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How to Pass Through the Interview 
Process in One Piece.

Donald Levine

They liked the way you advertised yourself (your resume) and now they want an interview! It need not be an ordeal. Just be prepared to sell your skills by planning ahead. Here's how:

Sometimes your first contact with the company will be over the telephone, a "telephone interview". They will not hire you over the phone, but they may decide not to - so be prepared! Most of what is required for a phone interview is required for a face-to face interview (except the dress code, of course). For example you need to be on time. For a phone interview this means that if an employer says they are going to call between 10 AM an 12 noon on Saturday be there, ready to take the call. And what does it take to be ready for the call? Arm yourself: Arrange to have the right atmosphere, be Ready with research, and Mark up your resume with notes as you listen.

First, lets talk about atmosphere. Have you taken steps to get background noise to a minimum? (Yes, even you folks with the screaming newborn baby need to find a way to conduct the telephone interview in peace and quiet.) A picture of your family on your desk shows that you have a family to support and implies stability. The sound of your family in the background is very distracting and implies disorganization.

What you want to imply is what can you do for their company. But the question of what you can do for an employer assumes that you have discovered where your strengths might meet their needs. So what do you know about their company? Corporate information is available from the internet, your public library or even from the company itself if you call their public relations department. Have this research done before you take that interviewer's call!

The prospective employer will be calling you with a copy of your resume in hand. You should have a copy of your resume at hand so that you will be "on the same page" with your interviewer. Have a pencil and paper ready to take notes both on what they want, and any questions that you might have. Circle on your resume which areas the employer might question you on later. Be ready to give them a choice of three times you are available for a face-to-face meeting, because the goal of a telephone interview is to get a personal interview.

At least one face-to-face interview will be called for, and perhaps more than one will be required - as a rule, the higher the position is within an organization the more hurdles you will have to jump to get on board. And not all interviews are one-on-one affairs. Some companies will ask you to meet with a series of individuals, or they may ask you to meet with all of those individuals assembled in one room. Adequate preparation is a great antidote to any nervousness this might cause.

Prepare for a personal interviews as if it were a sales call. Before you go in review any notes from your research, and if a phone interview took place review those notes, too. Bring a copy of your resume with you . As with any sales call you must find out what the customer needs, emphasis the benefits of your product, and close the sale.

Find out what the customer needs, what his or her problems are.

One thing a prospective employer does not need is to get the impression that all you are looking for is the money and/or the benefits. Do not mention money or benefits at this stage of the interview process. Bear in mind that you are trying to show the interviewer(s) what you can do for them, not question them to see if they have what you want.

Your customer, the interviewer, needs to see your interest in helping the company grow. One tangible way to demonstrate this interest by talking about the research you did in advance about the company. The interviewer needs to know that you view this chance to become part of their organization as a great opportunity, and that you know and care what the company's needs are. Battle scarred interview veterans will tell you about the "job that got away" only because they had not done their homework and researched their interviewer's organization.

One of the customer's greatest needs is your undivided attention during the interview. Therefore, do not schedule too many interviews for one day. Nothing makes an interviewer feel ignored more than seeing you constantly looking at your watch as if you wish the interview were already over. They can arrange that, because they will be turned off by your apparent lack of interest.

Emphasize those areas in your experience that will solve the customer's problems and meet their needs.

Now is not the time to be modest or shy. Tell them your product's strengths, and remember, you are that product! If your research shows that their stock is down because of a failed new product and you have experience in product turnaround, emphasize that experience. If they are moving toward a TQM (Total Quality Management) environment and you have related experience in team building, tell them where and when you did this - and what great results you obtained. If the company is trying to move away from DOD (Department of Defense) work and move into commercial applications, or if they are going through a reorganization use your experience to show them how you can help!

At this point you should re-summarize the job opening to determine their needs. "Let me get this straight...you want a Widget salesman who has also worked in the high-tech Wonton market and is a seasoned manager - with overseas experience in Nepal, right?" Get them to expand on the job description if necessary, get it straight. Then, do not just say, "I can do that." Say, I can do that, because..." of your experience. Re-affirm your strengths. In our example you could say, "I can do tha t because I worked for Gidget's Widgets on the marketing team for the GidgWidge, and we also sold fiber-optic Wonton transmitters in Nepal to the Nepalese secret service."

Close the sale

If the interviewers have any concerns, now is the time to discover them and address them. It is almost impossible to address those concerns once the interview is over - this is your window of opportunity!

Ask the interviewer this question, "Do you feel that I can do this job?" Admittedly this is rather blunt, but at this point you should find out where you stand. If your interviewer has any objections to your "sale" you should deal with them now while you still can. The object here is to identify exactly which areas the interviewer sees as your strengths and weaknesses. In our example the interviewer might say, "But we are looking for people with experience selling digital Wonton transmitters in northern Nepal, and you only have experience selling analog Wonton transmitters in southern Nepal."

What you should do is turn those negatives into positives. Minimize your weaknesses by emphasizing your strengths. The focus must shift away from what you can't do to what you can do. Our intrepid Widget/Wonton salesman might say the following, "Well, yes, I may not have a lot of experience in digital Wonton transmitters, but I have worked with digital Widgets and they are very similar."

Some final notes: Show up on time, but not too early - 15 to 20 minutes ahead is ideal. Dress conservatively, be well groomed (clean your nails, etc.), be on your best behavior, but be yourself - if you can't be yourself at the interview you won't be able to be yourself the entire time you work there. If this sounds too obvious to mention, think again. You would be amazed at how many candidates for a job show up late, dressed inappropriately, ignoring basic hygiene, and trying too hard to impress people by pretending to be someone they are not.

And never lose sight of the fact that the purpose of the interview is to get an offer. If you like them and they like you, it can be interview magic!


� 2000 Sharp Placement Professionals, Inc.


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