Once you have gotten past the phone interview, here are some strategies designed to ensure a smooth, in-person interview process:
Sell it, Don't Tell it
The interview is the time to "Sell" you. For example: You might be asked how many people you managed in your last position. You might be inclined to answer "35". That's "Telling".
The "Selling" approach should be: "I managed a staff of 35, including both professionals and support personnel. Not only did I manage those individuals, I directed all recruitment and hiring activities, set salaries, designed and implemented bonus plans, facilitated annual performance reviews, and projected long-term staffing requirements. Additionally, my team increased sales by more than 35% in one year while reducing expenses by 10%".
When presented in this fashion you have "Sold" your achievements and not just "Told" what you did.
Spin a Negative into a Positive
Suppose you're asked about your experience having managed people and you've never before done that. Your instinctive response might be to respond that you have no supervisory experience. Never answer "No", "Never", or "I don't know". Alternatively, use related experience to answer the question and illustrate your specific skills. For example, you might respond with "My background includes experience coordinating workload distribution among a team of 50+ personnel and responding to their specific inquiries about job assignments, deadlines, and resources". This approach is honest (you never said you supervised anyone), and you've positioned yourself positively.
Use "Big" to highlight the "Little"
Suppose someone asks you if you have any experience with mergers and acquisitions. To organize your thoughts, make your response flow seamlessly, and make it easy for your interviewer to understand your specific experience in that area, use the "big-to-little" strategy. Start "big" with an overview of your experience in M&A transactions; just a few sentences to describe your overall scope and depth of experience. Then, follow up with 2- 4 specific, "little" achievements, projects, or highlights that are directly related. You might talk about your involvement in due diligence, negotiations, transactions, and/or acquisition integration. In essence, you're communicating, "This is what I know and this is how well I've done it."
Remember: You've passed the First Test...
Before you enter the interview remember you have passed the first test - You've been invited to the interview based upon your stellar resume, reputation, and performance based upon a telephone pre-interview. If you are meeting with top executives of the company they're already interested in you. Their time is valuable. They wouldn't be meeting with you if they weren't interested. Approach the interview knowing you've got them hooked. Don't be cocky, but use this knowledge to relax and present your best self. Be confident, poised, and work with the objective that you are there to "close the deal".
Take the Initiative
It is likely that something within your resume, skills or experiences, may have been overlooked. Perhaps it was your experience with Supply Chain Management or Mergers and Acquisitions. It is your responsibility to introduce this information into the conversation before the interview concludes.
You might comment "before we end the interview I'd like to share some more information about myself as it relates to the position and your company". Proceed with the information, making certain it is pertinent to the conversation and that you communicate all information that has value. It is important to produce this information whether or not the interviewer addresses a particular topic.
Understandably, the interview process is a stressful and difficult situation. Keep in mind your professional life is on the line. Remember to walk into each interview with an agenda of your desired outcome, and work towards that goal. Demonstrate and illustrate your qualifications and experience. Quietly control the interview process and paint a picture that positions you as being the ideal candidate for the job.
With that in mind, some people look great on paper... but miserably fail when presented with the opportunity of the interview. Here are some tips to keep in mind when approaching your interview:
Keep the handshake firm, not too tight, and certainly not loose. It should last no more than 3 seconds. Maintain eye contact during the handshake and remember to smile.
Talking too much
Don't talk too much. Certainly engage in conversation with the interviewer, but let them set the pace. Speak slowly and deliberately. Maintain eye contact, but don't glare.
Be comfortable with "uncomfortable silence". You may be asked a question to which you respond, and the interviewer sits there as if they're waiting for more. This may be a test of your patience and confidence. If you've answered the question to the best of your ability remain silent, yet poised for the next question. If it appears that the interviewer isn't wavering you might inquire if your response was satisfactory, and whether they desire a more elaborate response.
Never bad-mouth your previous employers. Even if your last boss was a mean- spirited dictator, never present your true feelings about him/her. No matter how reasonable your complaints... you come out the loser. When faced with the challenge of describing your previous employers remember to focus on the positives. Certainly there were some admirable traits you recognized in your previous employers (He/She was diligent in overcoming any obstacles to completing a project. He/She showed no favoritism, treating everyone equally.)
Show up on time
Never arrive earlier than 10 minutes before the scheduled start of your interview. Anything earlier than 10 minutes is a giveaway that you've too much time on your hands. Act as though your time is as valuable as theirs.
Never, ever, arrive late for an interview. Anticipate traffic delays or a flat tire. If an emergency causes you to be late telephone the company, explain your predicament, remind them you appreciate how valuable their time is, and inquire if they desire to proceed with the interview or reschedule.
Be polite to the Receptionist
The Receptionist often is the first person you will meet at the company, and will be the first person for which a good impression should be made. Be polite, and not overly talkative. The Receptionist has the power to present you to the interviewer in a positive or negative light. Never underestimate the power of the receptionist.
Pay, Benefits, and Vacation time
Never discuss pay, benefits, or vacation time during the initial interview. This meeting is to determine if you are a candidate for the position and if the employer is a candidate for you. Your objective is to receive an offer of employment.
A second interview is the time to discuss pay, benefits, and vacations. At this point you are assured that your experience and skills are valuable to the employer, and discussions about pay and benefits can be presented.
Prepare for the interview
Find out how people at the particular company are attired. Dress the part. Dress as if you could start work right now.
Anticipate which questions the interviewer may present. Be prepared to answer any question that might be presented.
Prepare questions for the interviewer as it relates to the position and the company. Consider asking questions to which you already know the answers. Ask questions that are out of the ordinary. If the company has been involved in a large project, make an inquiry. This signals the interviewer that you've done your research and genuinely are interested in the position and not looking for just another "job".
Certain questions you might consider asking:
What are the company's plans for the next five years, and how does this position contribute to achieving those objectives?
How will my performance be measured, and how often?
What are the day-to-day core responsibilities for this position?
Can you describe the company's management style and culture?
You want to be armed with from 5-10 solid questions... ask questions that otherwise you couldn't find answers to on the Internet.
What are the company's strengths and weaknesses compared to the competition?
You should prepare, in advance, to identify what those strengths and weaknesses are, and how your skills and experience will contribute.
Remember; demonstrate to the interviewer that you've done your homework, that you have the initiative to seek out answers.
Everyone has a different communication style. Focus on how the interviewer communicates, and mirror his approach.
If the interviewer seems all business, don't shake things up by telling jokes or anecdotes. Be succinct and businesslike.
If the interviewer is personable, respond in kind. Identify common interests. Scan his/her office for items that might be a topic for conversation. Keep it short, and not too personal.
Respond to direct questions directly. Consider following up on a question by inquiring if your answer was sufficient or if it requires further elaboration.