Fear-Free Job Interviews
By Jeanette Henderson

Talk about pressure! Your entire future is at stake, and lies in the hands of a complete stranger. You know you have to make a good impression, so you start to talk to yourself for days in advance, in the car, in the shower, on the subway, practicing how to say just the right things. But what’s the right thing to say to get what you want?
The answer is a simple Three-Step Formula that works any time you are faced with a communication that needs to have a specific outcome.
Step One is to identify with your interviewer. Make a statement that he or she can agree with to indicate that you have something in common. It could be as harmless as noticing he has a wet umbrella next to his door and saying something like "I see you got caught in the rain this morning, too," indicating a common experience.
Perhaps you notice a painting or a trophy in his office, you can remark (sincerely) how impressed you are by the accomplishment, or how much you’ve always wanted to learn or have already enjoyed the represented activity. Open the door, but then let the interviewer take it from there. Let him decide whether he wants to take the subject any further, or if he wants to get down to business. If he does take it further, JUST LISTEN! Say as little as possible. Let the interviewer be the center of attention for as long as he wants. Later, he’ll admire you for being a good listener.
Once an interview gets down to business, many people start (and many are asked to start) by talking about themselves. This is a trap and you must be aware of it. By talking about yourself, you are turning the spotlight on you. The spotlight should stay on the job that you want.
The interviewer has your resume, it is all the history he or she needs. Consider your resume as an obituary of what you’ve done and move on to what you can do for the future of the company in that job.
That brings us to Step Two, which is to introduce new ideas to your interviewer. Talk about the job, about how having the right person in that job (not necessarily you) can change the direction of the company for the better. Before you schedule an interview, you should learn what the needs of the company are, and how the right person in that job can satisfy those needs.
If the company needs to spin off a division, then an experienced manager is exactly what they need. If they’re stuck in an advertising rut, then fresh new marketing ideas are what will fill the bill. If they need to impress clients by their cleanliness, a topnotch janitor will get the job done. Know the needs of the company, then demonstrate you know the importance that job is to satisfying those needs.
If necessary, ask the interviewer questions about the scope of the job, just to clarify that it is, in fact, a good fit, though the more homework you do about the position, the greater advantage you have. Offer two or three ideas about how the job (not necessarily you) can enhance the future of the company, and suggest there are numerous others you’ve been thinking about as well. This is the bulk of your interview, and the more ideas about how you can enhance the company’s future, the better!
Finally, Step Three is to take the plunge and instigate the action. In other words, now is the time to ask for the job! Clearly formulate a final, closing statement in advance, so that when the time comes, there is no hesitation. Say something like, "This position is an important cornerstone to the future of this company, and as you can see from my resume, I am well qualified for it. This meeting has confirmed for me that this is a company I want to work for, and I trust you can see how much I bring to the table. I look forward to getting started. Did you have any further questions?"
If more questions are asked, simply answer them, always keeping the spotlight on the job and the future of the company rather than you specifically. When all is said and done, simply say, "I look forward to hearing from you within the week (or month, or whatever other time frame that has been set to fill the job. If you don’t know, ask, then fill in the time in your final statement.).
Make sure you shake hands and look the interviewer in the eye when arriving and leaving. Thank him for his time on both occasions as well. Then walk out confidently, knowing that you’ve completed the best interview of the day!
(Jeanette Henderson is co-author of the book ‘There’s No Such Thing as Public Speaking’ to be released by Penguin Books at the end of this year. She is a writer, speaker, teacher, presentation consultant and Special Correspondent for the weekly radio talk show Viewpoints on public radio in Middle Tennessee. She is co-founder of Podium Master, a nationally-recognized presentation consulting firm that specializes in leadership communication. She may be contacted through www.podiummaster.com)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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