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Selling Yourself: The Final Stage

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Interviewing: Shoot First and You Won't Get Killed

The job interview is a stressful, artificial, stilted, agonizing, and inevitable situation. But it is also a plateau near the summit. Though the air is thin up there, it's only because you’re almost at the top.

Don’t fall. The odds are with you at this point because most likely the interviewer wants to like you. You’re made the cut. You're probably up against several others now, rather than several hundred others during the resume-screening stage. The company is hoping you’re the perfect candidate. They’ve already made a choice that you’ve worth their time to interview. Let's not disappoint them.

Here's How You, as Supercandidate, Outpoint Your Fellow Interviewees You Know Them Better Than They Know You

There's nothing worse than having to say to the interviewer halfway through the interview, "By the way, just what is it you people do here?"

By studying Winning Move #10 and applying those research techniques, you learn more about your prospective employer by knowing more about the company at which you'll be interviewing, you’re more confident and less anxious, knowing you'll encounter fewer surprises. And you’re able to ask intelligent questions. If nothing else, just showing that knowledge at the interview will impress the interviewer and score points.

You’ve done your research. You’ve learned about the company's products or services. You know their position in the market. You know their strong and weak points. You also know which strengths and weaknesses about yourself you'll want to show or hide.

You Know What They Are Likely to Ask You

You know what goods the company has on you. They have your resume. They've probably studied it. They’ve probably made either written or mental notes about your strengths, value, and potential weaknesses. What might these be? You think about what you know about them and their potential needs and then look into your resume with a critical eye. You anticipate their concerns based on what skills of yours may not match their needs. You write out what your responses would be to these concerns. By writing these responses, you cement them into your memory. You counter any objections or design "bridge responses," ones that take you over the voids of the simple negative answer.

Example: The interviewer might ask if you know how to run a Macintosh computer. You don't. But you won't say that. Saying "no" will lose points. Instead, you'll bridge your response to a positive by saying, "Well, I've gained extensive experience on an IBM PC with a variety of programs. Learning the Mac would be no problem-an easy transition, I would imagine, from the IBM."

So prior to the interview you've already anticipated and practiced responding to the worst-case scenarios. You feel good about that. And you're ready, like a good politician, to talk your way around the weak spots.

It's the day of the interview. You’re going into the interview radiating self-confidence. Why not? You are what you are and you’ve done everything you could to prepare. You’ve scheduled the interview to allow you time to exercise first; this has offset your excess adrenaline. You’re calm. Your mind is sharp. Any food you’ve eaten is well digested prior to the interview because you want your blood in your brain, not busy digesting food in your growling stomach.

You‘ve dressed conservatively and neatly, because by doing so you know you minimize the risk of offending anyone's tastes by looking too stylish or offbeat. There's a reason "classic" clothing doesn't fall out of favor. And if you wear it you increase the odds that you won't fall out of favor either. Besides, you don't want your clothes to be making the statement; you want to be making the statement. And you know you can change your statement when you meet the interviewer; you can t change your purple flowered tie. So you don't try to second-guess the tastes of the person with whom you're interviewing. Also, you're conservative in fragrance, makeup, and hairstyle. You know that, unless you have a very clear understanding of the company's culture and dress code, it's best to play it safe. Finally, remembering when Murphy's Law usually strikes, you bring along an extra blouse or shirt and tie. The one time you'll spill coffee on yourself will be on the day of the interview.

I remember a horror story a client once told me. He was so worried about a shaving cut on his neck that he'd covered it with his finger during his interview. His adrenaline got flowing. His finger got to rubbing. The cut reopened. Blood pumped. He fidgeted.

Blood dripped onto his white shirt. He squirmed in his chair. He fidgeted and scratched his forehead with his bloody fingers, adding another red blotch to his brow. In short, he was a mess. Finally, it was the interviewer who could stand it no longer; he suggested the candidate take a few moments to go clean himself up.

You Arrive with Time to Spare

To further lessen your anxiety, you get there early, giving yourself an hour's cushion. Because you're there early you get to look around. You scope out the place. You don't drink the coffee offered to you. Instead you try to talk to some employees or read some company literature. You notice things; this will give you more to talk about when you first meet the interviewer. And you don’t sit down while waiting. You stand. If you're nervous, say to yourself such things as: "This is not a life or death situation," or "This person interviewing me is just another person and was once on my side of the desk getting interviewed."

You're Ready for the Interview

When the interviewer comes to greet you, you’re up and alert. Active. Ready. Not a slouchier. You give a firm handshake and smack the interviewer with a big SMILE. You're glad to be there. It's an opportunity. Your smile is a calming and relaxing gesture, taking you closer to your first goal of relaxing the interview to make it more productive. Then you'll climb right into the interview, showing interest, enthusiasm, and a desire to learn more about the company and the position.Get Involved. Show Your Interest. Ask Questions. The Goal Is to "Talk Shop" as Quickly as Possible

You might say; "I’ve done some research about your company and the position you're trying to fill and I'm enthusiastic, but I would love to know more. What are the key challenges of the position? How would you see my role in meeting these challenges?'

You don't count on your interviewer being skilled, knowing that most are not professional interviewers, but professionals who have to interview. They may not know how to ask the right questions. They may not know how to assess your value to them. It's up to you to help them. Getting them to talk about their needs will allow you to hand-feed them your value and benefit. The sooner you can get the interviewer to do this, the sooner you’re able to show how your particular strengths can help fill those needs. The interviewer is flattered when asked questions about his or her company, the challenges ahead, and the goals the company wishes to attain. You know that if you don't learn their needs and goals, you'll only be guessing which abilities or skills you should emphasize.

When you’ve asked a question, you don’t answer in a general, clichéd manner. You provide evidence for your responses. For example, if the interviewer asks you: "Why do you think you can get us to the point of dominant market share by year-end?" you don’t say, "Because Tm a can-do, results-oriented kind of guy." In making your response, you draw a picture, giving them something to hang onto. You might say: "When I was with Widget, Inc., I met the same sort of challenge, getting our widgets into 44 Whopping Widget Centers in 23 states. I did it by. .

Since you’ve spent a lot of time in the interview talking shop, the interviewer hasn't gotten to or bothered with the standardized questions, so you haven't had to worry about these. It's a good idea to formulate answers, however, to these classics.

"Tell Me About Yourself" Is the Lazy Interviewer's Trump Card

You'll know others when you hear them: "Where do you see yourself in five years?" "Why did you leave your last job?" "What is your greatest weakness?" Many books on interviewing will bombard you with lists of commonly asked questions, followed by paragraph after paragraph of "best responses." The problem is that if you take these questions to heart, your brain will be crammed with worries about a huge number of mental scripts you’ve written to respond to all these questions. The prepared-response approach rarely works; even if the right data comes out of your mouth it often sounds stilted. Often panic sets in while the brain searches for the prepared answer, when ironically the most impressive answer is the spontaneous one. Better not to worry. Be yourself. Don't be afraid to pause and gather your thoughts. Be honest and thoughtful. Worrying about such questions as "What kind of boss do you prefer? " or "How many hours a day do you think a person should work?" will only pull you away from your game plan of eliciting employer needs and aligning your strengths to those needs.

The Positive Closing

When you sense the interview is winding down, close with a positive question to wrap it up, but also one that keeps the process moving for you, such as: "Is there any further information I could be reading regarding your company or your products/services?" Or "Is there anything else I can do to show my capabilities?" Or "I'd be glad to tackle any projects on a volunteer basis both to help out and to show you what I can do." Or "What might the next step be?"

The Follow-up

Immediately after the interview you send a short thank-you letter that shows your enthusiasm, touches on the highlights of the interview, and most importantly, keeps the process rolling. "Bob, I’ve enclosed a recent clipping from WidgetWorld that I think complements the marketing ideas we discussed. What do you think? It’ll touch base soon with the proposal data I mentioned."

Accumulate Rejection-Stare in Its Face and Stick Out Your Tongue

Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his career.


To win you need to get to the end of the game. And to survive in the face of an inevitable amount of rejection you need a very simple outlook: to want to accumulate rejection as fast as you can. Instead of fearing rejection, you need to look it in the eye and invite it. That's right: invite rejection. You will find you'll get used to it. You won’t fear it, for you will understand that the job search is a process of accumulating a series of "no's" until you get to a "yes."

The more "no’s" that are accumulated, the closer you will get to a "yes." The "no's" are inevitable for all of us; the "no's" are out there, waiting, stacked on top of the winning "yes." There are too many variables involved in the job-match process to expect otherwise. The company needs to like you. You need to like the company. The company needs to have the right culture and philosophy to match yours. The company's product or service needs to appeal to your beliefs. The right position needs to open at the right time. Internal politics have to be in your favor. External economic forces have to be in your favor. In short, there are numerous reasons-most of them not to be taken personally-that affect your search.

These reasons are the inevitable curves, sliders, fastballs, and sinkers of the job-search game. You need to accept them as being there and deal with them as they come by you. You must get up to the plate; hiding in the dugout will only prolong your agony. It is true; Babe Ruth did strike out 1,330 times. That means he swung 3,990 times and missed. But he had to in order to get what he ended up with: 714 home runs!
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