It takes a lot of work to find a great job and make your resume stand out, but that all led up to the big moment—the one where you stop planning and writing and start actually talking to the people you may soon work with. We're offering up a few tips on staying cool, telling your story without bragging or boring, and being prepared for any curve balls, so take a look before you pick up the pinstripes from the dry cleaners. Photo by jeremyfoo.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
You can't always tell which way an interview might go, because recruiters and managers think and feel differently day to day—just like real humans! But being able to cover all the common ground about your work experience, your thoughts on the job to be filled, and knowing that you handled all the cordial introductions and interview etiquette right can keep the surprises to a minimum. The now-defunct Membox site once rounded up some seriously comprehensive preparation advice, now available through the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, that we found pretty helpful. It might seem back-to-basics for those in the job market for a while, but that's the idea: Nail down the basics of good interviewing, and the difference between hiring you and someone else are a few much-finer points. Photo by fuzzcat.
Flip an interviewer's mind tricks back on them
Hypnosis hacker and general mind-tweakerr Vj Vijai explains in a presentation at O'Reilly's Ignite event how to use (hopefully) subtle mental and emotional tactics to leave your interviewer thinking everything went well and good, even if you had a few "I don't knows" in there. Practice "Syncing," for example, to put yourself closer to the interviewer's mindset:
People like people who are like themselves. Syncing is way by which you can establish deep rapport with anyone by mimicking their physiology. By sitting in the same posture, nodding in the same way, breathing at the same rate, you can create a strong connection with the interviewer.
Don't plan to become a watch-waving master manipulator and get by with woefully inadequate responses. Instead, consider working one or two subtle techniques from these ideas into your interview game. Here's Vijai's short presentation:
It's completely unfair, but totally true: The guy or gal with the best skills and closest fit to the work description doesn't always get the job. That's often because so many applicants have similar qualifications, and often because, well, the hiring team just liked Johnny for no particular reason. Don't leave it up to chance or lottery pickings—make yourself stand out from the field. As the Brazen Careerist writer Penelope Trunk tells it, having an actual story about your career, or your skill set, helps in more than one way:
The problem is, most people can't figure out a story to tell about themselves, so they start listing facts. This is boring, and research shows that listing facts about ourselves instead of telling stories actually makes us feel disjointed — which is, of course, no good in an interview. Compelling stories make us believe in ourselves. So find a story arc to your career, and tell it during every interview.
Another idea we've liked: Presenting an agenda for your first 100 days on the job, as described by job applicant and "Slacker Manager" Brendon Connelly. Even if your goals and ideas don't match up exactly with the firm's likes or wants, you've ascended to more than just a B.A. and some start and end dates. Photo by (meagen).
Put your people skills to work
Before the interview, find out what you can about your interviewers, and future co-workers, using both Google and tools like LinkedIn, as suggested by blogger Guy Kawasaki. If that's as social as you want to get, fine, but if you're any good on the phone, scheduling an informal, informational-only interview with someone in a similar position to the one you're applying for can yield insights that will surprise your interviewer. Finally, once the test is over and you're back at home, take a maximum of 10 minutes to write a quick, effective thank-you note. How can it hurt to show a company that you're quick at getting back to people, considerate of others, and (potentially) a good writer?
There's not a lot of hard science to interviews—just people who have done it, people who do it from the other side, and all their advice. What specific tips or tricks have you used to score a job? Tell the tale in the comments.