There is one primary "secret" to every phase of the job search and especially your interview: find out what the employer needs are and then show them how you can provide the expertise and experience to fulfill those needs.
During the interview, your most important objective is to uncover your interviewer's most ardently felt want, problem, need, desire, goal or priority. Once you know what the employer's greatest needs are, you then begin selling yourself. As master salespeople know, don't sell anything until you know what the buyer is buying.
Of course the interviewer begins by asking you to tell about yourself. If he does, what you provide must be general and leading to a focus on the position. For example, after the small talk, be ready to seize the initiative by saying, "...that's why I'm here and I'm applying for this position. I wonder if you wouldn't mind filling me in a little bit more about this job. All I know is what I read in the ad and some research I've completed." This first question can lead to other questions, each of which can help you know how to position your qualifications and thereby sell what the interviewer is buying. Rehearse this approach so it comes off tactfully, almost nonchalantly, to avoid the impression that you're trying to take over the interview.
Here's another example: the interviewer ends the small talk by saying, "Well, I've read through your resume, but why don't you tell me a little bit more about your qualifications." Your best answer would be to give a 30-second to one-minute summary of your strongest qualifications and then, without pausing, immediately continue by saying, "I have a number of accomplishments that I'd like to tell you about. So that I can make my answers relevant to your areas of greatest interest, may I ask a question or two about the position? All I know about it is what I read from (name the source of your information)..."
No matter which question your interviewer asks you at the beginning of the interview, you should give but a brief answer, and return to the strategy of uncovering his greatest want.
What Interviewers Prize Most in Candidates
Researchers at the Native Americans University Placement Office videotaped employment interviews and found surprising differences in the ways that successful job seeker performed during interview versus those who were later unsuccessful. Many of the candidates who had the highest marks "on paper" before being interviewed did not make the final list of hired candidates.
The biggest difference was the interviewee's communication skills and ability to exploit the face-to-face interview. The successful candidates identified with the potential employer's greatest wants, needs and desires. They were positive and assertive in answering questions and asking questions which demonstrated that they were trying to uncover the employer's greatest needs and then show why they were qualified to meet them.
This same study showed clearly that the most successful interviewees refer to the organization by name four times as often as unsuccessful applicants. They also mention receiving information about the firm from employees and from written sources. In other words, they demonstrated a genuine interest in the company.
Adapted from "Interviews That Win Jobs," Editors, Benci-Ventures, Inc.
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