Interview Tips (Play To Win Philosophy)


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Interview Tips (Play To Win Philosophy)

  1. 1. Personnel Consultant: Anthony P. Pivirotto, CPC, CDR Direct: 401 808-8649 Toll Free: 800 405-1152 Ext. 249 E-Mail: SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW GUIDELINES While interviewing is just one element of the career transition process, it is the most critical. It’s where “the tire meets the road”. Everything you do during your job search leads up to that moment – your meeting with a prospective employer – the interview! Yet as important as these meetings are, many executives have received very little training (if any at all) about how to be successful in the interview process. Success in this case is defined as “getting the end result that you want.” Let’s cover some simple steps that can greatly enhance your ability to be successful with interviewing. 1. THE “PLAY TO WIN” PHILOSOPHY: Whether you’re interviewing for a CEO position or as an Operations Manager, you have the same two objectives in the interview process: 1.) To convince the employer that you can be successful with the responsibilities of the position and 2.) To find out if you want this position with this company. Both cannot be accomplished in one meeting. That being said, consider this – although you ultimately will decide whether or not to accept any job offer, the employer has to make you an offer, the employer has to make you an offer first! Therefore… YOUR INITIAL EMPHASIS MUST BE PLACED ON OBJECTIVE #1 – CONVINCING THE EMPLOYER THAT THEY SHOULD HIRE YOU! If you go into the process prepared to present your credentials as they directly apply to this opening, you will win the employer’s interest. Then the tables turn; they will try to convince you to join their organization. Now you have them perfectly positioned to answer all of your questions, or to accomplish objective #2. The “Play to Win Philosophy”, simply, means satisfying the employer’s search criteria first (selling yourself), so that you ultimately get an offer to decide upon. Understand that if you initially attempt to cover your criteria, you may be satisfied but the employer ends the process because you did not establish their interest. The successful interviewer sells hard initially, builds interest with the employer, and gets the offer. That’s playing to win. 1
  2. 2. 2. INTERVIEW PREPARATION: Believe this: the most qualified candidate doesn’t always get the job. He/she who interviews best usually does and with any business meeting, you should come prepared. That means understanding the agenda, doing your research, bringing your relevant “evidence”, etc. Let’s break down your preparation into three areas: Physical Preparation Look and act the part. ♦ It goes without saying that you will be under intense scrutiny while interviewing. Maintain your professional appearance and demeanor throughout the entire process. You’ll be meeting with people who are in the middle of their workday. They may be a bit relaxed; jackets might be off, sleeves may be rolled up, etc. When they offer for you to “take your jacket off, loosen your tie, have a cup of coffee”, gracefully decline; never forget that you’re the one under the microscope. Here are some other helpful hints: Bring a notebook portfolio/binder, not a briefcase. Walk into the appointment five minutes in advance, but don’t ever be late. If you are delayed, call from your car (or stop and call). It’s better to arrive fifteen minutes late having called than to arrive five minutes late not having called. Leave outerwear in the lobby. If you need to visit the rest room, ask the Receptionist to wait until you’re back before announcing your arrival. Many companies require all candidates (regardless of the level of the position) to fill out required application paperwork. Be neat and do not write “SEE RESUME” across sections; fill it out completely. This will be your very first written assignment, so cooperate with this mundane task. And remember to ask for a business card from everyone you meet. You’ll need correct names/titles for your follow-up letters. Technical Preparation Simply put, study for the test. ♦ In advance of the interview, gather as much information as possible about the company, the industry, and the position itself. Get on the Internet and visit the company web site. Gather product information, annual reports, and a position description (if you ask, they may send it in advance), etc. An important exercise that will facilitate your technical preparation is to use a simple “T” chart called the “Position/Skill Analysis” (model attached). From the information you’ve gathered; list all of the relevant elements of the position, one at a time, on the left side of the page. Include industry, company and position components. Opposite each one on the right side of the page, list every single bit of your relevant experience with that particular element. Be very specific with dates, places, percentages, dollar amounts, etc. Look back into your records; make a few phone calls to your former associates if necessary. Dig up the information; write it down… one element at a time. If you’ve done this exercise correctly, you’ll have pages of raw data compiled. Now condense that down to a two or three page outline that could be titled” Why I can be successful in this position”, highlighting those experiences that will be most relevant to this employer. Don’t include things you may be proud of but that are not relevant to this position. Know your final outline cold, as it’s really your focussed “Presentation” for the first interview. Bring it with you in your notebook portfolio/binder; review it while waiting in the lobby; even refer to it during the interview itself. It will show the employer just how prepared (and, therefore, interested) you are. If 2
  3. 3. you have the capability, it’s always a powerful expression to prepare it in a formal presentation format to leave with the employer. It might just give you the winning edge. Mental Preparation If you’ve prepared, you can relax and enjoy the meeting. ♦ Just like when you took an exam in school, if you were prepared, you were confident and at ease. If not, your palms were sweaty and you were biting your nails. Remember? Same here. Once you do a thorough job with your technical preparation, you’ll be self-assured and relaxed. Then you can concentrate on the all-important subject of ESTABLISHING RAPPORT. Studies show that the #1 reason people get eliminated from the interview process is because of poor communication and interpersonal skills. Think back to the last time you interviewed someone. The first question you probably asked yourself following the interview was “Did I like him/her?” All the experience and skills in the world don’t matter if the “chemistry” is not there. Here are some tips to help establish good rapport, good chemistry: SMILE A LOT: It’s a very powerful expression. EYE CONTACT: Lock on, both when speaking and listening. LEAN FORWARD: As opposed to settling back in your chair with your legs crossed, sit on the edge of your seat and lean forward. That indicates you’re interested in the exchange and ready to receive information. Be careful to maintain good posture; sit erect, but not rigidly. NOD YOUR HEAD: As someone speaks to you, indicate that you’re listening by nodding your head as if to say, “I’m hearing you.” BE ENTHUSIASTIC: As you learn about the individual you’re meeting with, the position and the company, express your interest and enthusiasm. If, in your mind, you’re getting excited… verbalize it! Enthusiasm is a very contagious emotion. Finally, understand that your conduct during the interview process will be perceived as your conduct on the job. If you are prepared for the interview, you will be perceived as an organized individual. If you are calm and collected in front of the Board of Directors, you’ll be considered so in dealing with stressful situations. Conversely, if you’re nervous and fidgety, that’s how you’ll act with a big customer as you try to close “the big deal”. If you cancel your interview appointment because the forecast calls for snow, it might be assumed that you probably don’t come in when it snows. But you can turn these perceptions to your advantage by giving it your best shot. 3. PREPARE (FOR) QUESTIONS: Fielding Questions – Anticipate and role-play You can certainly anticipate questions that are bound to be asked such as the ‘role “Tell me about yourself” to “What is your practical knowledge of (the latest technology)?” The point is, figure out what’s going to be asked of you in the initial interviews and formulate a response that, again, 3
  4. 4. is relevant to this employer. Try putting together a list and asking someone (like your spouse) to ask them of you. See how your response sounds out loud and modify it as needed. Some of the more common ones that you may want to consider are:  Tell me about yourself? (No more than two minutes for your answer)  Why would you consider leaving your present employer? (Never be negative)  Can you share a long-term personal/professional goal of yours with me?  What interests you about this position?  What do you know about us? (Get ready for this one… it’s coming)  What words would your subordinates use to describe you as a manager?  Tell me about your self-improvement activity.  Who is your favorite business author/trainer/guru? Asking Questions – Find out if this opportunity meets your requirements. Regardless of the level of the position you’re interviewing for, here are some questions you may want to ask:  What are the key responsibilities of the position?  In your opinion what projects need to be addressed in the first months of the job?  Can you describe the structure of the department/division/company I’ll be working in, including the reporting relationships, peers, etc.?  Why is this position available?  (If it is a replacement) What led to the decision to locate a new (position title)?  What is the biggest obstacle that the new (position title) will face initially?  From your perspective, why should I be interested in this position?  What is your background?  What attracted you to this company?  What differentiates your company from its competitors?  What do you see as the most important challenge facing this company? If you are interviewing for an executive position, you also may want to ask:  What is your competitive edge?  Who are your chief competitors? What is their advantage?  What competitive issues need to be immediately addressed? (I.e., pricing? Product mix? Market positioning? Etc.)  What have you identified as your biggest opportunity for reducing costs? Increased revenues?  Can you please outline for me how you are bringing your product to market (i.e., direct sales force, rep organizations, channels of distribution, etc.)?  (For a private company) At what point will you be willing to share private financial information with me?  What recent strategic initiatives can you share with me? Questions About Salary and Benefits: Let the employer take the first shot. Remember these two rules: 1.) You should never initiate a conversation about salary and benefits prior to an offer. 4
  5. 5. 2.) You must be open and honest about your salary history. If you are successful in winning the employer’s interest, you will have ample opportunity to investigate their benefit package come offer time. Understand that very few items will be negotiable; they are not going to modify their benefit package to suite any new employee. You may have some flexibility on vacation time, but don’t be surprised if they are unyielding about this benefit. Many companies are rigid about sticking to the company policy for vacation time as it is a very visible benefit and therefore has the potential for causing problems with other tenured employees. There exists a false perception that when interviewing, you should never tell a potential employer your current salary. Not true! You must be open and honest about your current salary and even your salary history. Companies know that they must provide candidates with a fair incentive to attract them, but they need to understand your history in order to be fair. In fact, more and more companies are requiring salary verification (in the form of a W-2 or pay stub) after an offer has been accepted along with the pre-hire physical and drug screen. During an interview, if the employer asks, “What is it going to take to get you to make the move to our company?” your response should be, “I will tell you that my current compensation is $________ and if you think I’m the person for the job, I’m sure you’ll make me a fair offer.” To mention a number may serve to either under-price or over-price you. And if the employer makes you an acceptable offer on the spot and you’re ready to go… ACCEPT IT! If they make you an unacceptable offer on the spot, ask for some time to think about it and then call your personnel consultant immediately. We’ll go to work on making it right. The point is, DON’T TURN IT DOWN! There is a certain finality to turning down an offer; we may not be able to resurrect it. 4. CLOSING THE INTERVIEW The “Play to Win” philosophy means getting the offer. Closing strongly after each and every meeting will help leave the interviewers with a lasting positive impression. As an executive, you’ll be expected to make tough decisions and ask tough questions every day. Display your propensity for “closing” during the interview process by asking this sequence of questions: Question #1 –“Now that we’ve had an opportunity to meet and discuss my background, do you have any reservations about my ability to be successful in this position?” (Fear of rejection is a very powerful human emotion. Your natural instincts will be to not ask such a question due to fear of hearing a negative answer. That’s the whole point! If you can ask this question about yourself, you certainly can ask tough questions at an important board meeting or in a problem resolution with an important customer.) If they express some reservation, GREAT! Now that you’ve uncovered it, you have an opportunity to address and alleviate it. Now, go for the win… Question #2 - “I am very interested in this opportunity. How do we get to the next step” – or- “When can I come back to meet with the rest of your team?” – or even- “When can I start?” 5
  6. 6. Asking for the job is the ultimate expression of self-assuredness and confidence. Many of our clients will not extend an offer until the candidate of choice asks for the job. At the end of the process, when it’s crunch time, go for it! 5. FOLLOW-UP Immediately upon departing, call your personnel consultant from your car or as soon as you get to a phone. Your fresh feedback will be very important when it’s shared with the employer in a timely manner by the recruiter. Protocol dictates that a follow-up letter be written to each individual with whom you’ve met. You can compose one letter body, but address/send each individually. SOME TIPS: make it timely (not the following week), keep it to one page, and spell/grammar check it thoroughly. The following format is suggested: 1. Open with a general thank you statement for the time spent. 2. Express you confidence in your ability to succeed in the position. 3. Back up that statement with three solid reasons why you can do this job. (Here’s where your letter may differ from individual to individual. The CFO may have been impressed with your financial experience, which you certainly want to reinforce with him/her. The CIO may have been most impressed with your systems implementation experience, and so forth.) 4. PLAY TO WIN: express your interest in the opportunity and your desire to move forward. Follow-up Letter TIPS: ♦ Make it timely. DO IT NOW! Not next week. ♦ Keep it to one page. ♦ Spell check/grammar check thoroughly. ♦ Don’t forget to preview your letter with your personnel consultant before sending it to the employer. Take advantage of our experience. SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEWING GUIDELINES – SUMMARY: ♦ Play to Win: earn the employer’s interest first–get the offer or move forward to the next step! ♦ Preparation is the key to interviewing success; the investment in time pays huge dividends. ♦ Anticipate questions and review your answers. ♦ Prepare thoughtful relevant questions. ♦ Close the interviews strongly, leave a positive impression… ASK FOR THE JOB. ♦ Write timely individualized follow-up letters. Your Personnel Consultant is your transition Notes: 6