Crafting Your Professional Message
You Just Landed the Interview – What’s Next?
You spent innumerable hours poring over job postings, filling out what seems like hundreds of applications, customizing your resume to meet the job descriptions, and having lots of coffee with lots of people in your network.
As a result of all your efforts, you have landed that all important job interview! What’s next?
As you prepare to meet the hiring manager, your next steps determine how to communicate your relevance and fit for the job.
Mr. Simon is here to help you with this very significant next step!
What exactly do we mean by relevance? Relevance, from the employer’s perspective is the attributes that make you relevant to the job for which you are interviewing. These are:
- Your qualifications to do the job
- Your interest in doing the job
- Your ability to get the job done
Ask yourself, if you cannot help the hiring manager meet their goals, why should they hire you?
To meet their expectations and ensure you are relevant, you must demonstrate you are qualified by your experience of and knowledge about the work you will be doing, your character traits - What’s in Your Toolbox and your Key Selling Points (and don't forget those very important soft skills).
The employer has needs to fill and will be more impressed with a candidate that has the skills and experience to meet those needs. That is where relevance comes into play.
If you know how to communicate that you are the right person for the job, it will go a long way to improving your chances of getting the job.
Mark Twain, the master of the satirical remark, once said: “I didn’t have the time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
Keep this in mind when the hiring manager says, “tell me about yourself,” or “tell me about a time when you ...” Honoring the time that you have been given by being concise and relevant will make you stand out and will surely impress.
When you are asked by the hiring manager to “tell me about yourself,” don’t try to desribe your entire career and all of your accomplishments. They already read your resume and don’t need you to tell your life story.
When you are asked a question like “tell me about a time you handled a conflict at work” don’t just give them a story you think they want to hear with a long explanation about the issues you faced and how you resolved them. Make certain what you say is relevant to their needs right now.
In both instances, or any other scenario that may come up during the interview, what they really want to know is how you are relevant to the job they want to fill and how you will help them with their bottom line. Keep your stories brief and to the point, no longer than two minutes is best to show that you fit their needs.
So, just how do you ensure relevance? You most likely already took the first step when you reviewed the employer’s job description to identify their needs and possible pain points, and to ensure your resume reflected your strengths in these areas.
The next step is to prepare for your interview by having the right STAR Stories on hand, featuring your accomplishments and demonstrating that you can meet the needs of the prospective employer.
Mr. Simon strongly suggests that you adopt the Present-Past-Present method. This method ensures showcasing your relevance in the present, which is what the hiring manager wants to hear.
Start with the Present – think of how you would approach a situation right now. For instance, if you are asked about handling a conflict at work, you might choose one of the three ways described below for your approach:
- Who and what you are today
- Your current thoughts on or approach to conflict today
- Your best practices in handling a conflict
Let’s say you select number 2. You briefly tell the interviewer that your approach to conflict these days is by negotiation and compromise to help ensure that all sides can reach a conclusion that everyone can agree on.
Then go back to a past situation – here’s where your STAR story comes in. Describe how you resolved an actual conflict and how that worked for you.
Keep it concise and don’t overload it with details (they take too long to relate, and you might lose your audience). If the hiring manager wants details, they will ask for them.
Finally come back to the present – by summarizing the lessons you learned and how they shaped your response and approach today.
Remember, the whole conversation is about the present, not the past. Just one sentence can summarize why your approach works, and its applicability and relevance to this position.
For a more complete overview of the Present-Past-Present method please visit Answering Behavioral Questions: Using the Present-Past-Present Method.
Why Should We Hire You?
This question often comes at or near the end of the interview and the best way to be prepared to answer is to follow these three important steps.
Do Your Homework: Learn as much as possible about the company by thoroughly Researching it.
Is the company a start-up? Does it have supply chain and logistical issues? Is it growing? What is its cultural focus? Is it gaining/losing market share?
Knowing this information is imperative in formulating your response to match your skills and experience to their needs, thereby showing how you can help them.
Review the Job Description: focus on the items that speak to your strengths. Remember the job description reflects their needs and wants. Make sure you can tell the interviewer how you are prepared to take these issues on successfully.
Also ensure you take notes during the interview, writing down what the hiring manager is saying about the position and what is important to them. You can give some of this back in your answer. It shows that you are listening to, and understanding, what is being said.
Bring Your Toolbox: remember what makes you special.
Your Toolbox contains the skills and experiences that you can bring to help the hiring manager be more successful.
If you do a good job, they will see for themselves that you might be the answer they are looking for.
Remember to speak in the “here and now” with your relevance when addressing their questions, and remember to bring it back to the present if you moved to the past to share an example .
Tell them who you are and how your experience, best practices, and approach to their issues will help them now!
About the Author: Stuart Weiner has over 25 years of experience as a compliance officer and auditor, primarily in the healthcare field, and is currently the Principal of Integrated Compliance, a compliance consulting firm. He is also a member of the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ) – a U.S.-based organization that helps job seekers in their career transition.
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