Interviews: Set the Stage
 
Janis Foord Kirk
Monday, January 21, 2008
So acute is the labour shortage in some parts of Western Canada that one Calgary area manager has changed his interview process.”People sometimes drop in with a resume,” says Slade King, CPGA Director of Golf with The Links of GlenEagles in Cochrane. “I used to take it and say I’d have a look at it and then call them for an interview. Now, I drop everything and interview them on-the-spot.” 

King often hires part-time and seasonal workers so on-the-spot interviews make perfect sense. He sometimes even hires on-the-spot, he says. “If I don’t the next employer they talk to will.”

As you move up the career ladder, this seldom if ever happens, of course. And yet, you can never be entirely sure so it’s prudent to be ready to present your case, whether you’re leaning up against a counter at a golf course, behind closed doors in a manager’s office or in a 10 minute telephone call.

Presenting your case is a bit like the making a sales presentation. You need to know as much as possible about the circumstances and needs of your customers (employers). You have to assess and analyse the various features of your product (that’s you). And you have to find a direct and persuasive way to tell people how your product can fulfill their needs (your presentation.)

It’s a subtle process that demands close attention on several different fronts.

Look the part

Like it or not, the way you look creates an impression. Even in these days of anything goes anything does not always go in most job interviews.

Objectivity is crucial. Stand back and assess your appearance. Is it too casual? Too formal? Is it dated? Should you wear your nose ring? Cover your tattoo? If you can’t be fully objective about such things, ask a friend or associate whose style you admire to help you.

The overriding aim is to ensure that your outward appearance is appropriate for the kind of employers you’re approaching and the job you’re going after. A sharp, polished look will speak volumes about you before you open your mouth.

Create a personal profile

This is more involved than a basic list of personal skills and abilities, although that’s part of it. You’re wise to list, as well, the jobs you’ve held (including volunteer and part-time work) and to review each one to identify what you actually achieved on the job and the skills you used to accomplish this.

Reflection of this kind is the essential foundation of a personal profile that clearly states who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and the unique mix of skill and abilities that you bring to the table.

A generic profile of this kind can be targeted to specific jobs, says Heather Stewart, of Sage Transitions, a leadership, coaching and consulting firm in Kelowna, B.C.

“Consider things that you particularly want to emphasize,” Steward advises. “It may be that you have a strong academic background, or a really strong background with experience, or that you feel you have some skills that are a good fit for this particular job.”

Once you’ve highlighted specifics from your profile as they relate to a particular job it’s far easier to get your message across during the interview, says Stewart.

Create an employer’s profile
“The expectation in most organizations is that job candidates will know something about the organization to which they’re applying,” Stewart says.

Research of this kind is fairly easy now, she adds, because many organizations have websites loaded with information such as annual reports, mission statements, current and past projects, executive teams and employment opportunities.

If they don’t, Stewart advises, “Ask for an annual report, or if it’s a smaller company, look for literature and brochures describing what the company does.”

If at all possible, talk to people who work there or who have in the past. Enquire about the needs and concerns of the hiring organization, the overall corporate culture, the company’s products or services.

Extend your research to the industry or field, as well. Review trade magazines and talk to industry experts. Look for information about technological advances, regulatory changes and problems common to the industry as a whole.

The employer’s profile is a backdrop against which you can assess your own profile and decide how to best showcase your strengths.

Manage your mindset

Interviews can be highly subjective. When the chemistry works, you know it; when it doesn’t, it’s obvious, as well.

Still, says executive consultant, Jonn Kares, there are ways to generate positive chemistry before and during an interview.

A mysterious, intuitive dimension, a “6th sense”, connects us in ways we don’t always recognize, Kares believes. And becoming aware of this can give you advantage during interviews.

“If you walk in to an interview concerned about the competition and think to yourself, ‘There might be someone better than me’, you might just as well tell the interviewer, ‘I’m not the one you want’. The person interviewing you can intuitively pick up on your silent self-assessment and agree, ‘You’re not the one we’re looking for’. ”

With a little effort you can control your inner monologue and use the “creative power of thought”, as Kares calls it, to produce a desirable perception of you.

“Thoughts that support and promote you, thoughts like – I make a valuable contribution, people enjoy working with me, I am the candidate being sought – can shape the interviewer’s perceptions,” he maintains.

Don’t worry about feeling nervous, he adds. It’s not your emotions, but rather your actual thoughts that create intuitive chemistry with others.  

“The first step it to hold steadfast to your thoughts about what you want your audience to perceive,” Kares advises. “The second step is to trust that this is what they perceive and what they will remember about you.”

Interview preparation is time consuming. Some people find it boring. And yet, successful job seekers take the time and make the effort. They dress for the job they want, take control of their thoughts and attitude and communicate clearly and well. They know who they are, what they have to offer and how they can meet the employer’s needs.

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