Top 5 Interview “WOW!”s

Having been a hiring manager for over 21 years, I have seen it all in the interview chair in my office. Some good, some bad, some tragic, some amazing, some….well, not sure what the hell they were thinking or why they showed up for the interview… You get the idea.

After thinking about the thousands of interviews that I have conducted, there are 5 Interview WOW!s that are the ones that always get my attention and that almost insure either another interview or a job offer. See how many of these you are doing now in your interview process. And keep in mind, if you have a live, face to face interview with the hiring manager, he or she has decided that you have the requisite skills to do the job. What they need to find out is more about you and whether you’d be a good fit for the company culture and the team!

1- Professional Demeanor – This one sounds benign but believe me, just like a football game, you can’t win the job in the first few minutes of an interview, but you can definitely lose it! I’m not just talking about the appropriate suit or dress or the firm handshake vs. the dead fish – those are important, but having a great professional demeanor goes further than that. You must display an engaging personality, a positive attitude, superior eye contact, and a quiet confidence about you. The first few seconds sets the tone for each of these – most people decide whether they like you or not in less than a minute, sometimes in just a few seconds! How do you prepare to make an impression that is this positive? Practice, practice, practice and then just be yourself. Meaning, work with a great interview coach to help you with eye contact, body language, easy delivery of your story and 60 second elevator speech – then, before the interview, just relax and be YOU! Share tidbits about your background, things you like to do, your passions in life – help the interviewer get to know you…not just the answers to the interview questions!

2- Thoughtful Responses – To be very honest with you, I hate to interview people. In fact, I do NOT interview people! I try to have conversations with them. My goal is to make them comfortable and get as far away from the standard interview questions vs. rehearsed interview answers as possible! My guess is that the percentage of folks who interview like me is pretty low, however. You will probably get a large dose of “how do you handle difficult people?” and “what would your last boss say about your work habits?” during your job search process. Prepare for those standard questions, but be ready when you run into a guy like me. My questions will sound like statements with opened ended answer possibilities. Like, “Bob your resume is really diverse and I see you changed industries recently, Tell me more about that.” I want to provoke dialogue, not Q&A! The more you are talking the more you will relax and the better information you will share with me. I even usually go so far as to sit in a chair or couch next to the interviewee instead of across a desk. Anything I can do to break down the walls between us. How do you get ready for a style like mine? Make sure you give thoughtful, meaningful, honest and open responses! If it sounds like you’ve answered the question a thousand times before and you just pushed play on the machine, I am not going to believe it as much as if you “think” about it for a second and then give me something you don’t normally say in an interview room! You don’t have to go to acting school to pull this off well – just practice with a friend or coach and learn to be comfortable in your own interview skin!

3- Sense of Humor – The one thing most people say about me is that “he’s funny” or he “loves to laugh” or “has a great sense of humor.” Humor is the world’s situational equalizer, and I think it’s critical in the workplace for team members to be able to have fun and get along well with one another. Having a sense of humor might make the difference between you getting a job offer and not – especially if you make it to the last 3 finalists for the position. By that time, the candidates have similar backgrounds, experience, knowledge, desire, etc. What will set them apart will be: 1- their references (we’ll get to that one in a minute) and 2- their personality/sense of humor. If you are not someone who has this trait naturally, work with a coach to help you relax in the interview and to get as much as you can out of your lighter side. If you have a great sense of humor, then use it to your advantage! Don’t go in with a series of jokes though – use situational remarks, antecdotes, and stories to make the interviewer laugh. CAUTION: don’t over do it! A little humor goes a long way in the interview!

4- Questions They Ask – During my training sessions, I tell folks to make sure they have 10-20 great questions ready to ask the interviewer when they get the dreaded “Do you have any questions for me?” line. You MUST have this many questions to ask – it shows you care, really want the job, and displays your Energy and Effort clearly! Let’s say you’ve had a great interview – 45 minutes, 60 minutes, even 75 minutes of great dialogue. When you get the question question you should respond with: “Yes Bob I do. I came in with about 20 questions I wanted to ask you and we’ve covered 14 or 15 of them during our discussion. Mind if I ask you the other 4 or 5?” The interviewer will be blown away with your attention to detail and honest desire to learn more about the company and he’ll put a huge check mark next to “really wants the job”! If you are not sure what questions to ask, find a great coach in your area or contact me for help.

5- References – This final piece of the puzzle usually doesn’t happen in the interview but a few days later. I have had folks try to dazzle me with reference lists that have 18, 19, 20 or more names on them – why?? No one has that many high quality references and no interviewer is going to call 20 people to check up on a potential new employee. What I always look for are three different types of references: someone you’ve worked for, someone you’ve worked with, and those who know you well. One or two people in each category is all you need – these folks are your “phone a friend” lifelines – they should be absolutely golden references! Make sure they know you have put them down on paper and tell them to expect a reference call soon. “Someone you’ve worked for” tells me that you get the company goals, can handle the environment and understand your role in the company. “Someone you’ve worked with” tells me about your work habits, cooperation, dedication and attitude. “Those who know you well” is all about your honesty, caring, trustworthiness and sense of purpose. If I have positive, glowing response from each of these categories about you, you will probably have a key card to my building in your hand soon!

If you have questions about anything you’ve read, don’t hesitate to email or call me. I’m here to help you target and land your true vocation!

2 Responses

  1. I have worked for years with the questions I ask when I am interviewed. This is a tough one. What are some of your suggestions? What questions really knocked your socks off with the candidate?

    • Andrea, I can’t give you a list of them because it depends on the situation. However, the types that really get my attention fall into two categories: deep dives about the company, and professionally asked personal questions about me, my background, how I grew in the company, etc.

      For example, the deep dive company questions sound like “I noticed in an industry publication that your company has locations in 30 states. I would assume that there are lots of opportunities to move up in the company if someone is willing to move – am I on track with that thought?” Or, “Looks like your General Manager just started with the company a few months ago. What’s he like to work with and has the culture changed much since his arrival?”

      The professionally asked personal questions come in all types of shapes and sizes, a couple of them could be: “I noticed on your LinkedIn bio that you’ve been in media for over 25 years. Why did you choose it for a career path?” or “Looks like your account executive staff has been together a long time and they obviously like working for you. What do you do to build such strong camaraderie?”

      Does that help? The biggest thing that gets my attention about questions is first – they have them ready to ask!; second – they ask them in a positive attitude manner; and finally that they seem genuinely interested in learning as much about the company and me as they can. I want them to be interviewing me as much as I’m interviewing them – there has to be a fit both ways for the hire to last.

      Thanks for the comments!

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