Originally published with the Forbes Coaches Council, July 2019.
We all face many moments of persuasion in our careers: convincing an executive to back a new initiative, selling a product or service to a new client, bringing our teams on board to change strategies. But perhaps the most important and nerve-racking persuasion opportunity is much more personal: a job interview.
Whether you are interviewing for a promotion, looking to change companies or making a leap from one career path to another, your performance in an interview can either convince your audience that you are the right person for the job or that you’d be a disaster. If you are looking to compensate for shortcomings in your résumé — if you are changing industries, for instance, or if you are looking to leapfrog up to a higher position — your persuasive challenge is even more difficult.
Meeting this challenge may feel different, because it is about yourself. You may feel awkward about self-promotion, or your nerves may be ramped up 10 times higher than usual. But taking on a job interview has more in common with any other persuasion opportunity than not. The keys are preparation and perspective.
And with any other persuasion opportunity, a few simple strategies behind each of these keys can help you make success much more likely.
1. Do your research. This seems obvious, but any seasoned interviewer knows that a shocking number of interviewees come in with little to no knowledge of the position or the company. Learn the basics about the company: its size, how well it has been doing financially and its major clients. Find out what you can about the position: the typical responsibilities and position in the hierarchy of the company. And find out a little about the person who will be interviewing you: his or her title, how long they’ve been at the company and what past experience they’ve had. Just knowing the amount of information you can glean from a five-minute internet search will make you look responsible and prepared.
2. Hone your message. Nerves can cause rambling, and long, meandering sentences with no obvious point make you appear ill-prepared and incoherent. Think about your key points and how to say them clearly and concisely.
1. Think about what the interviewer cares about. Just as you have to think about what value a new product might bring to a client when you are preparing a sales pitch, think about what value youcould bring to this new company and to the person interviewing you. Does it make sense to spend a lot of time talking about your skills with a computer program this company doesn’t use? Probably not. However, did learning the program demonstrate your ability to develop new skills and practices, and might that be valuable to your interviewer?
2. Ask questions. Yes, you are there to talk about yourself. But no one enjoys listening to a self-centered monologue — not even an interviewer. Turn the interview into a dialogue. Show that you are curious about the company and its culture and that you are thinking critically about the role and how it would work for you.
3. Take notes. Note-taking shows that you are engaged and listening and gives you reference for a follow-up email or note. But use pen and paper, not your phone — you’ll inevitably be distracted by incoming emails and text. In fact, just turn off the phone all together.
Putting all this in place will help you come into an interview with confidence and authenticity. It doesn’t guarantee you a job — and you can never know all the factors that go into a hiring decision — but it can help you make a meaningful connection and leave a lasting impression.
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