In the laundry list of interview tips (most of them good) that are floating around out there, there is one you probably haven’t heard before…
Because it is a fundamental “law,” if you will, in the art of persuasion, which is really what a job interview is after all.
Now, it doesn’t require any special training, and it doesn’t solve all the mysteries of the universe, BUT
It does give you a baseline to monitor yourself against, and it should be the starting off point for any conversation you have with a prospective employer or recruiter.
Here’s the tip:
Don’t try to interest them in things they aren’t interested in.
Sounds simple, right? Well, it should be. But if it were, job searches would be a lot more successful as would every multi-million-dollar marketing campaign.
It’s just not that simple.
We think it’s about impressing them with what we have to say, with our background and our skills and whatever else it is that we think is the most impressive about us. We want to tell them what we have to offer because, well, that’s what it seems like an interview is about. We might even spend a good portion of the interview weaving the discussion back to whatever it is we want to focus on, BUT
The truth is that the most important part of the interview is listening to how the interviewer is directing the conversation and understanding what it is that matters to him or her.
It isn’t so that you can lie or simply agree with everything the interviewer is saying, but it is so that you can adjust your approach to address that issue or issues.
It is what makes for effective communication of any type, written or verbal, really. And generally we are so bad at it.
Too often we think that we need to tell people things, convince them of our position, BUT
Really, we need to let them know we understand what matters to them and we are going to use our expertise to help support that.
In other words, stop selling them on your MBA, for example, if they are really more interested in your soft skills.
(So if the interviewer has weaved in several questions now on teamwork and workplace culture, that should be a big clue that this issue is going to be a main driving force in the decision on whom to hire. Find a way to discuss it from then on. Don’t try to convince them that they should really pick you because of something else, like awards or something. They won’t. They are signaling that culture is what matters most.)
Missing the boat on this is all too often why you can have a “good” interview experience where you thought you had a nice conversation with the interviewer and did your best to present your background in the most interesting way but still did not get the job.
Now, this isn’t to say that if you do have an MBA or have won some industry award, that you can’t or shouldn’t mention it, BUT
You want to do so in the context of the clues you are getting from the interviewer about what matters to him or her. And you will get those clues based off the type of questions asked and the comments made about your background.
The art of connection isn’t so much about commonality of experience or charisma as it is about meeting needs.
When you talk about the things that matter to the interviewer, you are signaling to him or her that you are willing to meet the interviewer’s needs. And that is what makes for a successful interview (along with all that other stuff about wearing a suit, brushing your teeth, etc.)