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“The Job Interview” by Giacomo Gambineri at My Own Parade

An interview … “a meeting of people face to face, especially for consultation.” In this case, the consultation is about a critical issue in most people’s lives; getting a job. The interview remains a critical part of the job search process … a chance to put a “person” to the resume.

The difficulty of the interview centers around two facts. First, interviews are relatively brief … 20, 30, maybe 60 minutes for you to “sell” your ability to be the person to fill the job. Second, interviews are basically “scripted” encounters with pre-defined roles … and you hold the less powerful role (after all, they have the job and you don’t).

You do hold an ace card, though. Always remember that if the company is interviewing, they want to fill the job. So, use their need to your advantage … prepare to manage a brief encounter in a way that convinces the interviewer of the following three facts, what we at Good Day’s call the “Holy Trinity of the Job Seeker”:

  • You can do the job
  • You can do the job better than any other candidate they will find
  • You will fit in with the other people at the firm

Every exchange in the interview is an opportunity for you to sell those three points. And you need to be prepared to answer every question in a way that sells these points.

I can do this job …

This one in a must! It seems obvious, but you won’t get the job if the company doesn’t think you can do the job. So, no matter what else happens in the interview, you have to convince the interviewer that you can do the job. In a nutshell, you need to sell yourself as a solution to the company’s needs.

Presumably, your resume gave the company some comfort that you can do the job, or you wouldn’t have made it through the recruiting process. Your task, therefore, is to amplify the knowledge, skills, and abilities that got you to the interview. Every answer you give has to reinforce this critical message: “I can do this job.”

… better than any other candidate.

The bad news is that there are probably some other people that can do the job too. And, they may be waiting outside the interview door. That means that it is not sufficient to convince the interviewer that you can do the job, because you have some competition.

Interviewing in competition means you have to differentiate yourself. Remember, the company doesn’t just want someone who can do the job, the want the person that can do the job best. So, every time you answer a question, you should be selling (that’s right, you’re still selling here!) the fact that you can do the job better than the person waiting outside the door: “I can do this job better than any other person you’ll be talking to.”

And, I’ll fit in, too!

This one is a tricky one, and it is an often overlooked objective of the interview setting. Interviewers are people, and there is plenty of research that suggests that people inside a firm are not only looking for someone who can do a job, they are looking for someone who will fit the culture of the firm. In short, we like to hire people that are, well, like us.

You must accomplish two things here. First, you need to convey the image that you are the type of person that the interviewer can see him/herself working with for eight or twelve hours a day. No matter how well you can do the job, if the interviewer can’t imagine working by your side, they’re not going to hire you. Secondly, you need to
judge whether you think you’ll fir in with them. After all, you have to be able to work with the other members of the firm every day. So, you need to use the interview to get a feel for what the culture of the firm is. It is a must if you want to get hired; you have to be able to sell the feeling that not only will you do the job better than anyone else, but “I’ll fit in, too!”

Let’s not kid ourselves … the interview process can be very stressful. But it doesn’t need to be. With a little preparation, a little information, and some strategies to help sell the Holy Trinity, you can master the interview game. Here’s some help:

  1. See Schneider’s seminal work that addresses the processes by which firms select others into their place of work, and by which we choose which firms to work for. Interviews are a form of socialization that allows us to judge how similar we are to others in the job selection process, and to judge, as he puts it, how people make the place.

    Schneider, B. (1987). The people make the place. Personnel Psychology, 40, 437-453.

Flip the switch for a random interview tip.

Unless you are trying to make a power play, never take a seat in the interview room until invited to do so by the interviewer.

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