Last time, we dealt a little bit with the psychological side of job interviews. But I left out what I think is the most important thing to elevate your performance from good to great:
Do the job in the interview.
What does that mean, exactly? It means several things.
First, it means that before the interview (really, before you sent in an application for the job) you were convinced that you could kick ass in this job. Not “yeah I could probably do that,” or “I guess I could manage to work there for a while.” It means after looking at the job description, and doing your research on the job and the company, you’ve come to the conclusion that if they don’t hire you personally, they will regret it for the rest of their miserable lives.
You’ve matched up carefully and in detail all their requirements with your experience and talents. You can articulate off the top of your head, clearly and simply, why you are the perfect candidate for this position. If you can’t, sit down and write it out. And not just that your experience fits the job, but also that you have unique qualifications that your competitors don’t.
If you’re coming up empty on this, your time is better spent finding a different job to go for. (See “No carpet bombing.”)
In the interview
Once you’re in the room, here’s the goal: make them envision that you are already hired. A great question to jumpstart this process is something like: “What challenges do you see [this job] facing?” If you’ve done your research, you probably already know some of what their answers will be. Then have followup statements worked out that show how you would do the job if you had already started that morning, and how you’ve dealt with similar situations in the past.
The responses don’t have to be perfect, or even match up exactly with the interviewer’s expectations (you’re not a mindreader). But what this shows is that you are prepared enough to step into the job instantly, armed with solutions to the problems the employer is trying to solve. You’re not some formless blob of clay ready to be molded into something that might be useful in the future – you can do it now. And you can’t wait to get started.
Everything you do in the interview should show that you are already doing the job you’re being considered for. Think of it not as an interview, but as a staff meeting where you are outlining your strategy as a new employee.
Asking a fair amount of questions is good, but don’t ask anything that you should have found out in your research. Ask questions that will help you understand more in detail what they need – which will lead to responses that show them you know how to fill those needs.
This isn’t about being pushy or controlling. It’s about not just sitting passively waiting for questions, but instead engaging the interviewer on the level they would interact with an employee. Do that, and you will be head and shoulders above the other candidates.
Oh, and don’t forget that firm handshake.