In my monthly workshop Getting the Interview and Nailing It at CareerPlace, I explain to my group that there are four critical components to a successful interview. Most people have little or no problem with the first two components and sometimes overemphasize to a fault. The last two components are where most candidates fall short. Many of the individuals I’ve coached at CareerPlace initially say that they have had many interviews but seem to always be the second or third choice and can’t understand why. The reason for the near misses usually lies in the last two components of the interview.

Here are the four key components to a successful interview:

  1. Specific and related job skills
    Job skills are pretty self-explanatory. If the company is trying to fill a cost accountant position you need to have related competencies. The same goes for a fork lift operator, programmer, production leader, etc. What related skills do you have and where/when have you used them? If you spent seven years as a cost accountant it’s pretty easy to talk for an hour about cost accounting.The big challenge with job skills comes in when you are trying to change careers, or entering the workforce after a long hiatus or if you are a recent graduate. In those situations, you have to focus on attributes such as adaptability and attitude. Adaptability shows you can learn the needed skills quickly, attitude shows you are willing to work extra hard to build and apply the skills. An internship is a good way to build the needed skills.Most job candidates with a few years of experience do not have problems with this component, in fact they tend to over rely on it.

  2. Basic communication and people skills
    Quite simply you need to be able to communicate at least at a level commensurate with the position you are applying for and carry on a reasonable dialog with the people who are interviewing you. Not too introverted, not too extroverted. The majority of people during interviews tend to be far too introverted. Being more of an extrovert does not mean raising your voice, waving your hands, or being aggressive. Asking good questions is the best way to be more extroverted and it allows you to take some control of the interview. When you get good at asking questions you will be able to control and direct the interview to your strengths. In order to ask good questions, you need good situation knowledge, which brings us to the next component…

  3. Good situation knowledge
    What is situation knowledge? It is having sound information about the company and having knowledge about the position beyond the job description, and having information about the people who are interviewing you. Good situation knowledge is the basis for creating real value statements. Here’s an example of the potential impact of situation knowledge; what if you had the opportunity to talk to the person that held this position before? What questions would you ask them? You’d get a wealth of information about the company, position, goals, and more. Rarely are you able to talk to the prior position holder, but much of the same information can be garnered from other sources if you are resourceful and use your network. Having good situation knowledge and communicating it through value statements will differentiate you from all other candidates. (For examples of value statements see my earlier blog: How to Identify Your Real Value.)Lastly, questions that incorporate situation knowledge show you care about the company. If you do not show that you care about the company, then why should they care about you?     

  4. Selling skills
    The word ‘selling’ carries many connotations. Most people think of the used car salesperson, the Flim-Flam man, huckster, and so on. Many individuals may cringe when they learn that you must be able to ‘sell yourself’ in a job search, yet, when it comes to your job search, it is the truest of all statements. There are many different types of ‘selling’. Job search is called business-to-business (B2B) selling as opposed to consumer or retail sales.  Business selling goes on all day and in every aspect of business, however most people are not trained in B2B selling. Just to be clear, marketing is not selling. Sending out resumes, filling out applications, or networking is job search marketing. Making a strong impression at an interview is selling, and getting the job offer is ‘closing the sale’, now that’s really selling.If you are going to ‘close your sale’ you will need to learn and practice many B2B sales techniques. I will cover that topic in a future blog, so stay tuned!

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