There are arguably many parts of the interview event that are critical, depending on whom you ask. You can dissect it right on down to the pressure applied to a handshake, eye-to-eye contact, sitting upright as opposed to slouching, replying with “yes” instead of “yeah”, but these all relate to common sense and are behavioral in nature. For the most part, these things refer to common courtesies and this is stuff all of us already know, regardless of whether or not we choose to do it. Instead, I like to talk about strategies that enhance a person’s chances among and compared with the crowd of others who are all doing the same things which illustrate the cliché of a herd mentality. I’d rather concentrate on helping people to help themselves stand out and separate themselves from also-rans in the most beneficial manner. We’re not talking about in-your-face shock-effect stunts to get noticed, but we are talking about strategic shock and awe to be impactful, thereby being remembered for the right reasons and, most of all, for your abilities reflected in your interview performance. There are so many little things you can do, which, by themselves don’t mean much. But, combined and applied with thoughtful timing and calculated delivery, they become powerful tools.
One of the most basic, and a very important thing you can do to aid your efforts towards a successful outcome, is the manner by which you finish the interview. I mean each interview, every time, with everyone you meet, anytime throughout your career. How you close the interview says a lot about you, your abilities, your level of interest and conveys a measure of professionalism many people overlook.
So there you are, being interviewed and the time arrives when they ask, “So, do you have any questions?” You should, of course, have some as a result of your time spent with the hiring official with whom you’re meeting. But before you conclude, there is one final question you will make a part of your interview ritual for the rest of your career - no joke, from this time forward. It sounds like this, “We’ve been speaking for the last hour (or whatever it has been) and I would like to ask, what’s the next step?” or, “We’ve been speaking for the last hour…is there any reason you would not recommend me for the next interview step?” Say it however you want, be polite but decisive and clear about your intent and then stop talking, don’t speak, zip it and if I need to suggest it more bluntly, shut up – don’t add anything or feed an answer and now wait for their reply.
There are three possible answers:
1) “I first need to talk to my colleague(s)…”, “…meet additional applicants”, “…review my notes…”, “…eat a ham sandwich…” etc. (just kidding about the last one)
No problem and it is okay, so they gave you some BS answer and chose to sidestep the question. It’s all right you asked, you did your part and it was noted.
2) “…when I asked about…you said…but your resume says something different, could you clarify it for me?”
If they have a concern or need a clarification, you certainly want to address it here and now. You don’t want to leave question marks to dangle in their mind, assuming you’ll get a chance to clear it up later, if they have a concern you likely won’t get a next chance. Go ahead and respond, then ask if the additional info satisfies their query? If so, repeat your question about the next step which presumably brings you to the third possible reply.
3) “We’d like to meet you again…”
Although it may appear I’m oversimplifying, I am not. This is how you close and finish every interview. Of course there are never any guarantees, but this is without a doubt the best way to conclude an interview and it might even extend the conversation, which is a good thing.
So what does this do for you? It clearly demonstrates your interest and that you are decisive and proactive. Furthermore, you’ve effectively set yourself apart from everyone else who sheepishly says as though they are begging, “um, uh well thank you, I hope I hear from you.” Talk about a snoozer of a final parting statement!
(Part II will be posted on Monday)
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