Arrival. Generally speaking you'll meet the receptionist
first. You should volunteer why you are here and with whom you have
an appointment. Expect to wait and to possibly fill out forms requested
by human resources.
Lights, camera, action, Smile! Your next contact will most
likely be someone from personnel, an administrative assistant to
the hiring authority, or the even the hiring authority himself.
A look into the other person's eyes, a firm handshake, an enthusiastic
hello followed by "I'm Mary Doe" is appropriate. Eye contact
is essential throughout the entire interview cycle. The next step
could be testing, meeting several members of the team, or simply
a walk back to the interviewer's office. The best approach here
is only to respond to someone who initiates a conversation.
Most interviews are comprised of a chronological section and
a topical section. The chronological interview is a review of
your job history from most recent position backwards to your earlier
work, education, and so on. In most cases, this process should take
less than 10 minutes. A solid command of your resume will keep this
moving, but remember, your resume is not your selling tool! Your
objective is to get to the most critical aspect in the entire process,
the topical interview, and getting to the topical interview is controlled
by the candidate! A simple question such as "Mary, what will
my first assignment be at the ABC Company ?" is appropriate.
The idea is to transition from focusing on what you've done in the
past to determining how your skills match up to the needs of the
company. The interviewer welcomes this assertive approach. Unless
the candidate seizes the initiative, the interview can become bogged
down, and all of your preparation to present yourself is wasted.
There is a rhythm to the interview, and both parties sense when
things are not moving along on a comfortable pace. To get an offer
the candidate must take responsibility for presenting his case.
This can only happen during the topical interview.
The Topical Interview. The topical interview is the most
strategic aspect of the entire process. Mastery of this main element
is critical. During this stage, you will find out what is expected
of you. You must convince the interviewer that you either have all
of the skills required or are highly capable of learning whatever
skills you may currently lack. You must draw upon your prepared
scenarios in a confident, natural way. Appearing to be manipulative
or reciting "canned" speeches is counter-productive, and
will work against you.
The topical interview. The question "Mary, what will my first
assignment be at the ABC company?" is a strategic probe designed
to identify your initial responsibilities. The interviewer will
be forthright on what the duties of the position are. Bear in mind
that she already has a good idea that you fit the assignment or
she wouldn't be spending time interviewing you. Your job is to reinforce
her decision. You do this by relating the required activities to
your previous experiences or knowledge of the topic.
For example, if the interviewer said: "We take a team approach
to project management here at the ABC Company. You would be expected
to participate in such groups immediately and be able to lead teams
within six months." Your response must include examples of
your participation as both a leader and a participant. A key here
is not to use the word "follower." Relate how all team
members made valuable contributions to the project and specifically
cite two or three. This indicates you understand all team members
are responsible for contributing.
Another activity is the financial management of the business. For
example, the interviewer relates: "As the district manager,
you will be responsible controlling budgets, including variable
costs. We expect our supervisors to both anticipate expenses and
take pro-active measures to address deficiencies. Since this position
reports to the vice president of operations, she expects a time
and action plan to address both opportunities and challenges on
a monthly basis." This is a great opportunity to demonstrate
your business acumen. Use examples, including real numbers and people,
to discuss how you and your team improved variable costs such as
food cost, beverage cost, labor cost, energy cost, paper cost, and
so on. This is a perfect time to give credit to supervisors, peers,
and direct reports who made valuable suggestions, demonstrating
leadership that cuts across a number of levels. Suggest you also
have found that building sales is a key to reducing costs as well.
Relate steps you and your team took to improve sales. These could
be as simple as implementing a standard that floor supervisors must
visit with every customer to thank them for their patronage, or
describing a local marketing plan and its success.
As the candidate, you must ask "what else" questions throughout
the topical interview. Your purpose here is to present your credentials
as completely as possible. Your research into the company and your
anticipation of likely questions should have prepared you for the
topical interview. Be assured that all the "tough" questions
will be surfaced, though they may appear in a different form or
context. You can help the interviewer by volunteering answers to
these questions during your presentation. In the financial area,
for example, you could begin your answer by saying: "One of
things that made me interested in your company is that you increased
existing store sales and profits during your expansion. So, I knew
I would fit in here because I think that's really important. Here's
how I've worked on those P & L issues in the past."
Remember the overtime question? You can take a proactive approach
there as well. In that same financial area, you could say: "The
financial management of the business is an area where I excel. My
personal method is to spend quality time away from the operations
in a quiet environment so I can concentrate on comparing the variable
costs of similar locations. This extra effort has always paid off.
For example, ... I still held the standard monthly meetings, but
this extra time enabled me to make some positive suggestions to
my direct reports." Does that sound like someone who watches
the clock? No way.
To summarize, during the topical interview, keep the conversation
positive, and answer each question as completely as you can. There
will not be a second chance. Indicate you have a long term interest
in the company, and that you would enjoy working with the person
with whom you are interviewing. Answer all questions honestly and
in a positive fashion, using simple words like will and can, not
idea words such as perhaps or might. Lastly, ask for the offer!
That's why you came here, right?
Ask for the offer.
This is the closing part of the topical interview. Tuning in to
the rhythm of the interview, both parties sense the time has come
to conclude the interview. The candidate must take the initiative
here, just as in the transition from chronological to topical interview.
A simple question such as: "Do you think I am qualified for
the position?" indicates you feel you have presented your case
convincingly. Though the interviewer may answer in a variety of
ways, the most likely of which is that she will be interviewing
additional candidates, you should say that you really feel that
you are well-qualified for the position, you think the job is perfect,
and you would like to have the job. Thank the interviewer for her
time and tell her you look forward to working with her in the future.
Her response will be to close the interview. This may mean you will
now be interviewing with another person, or that the process is
complete. You should approach the ensuing interviews in this same
manner. If the interview is complete, you should exit with a statement
that is positive. Restate that you can do the job and that you will
contribute to the company. Thank the interviewer, and then the receptionist
as you leave.
Company Evaluation. Within 30 minutes of completing the interview,
use your scorecard to grade the company and the position. If the
location of the position is perfect, you should put the maximum
number of points in that matrix slot. Fill in the scorecard for
every criteria and total the points. This is the overall score.
Write a Thank You Note. Your note or notes should indicate
that upon review your interest in the position has gotten stronger,
and you are confident you will contribute to the success of the
company. Thank the interviewer and say you look forward to visiting
with her again soon.
Only you know what points you failed to mention, or which parts
of the interview did not go as well as you anticipated. This is
not about second-guessing what occurred! This is to insure that
your next interview is even better than this one. The interviewer
did not prepare for the interview to the extent that you did. She
has no idea of what you left out, and is judging you purely by what
happened during the interview. Do not leave out an evaluation of
such non-verbal signals, including body language. Did you look directly
into the eyes of the interviewer? Was your handshake firm and confident?
Did you take a seat before the interviewer had settled into hers?
These are all cues that you should review. Identify areas for development
and work on them while they are fresh in mind.