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
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,
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