The Art of the Successful Job Interview: Turning it Into a Conversation

What comes to mind when you think of the word “interview”? If you simply think of one business suit-clad person asking another (perhaps cowering) business suit-clad individual a series of questions with a series of responses, then your perception of the job interview could use a makeover.

By thinking instead of the job interview as a conversation, you’ll have a much greater opportunity to endear yourself to the interviewer (who quite possibly may be your potential direct supervisor) to the point where you land the gig. After all, so much of being selected to join a team is about developing rapport. If the interviewee | boss can tolerate, or even enjoy, the dialogue during an interview, it is likely that they will be able to picture a positive, collegial work dynamic ongoing.

It’s a chemistry thing.

Here are some ways you can get from mere Q&A to conversation:

1. If you’re not comfortable engaging, PRACTICE! If you’re the more skittish type and have difficulty launching into off-the-cuff conversations; prepare, prepare, prepare. The more you practice conversing with others outside of providing a rehearsed response to a bunch of expected questions, the easier it will become for you to sound relaxed, yet still professional.

2. Research the company. If you have the content (i.e. knowledge about the organization), you’ll be better armed to initiate or maintain intelligent, relevant dialogue. The Internet provides more information than ever before about a company and its people. Seize this resource and you’ll be able to speak   articulately and maybe bring up some points about the company that your fellow conversationalist hasn’t heard from other job applicants.

2.Learn about the interviewer. It’s not enough to learn about the company. If you really want to have a conversation, doesn’t it make sense that you know a little something about the person you’ll be talking to in advance? There is a reason these interviews are so one-sided. The search person | team seemingly knows everything about you (at least from a work history perspective) yet you know nothing about them. Get to know your interviewers alma mater, civic and charitable organizations of choice, hobbies or career achievements. Chances are, you share some common interests, and that’s a slam-dunk when it comes to building rapport and cueing conversation points.

4. Get the interviewer talking about himself |herself. Most leaders are just narcissistic enough that they enjoy talking about themselves! : ) Let them have at it! You can help to get a self-dialogue going by (and this comes courtesy of research from #3) asking about a recent accomplishment or award. Let the interviewer carry it from there.

5. Follow their lead. Yes, you should remain professional – from attire to posture and tone – at all times. However, if you see your interviewer leaning back in his chair and opening up to you, don’t be afraid to show your more personable side. Resist the temptation to get “too comfortable;” but read their cues and respond accordingly.

6. Show insightfulness and self-awareness. These attributes are greatly valued in current and future leaders. Of course, your would-be boss wants you to discuss how you grew sales or managed a major project you took on. But it doesn’t hurt to show what you learned about yourself from those experiences, as opposed to simply quantifying how you helped the company. Be genuine. In the quest to not sound stupid, you may rehearse a bunch of responses to expected questions. OK, that’s great, but you don’t want to have overly canned answers. You want to appear confident, yes, but not robotic. By sharing actual experiences, such as ways you have overcome challenges or grown as a person, you’ll endear yourself in a way that rattling off a bunch of accomplishments you think will win over the selection team will not. Being authentic is a great way to establish the chemistry.

What are some ways you have prepared – but not too much – for a job interview | conversation? What were some of your best job interview experiences? How about the worst – if you dare revisit those?

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