Sunday, April 20, 2008

JWN: How to Nail Your Interview!

How to Nail Your Interview!

By: Joseph W. Norman

Need a job? Have a job but want a new one? Spring seems to be the season of change. The leaves are budding on trees and you are getting restless. For some of you school may be ending and you need that summer job to pay off that credit card debt you racked up when you spent that money you didn’t have.

Or, if you’re already working, your spring cleaning might not be just your house, but also your career. Whether you are young or old, “Rookie of the Year” or grizzled veteran, I guarantee you that the next step in your life, summer job or full time employment, is going to require an interview.

So, what do YOU need to know about that interview?

Over the last year and a half I have had the opportunity of sitting on the other side of the table as the interviewer with VIPs on the verge of being featured in The VIP Profiles. Through those experiences and extensive reading and practice (my own interviews), I learned how the interview process works and what it takes to succeed.

Here goes…

Meet the decision makers in a natural, comfortable setting before the interview ever takes place. This is, in my opinion, the most seldom used and most important part of the process. Every job I’ve ever taken started with a relationship I had built far prior to interviewing. Build your safety net before you need it.

ACTION PLAN: Think about a job that interests you. Make a hit list of five people that do that job. Take those five people out to lunch. It’s that simple.

RESULTS: 1) You’ll find out you don’t really want that job, or, 2) You will have five people in your corner if you decide to move in that direction.

Be prepared with the facts of how you can affect the bottom line. A company is like a pot luck dinner with a purpose and a profit model. What are you bringing to the table? How does it help those at the feast bring home the bacon?

ACTION PLAN: Research the company extensively; online, phone conversations with employees, face-to-face interactions (refer to step 1). Know what the business does, how it works, why it works, and what can be improved. Then, ask yourself, “How can I help it improve?” Showing up with that information in hand is incredibly impressive. What is your value?

RESULTS: 1) You are hired on the spot and your insights are accepted as the truth of truths. 2) More realistically, you have a candid conversation and learn more about how the business works, why it works, what can be improved, and how you fit in.

First impressions count…more than anything else. Interviewers often make decisions about an applicant during the first few minutes and spend the interviewing time justifying that decision.

ACTION PLAN: Dress the part you want to play. Arrive early (at least 15 minutes). Be friendly to the receptionist and everyone else you meet (people talk about you behind your back). Review your notes (confidence breeds confidence). Greet the interviewer with a firm handshake and a warm smile. Use their name during the introduction and thank them for the opportunity to interview.

RESULTS: 1) You set the tone for the interview; friendly, professional, and genuine. 2) You create an atmosphere of comfort and confidence; both are essential components to you being “you on your best day.”

An interview is just a conversation between a few people trying to get to know each other. Be an artist. Ask interesting questions about the interviewer and the company. You’re at an interview because they like you. Now, they want to know if they can work with you. Be yourself and show off your personality.

ACTION PLAN: Construct questions from your research on the company (this shows preparation) and your interest in the interviewer (don’t forget that companies are just groups of people assembled to fulfill a common purpose). I.e. “What brought you to the company and what is keeping you here?” Focus on the end game, the relationship.

RESULTS: 1) Your comfort level directly correlates with your performance. The more comfortable you are, the more apt you are to show your true abilities and personality. 2) Interviews help build relationships. Think long term.

Follow up or lose out. Your interest in the company and the people you meet doesn’t stop when you walk out the door so get the information necessary to follow up!

ACTION PLAN: During: Collect business cards. Hand out your own. Take notes on the people and the major points discussed. After: Critique your performance. Write a personal note to the interviewer(s) within twenty four hours. It is appropriate to thank your interviewer(s) with both email and personal note. Reference your notes from the interview in the follow up. This establishes the connection. Make a phone call to clarify the status of the job opportunity within the first two weeks.

RESULTS: 1) Your follow up (email and personal note) shows respect and establishes a connection between you and the interviewer(s). 2) Your phone call may seal the deal for you. Being proactive always helps, just don’t be annoying. Calling everyday is not effective and often counter-productive.

HAVE FUN. The whole process should be both thrilling and enjoyable to you. It is an opportunity, not just a means to an end (getting the job). The more you learn to love the process, the more you will succeed at it!


Joseph W. Norman, resides in Geneseo, NY, and is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of The VIP Profiles. He offers lectures and keynote talks on leadership, personal, and professional development and is always up for a business lunch.

Joseph can be reached at or 607.743.8569.

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