Your big interview is fast approaching.
You’ve done your homework, researched the company and the person you’ll be meeting and have prepared answers to the questions like; “Tell me about yourself” or “What’s your greatest strength/weakness”. Since it’s likely that you’re not the only individual who’ll be interviewed and with many candidates sounding alike, how do you stand out from the rest? How do you become the candidate they want to hire? How do you “sell yourself”?
Interviewing is similar to selling but you’re not representing your organization’s products or services, you’re representing something far more important; you’re selling yourself. Through my 20+ years as a consultant and sales trainer, I’ve observed that the best sales executives (the ones who close the deal) are those that ask questions. The questions they ask get to the heart of the matter; helping both the seller and customer (or in this case the interviewer and candidate) determine if there’s a good match and they should proceed forward.
So you can really shine during the interview, think like an expert seller and ask a few, critical questions -- possibly even before they start asking questions of you. So, here they are…
#1: “Why" (are they hiring)?
“Why” is probably the most powerful question you can ask as organizations don’t just randomly hire staff. They do so as a result of growth, restructuring, turnover or a myriad of other reasons. Asking “why” gives the candidate context on what’s taking place and why the organization is interviewing in the first place.
#2: “What” (are you looking for in a candidate)?
Another version of this question is, “Can you paint a picture of the ideal candidate for me?”. Asking the interviewer to answer this question allows him/her to go beyond the required job qualifications and reveal what they’re envisioning; what they’d really like to see in the individual they hire. If successful (at getting the interviewer to share their vision) candidates can then focus on their experiences and skills that best align with the ideal candidate.
#3: “Who” (is involved in the interviewing process, and who makes the hiring decision)?
Candidates should seek to understand who’ll be involved during the interview and selection process. Most often the selection process will require a series of interviews so understanding who else will be involved (including who will make the final hiring decision) is critical.
#4: “When and How” (when do you plan to have someone in place and how does the process move forward”)?
Yes, I realize that these are two questions but they’re closely linked to help the candidate understand where the organization is in their hiring process. “When” gives the candidate knowledge of the organization’s time frame and their sense of urgency. “How” tells you what the next steps are should they be interested in moving forward. If the interviewer begins reviewing dates for you to speak with the other key individuals involved in the hiring process, it’s a good sign that they’re interested in moving forward (with you)!
The bottom line is that a few, simple yet powerful, questions enables a candidate to improve their understanding, align with the “ideal candidate” and, ultimately, stand out among others. Think like an expert seller when you’re selling the most important thing – you!
- David Kahl, Sales Effectiveness Consultant, CRC Board Member