Published on April 7th, 2005 by Alan L Sklover
The Job-Seeker’s “Three Interview Objectives“
ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Erica, a journalism major at a large southwestern university, was soon to face her first real job interview. She was nervous, to say the least. After four years of college, armed with college newspaper experience and two prestigious internships, her “big step forward” was about to begin. At least that’s what she hoped. As an aspiring journalist, this was the job of her dreams: a staff writer for a leading monthly fashion magazine. Her interview was coming up, and she didn’t know where to begin. Her dad, a senior executive client of ours, asked us to spend a few minutes with her.
To help Erica focus her thoughts and efforts for her upcoming interview, we shared with her the same thing we share with each of our clients facing interviews. While there’s never any “standard” interview, there is a “standard,” best way to approach interview preparation.
Every job seeker with an upcoming interview has a goal in mind: getting a good job offer. But getting that goal requires reaching three distinct objectives. Three objectives to prepare to reach, three objectives to achieve, and three objectives to serve as a checklist of sorts before arriving at, and leaving, the interview. Even when meeting with five different people in interviewing for one position, in each interview session the job seeker has the same three objectives.
They are: (a) making the right “investigations” to see if you and the position will likely be a good “fit.” That’s a matter of asking the right questions, and being prepared for theirs, as well. (b) Making a lasting, positive “impression.” That’s done by considering and exhibiting what’s so “special” about you. And, (c) showing your potential employer that you will be a good “investment.” That is, that you will enhance one or more of their (1) revenues, (2) valuable relations, and/or (3) business reputation.
Sure enough, our sharing The Three Interview Objectives with Erica had the desired effect: First, by reducing the uncertainties inherent in the overall experience, and making the objectives simply three-fold, Erica felt more “certain” of what lied ahead, it seemed a bit more concrete and clear. Erica felt more up to the task; her increased confidence was striking. Second, by giving Erica specific objectives to focus her thoughts on, she became more focused, less anxious, and more purpose-driven – always a great combination. Her confidence, focus, poise and purpose all came across, and won her the position. Would she have been successful without The Three Objectives of the Interview? We’ll never know, and never need to find out. She made the right investigations, the right impression, and inspired the investment in her that she sees as pure opportunity. The rest is now up to her.
LESSON TO LEARN: When preparing for an interview, focus your thoughts, energies and preparations on The Three Interview Objectives:
1. Investigation: Your first Interview Objective is also your interviewer’s objective: mutual investigation. That’s why they call it an “inter-view.” Simply put, that’s what an interview’s all about. Your objective, though, is to “investigate” your employer, to see if the position, your prospective boss, the company, its culture, the compensation, even the conditions of the position, are what you’re really interested in. It’s possible they’re not. Some people are very, very disappointed with a new job they’d previously longed for. As in many a budding “romance,” there’s a tendency to overlook telltale signs of incompatibility. It’s of the essence that you prepare thoughtful inquiries, ask good questions, and not be bashful about asking follow-up questions, as well. Be tactful, but be tenacious, too.
At the same time, be prepared for their investigation of you. Imagine yourself to be your interviewer. She may ask you about any gaps in employment on your resume, the basis of your interest in the position, what you think about your present boss, perhaps your willingness to travel half-time. Or he may ask you why you’re looking to leave your present employer. Just as you should prepare a list of insightful questions, you should prepare yourself for the questions that the interviewers might ask you, and have ready good, positive, thoughtful responses. (Remember: no negativity, no trade secrets and no stretching the truth.)
Investigation – mutual investigation – is your first interview objective. Of course, your investigative efforts should flow naturally from your list of “employment values,”. . . that is, what you value in a job, and are looking for from your employment relation. “Employment Values” might include, among others, career stability, financial opportunity, equity (a chance to become an owner), a career stepping stone, or perhaps a great learning opportunity. Your “employment values” are what you should make inquiry about. And don’t be afraid to raise issues about anything else important to you. Your primary values should be those that center on or about (a) your position, and how it fits in the organization, (b) the organization, and how it works, (c) your and your organization’s future, and how they might grow together.
2. Impression: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Your second Interview Objective is to leave a positive, lasting impression. Something that your interviewers will not soon forget about you. Even if you have the best credentials, and have the most to offer, if you put your interviewers to sleep, they won’t remember you, or hire you even if they do remember you.
- Positive impression comes from positive social interaction – including a firm handshake, upbeat manner, appropriate attire, confident self-image, looking someone in the eye, sufficient smiling, a positive nature, an interest in others. Listening carefully to others, and answering their questions without pause or squirming, contributes to positive impression.
- Lasting impression is achieved by special qualities, special insights, special things about you that are, literally, unforgettable. Are you “the one” that knows their biggest target customer? Are you “the one” who is an expert on their customer-relations software, and therefore “exactly what we need?” Are you “the one” who is known in the industry as the “best,” “hottest,” “most able” in the field? Are you “the one” who is fluent in Farsi, and thus the one they need to do business in Afghanistan?” Get the point?
- The question is this: “What’s So Darn Special About You?” And when we say “special,” we mean “special enough so they put your resume on the top of the pile.” And “special enough that they can’t forget about you.” SkloverWorkingWisdom™ starts with this exact message: Your “Unique Human Capital” is what you sell – make sure others are aware of it. You’d be amazed how many people are too timid to take that first step, who actually miss the opportunity to make the impression that they otherwise could. Make your Impression a positive one, and a lasting one, as well.
3. Investment: More than any other lesson of our SkloverWorkingWisdom™, and its most important advantage – bar none – is that it instills in those who use it the important habit of seeing your negotiation through the eyes and mind of your employer. Every employer sees hiring a new employee, at least in good part, as a potential investment. Just like an investment in new computers, or investment in a new building. The investment in hiring a new employee is a special one, in that, while like all other investments, it may or may not pay off, hiring a new employee requires a great deal of time, effort, interaction and resources that, if the “investment” does not pay off, are lost forever. Poor hiring choices can cost an employer more dearly than any other investment. Yet – at the same time – investment in people can yield greater and longer lasting returns than any other investment.
Your message needs to be one that inspires an investment in you. In essence, your message needs to be: “Hire me, and it will pay off . . .big . . .for a long time.” Be concrete, practical, and honest. That’s your most important message to convey. “Hire me, and I will . . .increase your revenues . . . strengthen your critical relations . . . enhance your reputation . . .pay off quickly, over time, and more than anyone else you can hire.” Be convincing, be inspiring, be motivating.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Whenever you face an upcoming job interview, don’t fret; instead, focus. Focus on the three objectives in front of you. Start with Investigation of the position, the company and the possibilities. Proceed with creating a lasting, positive Impression so that you are remembered, remembered in a positive way, and remembered as someone who is truly special. Move onto your third phase: inspire Investment in you and your hiring by “raising a resounding sense of return” on any investment in you, that is, all that you can and will do for your employer. Use Investigation, Impression and Investment as your Interview Objectives, and you’ll be far more likely to reach the Interview Goal of being hired, as well.
If you would like to obtain a “model” letter, memo or checklist for your use with “new job” issues and opportunities [click here].