I encourage my clients and job seekers in general to be respectful of process; to not do or say something that will cause raised eyebrows or hiring minds to doubt you. However, my perpetual mindset is early influenced by Tevye, the lead character in the Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof. There’s always an “on the other hand”!
If your conservative approach has not been working for you, there are nine strategies that I’ve seen to be very effective if used in a natural, unforced way. They can make a difference, simply because it’s very likely your competition will not be using them!
1. Don’t rush your entrance.
When you walk into the room or office, deliberately take your time. Pause at the door, confirming that the interviewer is ready for you before you walk in. Take a few seconds to look around and acclimate yourself when you enter. After you and the interviewer greet one another and shake hands, take your time when settling yourself into the chair. By taking things a little slower, you appear more poised and professional.
2. Ask the first question.
There’s no reason that you can’t take the initiative, even though typically the interviewer asks the first question. The question, “What has the response been to your new product line?” shows immediately that you know something about the company. It can be the impetus for getting the interviewer to reveal some trends, successes or concerns that you can capitalize on later in the interview.
3. Be your authentic self.
Assuming that you don’t have any flagrant behavior liabilities that would kill your chances for most jobs, don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you have a quirky side to your personality, reveal it just a tad. Your love of a certain genre. Your fascination with a certain topic. Your commitment to serving a cause. Your unusual guttural laugh. Your tendency to use your hands a lot because your parents were deaf. Most interviewers like to come away from an interview with at least a general sense of who you really are. Ironically, you often do yourself more harm than good when you try too hard to play the part of the interviewee you think they want—the ideal candidate.
4. Balance charisma with sincerity.
While it’s important to build rapport with the person interviewing you, don’t go overboard. Your main goal is to bring to light the skills, experience and talents you have to offer that are relevant to the job at hand. If you focus on this in an honest, open way, that rapport should be a natural result. If you try too hard, though, you’ll likely come across as annoying or transparently obvious. And while you certainly don’t want to bring to light any information that could cause doubt about your ability to do the job for which you’re being interviewed, steer clear of any reaction that could be construed as defensive. When asked that common “weakness” question, be aware of your weakness, admit it, and talk about how you’ve worked through it to be better – and of course your strengths that offset that weakness. Charisma goes a long way.
5. Stay brief and focused.
Keep your answers as short and pithy; and as directly attentive to the question as possible. Tell your story relevant to the question. Don’t over-answer. Don’t feel compelled to fill in a silence that follows your answer with more information. Let that silence work in your favor, giving the interviewer time to absorb what you’ve just said. Notice visual clues – a shake of the head, for example.
6. Promote your case in writing.
Even if your interviewer has seen your resume, there’s nothing wrong with – after you’ve done some due diligence on the job and the company – from compiling a short list that spells out the value that you bring to the table for this particular opening. What is the benefit of handing the interviewer that list at the beginning of the interview? If for some reasons, the interviewer hasn’t prepared a list of questions, the list can likely serve as the focal point of the interview. If the interviewer has his or her questions ready ahead of time, your list sends the message that you’re have done your homework, are prepared and confident, and that you want this job. After all, you’ve put forth extra effort.
7. Make them an offer.
If you feel that things have gone smoothly in the interview and you really want the job, why not make the interviewer an offer? What kind of offer? Offer to do something – help solve a problem they’re facing, write a report they’re behind on, or troubleshoot a bug they’ve got in their technology. Propose to spend two or three days on the job for no pay. This shows the interviewer that you have the right stuff to do this job. You may get turned down, but the fact that you’ve offered often impresses the interviewer.
8. Ask about coming back.
The usual interview scenario ends with the interviewer thanking you and telling you that he’ll be in touch after the company has interviewed the other candidates – your competition. Before that message is conveyed, what if you tell the interviewer (again with sincerity and no drama) that you’d really love to come back again and talk more about the position and how you can do it. Yes, again, the interviewer may well politely turn you down. That’s the worst that can happen.
9. Give them an appropriate leave-behind.
Have something ready that you’ve prepared ahead of time (in addition to your resume) that might enhance your chances of being hired. It could be a sales campaign in PowerPoint graphs. It could be a strategic plan that you did for another company (make sure you don’t violate any confidentialities), or even a research paper from school. Anything that shows your work relevant to the value you could bring to the table.
Yes, these nine strategies are bold and assertive. They may or may not get you the job. But if used respectfully and confidently, they can only help make your case and enhance your image with the interviewer. And isn’t that what it’s about?