A scene showing a job candidate interviewing for a job.
Tips from Career Coach Sarah Weinberger on interviewing techniques.

The standard approach to an interview is to just show up and roll with the flow. Some people might rehearse possible questions, but that is usually as far as it goes. In this article, I will talk about the proper way to prepare for and handle an interview.

Before going into details, let us step back and think of something familiar. Think of a stand-up comedian, famous or not. Comedians come in all forms and with all different types of dialogue. Here is what all comedians have in common. They all get an audience that is relatively unknown. They must dynamically assess whether they have or lost their audience. They have to not only build a relationship with the audience, but they have to win them over. They have to prepare, know their material, dress appropriately, and most importantly tell a story. All people are conditioned from childhood to love stories. Being able to read nuances is critical, because once you lost your audience, then the game is over.

Another way to phrase the concept of telling a story is to paint a picture. In an interview setting, the employer does not want to hear long drawn out tales with irrelevant information. They want short, clear, and concise answers to their questions. All questions drive to one point, to help them gauge whether or not the interviewee is the best candidate to solve their problem. The interviewee must paint the picture, much like a comedian, that they are the best person. They must win over their audience.

The Hopefully Obvious

The first rule is always dress to impress. Older job seekers tend to learn this lesson, but the younger set, those graduating from college or still in college, do not always follow this rule choosing many times go in school / street clothes. When questioned, the response usually comes back that they asked their parents how to dress and the parents told them that they are students, obviously students, and should dress as such. Many times that includes athletic shoes, flip flops, or sandals. These shoes and clothes are never appropriate. You have to impress upon the perspective employer that you are serious, mean business, and have a desire to impress them in a good way.

Do not chew gum or go with lose papers. Spit out your gum before meeting anyone. Have some sort of professional looking case. I do not want to say briefcase, but something that looks sharp. Turn off your cell phone and other electronic gadgets that can distract you or make noise.

The Preparation

Do research on the company prior to going there and research the position a bit, more so than what the requisition says. You may want to research the hiring group and see what the product(s) the group, with whom you will interview, produces. Determine the real expertise needed. Most often the manager, who wrote the requisition, is not technical and may not realize all aspects of the task.

See how you fit that position. Live that position in your mind. See how all your skills fit that position. Find your strengths and weaknesses. Address any weaknesses at this stage. You may want to create your own modified requisition that includes additional information that you should mention that you have, which are relevant.

Create a list of questions that you want to ask. It does not matter that you know, or think you know, all the answers. You want to show the employer that you are interested in the position and that you did your homework.

Get the names ahead of time of all the individuals with whom you will meet. Look them up on social media. See what are their likes, dislikes, passions, experience, and everything else. Do for them what they will do for you. If you see that one plays a killer saxophone and loves Jazz, while you play the drums and love Jazz just as much, then you have something in common with which to “break the ice,” and show that you are not such an unknown. Connect with them on social media. That shows that you are serious about the position and gives you a few minutes extra attention.

You must show that you did your homework and are on top of all the facts.

The Resume

Resumes at most initially get about a 30-second read, where the person reads experience, any summary, and job titles. If the experience and skillset bullets are not verbose, those will get glanced at. Prior to an interview, the interviewer will again briefly look at the resume.

Have several copies each of two different versions of your resume handy, one that shows a summary of your skills that someone can understand by glancing at the document, and the other should be a more detailed version that addresses the questions that you think the employer might ask. You should also have a copy of the resume that you already sent the employer.

Every part of every resume needs to answer the question: “Why are you the best to solve my specific problem?” Employers are not interested in information perceived to be irrelevant to their requisition. It is the job of the interviewee to specifically state why any information that can be construed as not directly related applies.

The Lies

If you do not know something, do not lie. Simply say that you do not know, but can easily find out, or state a possible answer and then add that you are not sure, but the answer was an educated guess.

An Omission is also a lie by another name. The employer will try and read you. If they sense that something is off or that you hide something, be it professionally or personally, which they feel might affect your work, they will assume the worst. More likely, they will disqualify you because of that and pass on you. Employers want individuals that they can trust.

You are a stranger and initially are an unknown. That is why many hires come by way of recommendations from existing employees or friends. That bridges the unknown by one step. That obviously does not say that the person is good, but that is hiring psychology at work. Being honest and upfront goes a long way towards instilling trust.

By asking you in, he/she assumes that you already know the material. You have to prove him/her wrong on that. The employer also must determine if you are genuine, he/she can trust you, and if you are a team player.

The Fun Stuff

You may want to bring some sort of show and tell to show your skills. You should have some sort of portfolio that shows whom you are, what you did, and what you can do for them. Be creative and have fun on this part.

Do not blab on and on. Try and keep the conversation precise but friendly. Some small talk is always nice. You should look around and see your environment. Be aware of your surroundings and cognizant of your earlier research. Do you see a model of the Star Ship Enterprise or the Death Star? A small conversation at the end on something different could liven up the mood and put a smile on the interviewer. You want to see if you have anything, where the two of you can bond.

The End

You should always write down the interview afterwards jotting down everything that was asked and answered. If you were given any test, then you should write down the questions. Review what was said and the answers that you gave. This information will come in handy for the next interview.

The interview is not done, when you walk out the door. Write everyone back an email later on that day and thank them for interviewing you. Do send out a snail mail physical thank you card. Remind them in each case the highlights why you are the best and address any negatives in a positive manner.

Lastly, believe, think, and say that you want the job. If you do not really want the job, then move on. Going into a position that will make you unhappy, can only prolong your suffering.

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Sarah Weinberger is a professional career coach, software and systems engineer, and founder and CEO of Butterflyvista Corporation. You can learn more about her and Butterflyvista by visiting the website, http://www.butterflyvista.com/.