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Interviews: Techniques

Reaching the Interviewer

Many managers use their organization to shield themselves from unkown callers. Often a secretary will answer all calls, to act as a gatekeeper. So how do you get your way on the telephone so that you can talk to the person who might interview you? Some tips:

(1) Know the name of the person and ask directly for that person, but at the same time speak informally:
NO: "May I please speak to the Director?" [ not personal, too formal ]
NO: "Could I please speak with Mr. Dennison?" [ still too formal ]
YES: "Is Mr. Dennison in?"

(2) Try to stay in control of the maneuver:
{gatekeeper asks: Would you like to leave your name and number?}
NO: "Well, okay, it's Bob at 555-1212."
YES: "I'm going to be away from my phone for a while. I'll call back."

(3) Avoid leaving multiple messages:
{gatekeeper says: Mr. Dennison still isn't available.}
NO: "Oh, okay, could you leave another message for me?"
YES: "When do you expect him? I'll call back."

Stress Scenarios

You are introduced to a group of people who will interview you. What do you do?
Make a strong first impression by taking the time to establish eye contact, smile, and firmly shake hands with each person.

You are interviewed during a meal. What do you do?
Decline alcoholic beverages. Avoid expensive entres. Order a simple dish that you can eat without making a mess. Eat while the interviewer is talking; that way you will be ready to speak when it is your turn. Do not criticize the food, the restaurant, or the waiter.

You are asked a difficult question. What do you do?
Ask the interviewer to qualify the question, explain it in more detail. This gives you a better chance of coming up with a focused answer. It also gives you a little more time.

You realize the interviewer is going on and on with small talk, or with a political topic. What do you do?
Carefully steer the discussion back on track by asking a specific question about the job. Do NOT engage in discussions about any controversial social topic.

The interviewer says something you don't agree with. What do you do?
Don't argue. Acknowledge him with the statement, "I understand how you feel about that," and leave it alone!

Interview Behavior

Informal chat is the best way to start. Here is an easy way to start it: find something in the office (or the lobby) that is interesting and comment on it.

Make sure you ask: "What attracted you to this company?"

Avoid being tentative. Don't say things like: .. I'll try ... I'll do my best ... I hope ... possibly ... if it's really necessary ... I suppose I could do that ... I've never done that before, but ...

Wash away nervousness with two things: a relaxed breath and a short quiet time. When you need it, take a moment to think before answering or asking a question. If it is not a long moment, the interviewer can only interpret this as thoughtfulness -- and that is a good thing.

If you don't have something positive to say, just listen.

Above all, be pleasant. The interviewer may be someone new to the company: offer encouragement. The interviewer may be a veteran of the company: let him enjoy his break from the typical daily grind.

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