company?" Target your "sale" to their needs. Show them how they can benefit from your background. A company has one of two reasons to hire you - either you can save them money or you can make money for them. Don't make them search for ways to use your skills...tell them!
Next, you must practice! Anticipate the questions and write them down, along with your answers. Sometimes it helps to ask a friend to conduct a videotaped interview with you and help you evaluate yourself. Or practice the interview aloud using a cassette tape recorder. Listen to the tape as if you were the interviewer. Would you hire the person you are listening to?
Have a solid introduction, which you can always use to get off on a good footing when you are asked to speak about yourself. Remember, your introduction should be tailored to fit each situation.
Know yourself, your skills, accomplishments, likes and dislikes. You are the one who knows this "product" the best.
Listen! Hear their questions and what they are asking. It is okay to pause before answering. Never cut the interviewer off because you are eager to answer. You could end up answering a question they didn't even ask. Maintain eye contact. Don't discuss $$$ other than your current or most recent compensation.
Ask for the job! Thank them, let them know how interested you are and ask about the next step. It's alright to ask how your credentials and background compare to other candidates they are considering.
You must be observant! You need to decide later whether you want to work for them. What are their goals, what is it like to work there, how are they different from their main competitors. Even if you think you know the answers, you should ask to hear what they think.
Remember to enjoy yourself. After all, these people are not the enemy. They want you to be their new team player and business associate. They want you to succeed in the interview process.....they don't want to interview 50 or even 10 more candidates.
Work closely with your CE Insurance Services Consultant to prepare for your interview. Learn as much as you can about the potential employer and gain insight on the problem they need you to solve.
Call your CE Insurance Services Consultant immediately following your interview.
Interviewing by Telephone
Be Prepared for a Complete Interview.
Job candidates often make a big mistake: They treat their first telephone interview with a prospective employer as a minor formality.
Don't be fooled. Companies look for reasons not to bring people in for interviews. Your mission is to convince them you're worth seeing. If you want to succeed, you must prepare for the initial "phone screen" as carefully as you will prepare later for the face-to-face interview.
The following guidelines will show you how.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Avoid being caught off guard by having the following items next to your phone in anticipation of the call:
* Your resume.
* A list of professional accomplishments.
* A list of questions you want to ask the interviewer.
* Background information on the employer.
* Outlines of stories that relate your competencies and problem-solving abilities.
* A list of possible interview times and dates.
Your CE Insurance Services Consultant will arrange a specific time for the call to take place. In order to be at your best, make sure you have privacy for the call. Separate yourself from all possible disturbances (e.g., family members, friends, pets, TV sets, radios, etc.) in order to minimize possible interruptions.
Project a Winning Image
In a face-to-face interview, your appearance and body language can help reinforce the impression you are trying to create. Over the phone, however, your communication skills and "voice" must carry the day. Do you sound confident, professional and relaxed? Or are you nervous, rambling and uptight?
The following pointers can help you create a winning telephone image:
* Be enthusiastic, but do not dominate the conversation.
* Be prepared to answer the "tell-me-about-yourself" question early in the conversation.
* Speak clearly and be aware of your pace - not too fast, not too slow.
* Use concise, fact-filled sentences and phrases.
* Don't ramble or over-explain. If the interviewer wants additional information, he or she will ask for it.
* Interject short responses intermittently to acknowledge the interviewer's comments (e.g., "That's interesting," "I see," "Great idea," etc.).
* Conclude responses with "check-back" phrases such as, "Does that answer your question?" "Is that what you're looking for?"
* Show that you've done your homework by asking intelligent questions based on factual information you have obtained about the opportunity.
Your mission is to be invited in for a face-to-face interview with the employer. To accomplish this, you need to meet these three objectives:
1. Assume the role of "seller" during the interview. If you sell your skills and abilities effectively, the listener will be able to see the value in bringing you in for an interview.
2. Describe your ability to impact the company by using specific dollar amounts and percentages to explain your past accomplishments.
3. Demonstrate industry knowledge by asking "intelligence" questions. For example, "The industry seems to be moving toward [emerging technology]. How does your company plan to compete?"
Close for an Interview
By asking questions during the interview, you subtly start taking control of the conversation. If you sense the interviewer relinquishing control, continue with your line of questions. As you proceed, try to get a feel for the chemistry or rapport that has been established. If you feel the interviewer is impressed with you, and you are interested in pursuing the opportunity, do not hesitate to close the conversation by pushing for a face-to-face meeting:
"(Interviewer's name), based on the information you have given me, I am very interested in pursuing this opportunity and would like to schedule a time for us to meet in person. What looks good for you?"
If the interviewer agrees, but cannot set a specific time, simply suggest when you would be available and ask when would be a good time to follow up. By following the CE Insurance Services guidelines for telephone interviewing, you will come across as a candidate who should be invited in for a personal interview.
The Sound Image
Of course, one disadvantage of a telephone interview is that the interviewer isn't aware of your physical appearance. It's no secret that projecting an impressive image and using positive body language can significantly improve your chances of gaining an offer. However, you can compensate for not being visible by projecting a powerful sound image that allows hiring managers to "see" your personality and behavior style via your voice
The key to retaining the listener's attention is to use clear, concise, fact-filled sentences and phrases when you speak. Also, interject short responses intermittently to acknowledge the interviewer's statements ("yes, I see," "I agree," "that's interesting," "smart idea," etc.) and show that you're closely engaged in the conversation.
If you project a strong sound image, the interviewer is likely to make positive assumptions about your candidacy, such as:
* You're someone who's savvy about the industry and the impact you can make on the company.
* You're self-confident.
* You're experienced at selling over the phone. This is a plus, especially if the job requires client development and relationship management. You'll come across as a candidate who should be referred to others in the company for further interview.
What's interesting about sound is that it grabs an interviewer's attention faster and more consistently than a visual image in a face-to-face meeting. That's because the interviewer is concentrating his or her auditory senses on your voice in an attempt to formulate a picture of you. The more positive points you relay in your message, the better the picture.
If you aren't accustomed to being interviewed by phone, some questions may seem particularly difficult to answer. Here are suggested ways of handling those common queries:
"Describe what you do."
This typical telephone interview question is usually asked early on and resembles the 'Tell me about yourself" query in face-to-face meetings. When answering, give a concise, one-minute, fact-filled account of your most current achievements. Be sure to come out of the starting gate running hard with a confident, clear description of your strongest skills and achievements.
A suggested response: "I'm currently a design engineer for XYZ Co. focusing on high technology waste-treatment macroprocessors for industrial use. Several months ago, I designed and led a key team project for the city of Denver. The results brought about an annual cost savings of $500,000 for the municipality and the installment of low-energy utilization technology with a high output in waste-treatment efficiency."
This type of answer opens the door to a series of probing questions focusing on your leadership ability, skills and expertise. Remember, in order to respond fluidly, keep your resume and a separate
list of accomplishments nearby or, better yet, a list of descriptive projects pertaining to your background and experience.
"What would you like to do in our organization?"
This is another "screener" question usually asked at the beginning of the conversation to determine the need for further discussion. A suggested response: "I've decided to pursue a controllership at this point in my career, since all my previous experience has prepared me for this move. However, I'd like to bring an additional dimension to the job that will add value to the function." Stop here and wait for the interviewer's response.
"What's the added dimension?"
Now you've sparked the interviewer's interest. "Well, I'm confident that I can bring valuable expertise in investment management, especially in new, state-of-the-art technology. As your controller, I can take an active role in advising you on the best, most cost-effective monetary investments in cutting-edge automated systems." A statement like this maintains the interviewer's interest, especially when articulated assertively,
"How much money are you looking for?"
This question can be tricky, since your negotiating strength is greater in person when you can use facial expressions and body language to make a point. You might try to defer the issue until the end of the interview by saying something like: "Frankly, I'm not prepared to discuss compensation until I know more about the job." Then take charge with your next comment: "Let's talk about the content and requirements of the position so that we can better discuss compensation."
Another approach is to avoid giving a direct response by reversing the question: "You've read my mind. What's the salary range you're offering for the job? I'm sure that I can be flexible." If you respond quickly and assertively enough, you'll probably get the interviewer to cooperate.
Act Like You're Ready
Being prepared for a possible phone interview worked well for an employment manager at a New Jersey bank who'd answered a help wanted ad in a national newspaper. Several weeks passed without a response, so she assumed the company wasn't interested. But one Sunday evening, the firm's personnel director called her at home. Fortunately, since she'd kept her resume, cover letter and copy of the ad next to the phone, it was easy for her to come across as well prepared.
"When they respond to your application to a job ad, they're usually ready to grill you....and they almost always call you in the evening," she says. "My advice is to act like you were expecting the call and that you want to get down to business. Also, have a few intelligent, probing questions prepared for the caller, and don't be afraid to ask one or two early in the interview. This helps you gain control," she says.
On the phone, feel free to close earlier than you would when face to face, especially if you sense that the interviewer has relinquished control to you and is impressed with your presentation. Don't hesitate to suggest a personal meeting at the interviewer's convenience. Some good closing lines include: "Well, Mr. Smith, I feel good about the job as you've described it, and I think we should talk further. Can we schedule to meet in the next few days?"
If the company is far away, say: "I'd like to pursue this further. When do you plan to be in my area so we can meet?" or "When can you arrange to fly me out so we can meet? The position really sounds like a good match, and I'm eager to meet your colleagues at the company to get a better sense of the fit."
Even if you use the best closing line, remember that it's still easier for interviewers to reject you by phone than in person. Distance has a way of reducing their discomfort. A classic line used by phone interviewers to "disconnect" from you goes something like this: "While I think your background is impressive, I really don't see a match here. You're not quite what we're looking for." Sometimes the interviewer is playing devil's advocate and is really testing to see if you're tenacious and can make a firm case for your candidacy
Some suggested responses include: "I'm quite surprised to hear you say that. Let me recap the match points between my background and the job as you've described it. If you need additional information or more supportive evidence, please jump in and ask." This type of response leaves the door open for the interviewer to cover more bases and fill in the cracks, which could change the picture in your favor.
You also might say: "I'm not sure we're in agreement. What areas are you uncomfortable with? I'd like to take them point by point." Or, "I realize that it's difficult for both of us to make a sound, informed decision over the phone. I think it would be worth our time to meet in person before we come to a joint conclusion. Can we meet briefly next week?"
If your image is better projected in person, press for a personal interview. That's the only way you can convert a "no" into a "yes."