There is a ton of advice out there about whatnot to say in an interview (don’t badmouth your boss, don’t ask about salary in the first five minutes, etc.).
But how do you know what you must say in an interview? How can you influence the recruiter so she knows, without a doubt, that you are a candidate well worth considering?
To help you go from also-ran to the next round of interviews, or a job offer, here are ten “must say” ideas for your next interview:
Your Specific Value to This Employer
So many job seekers walk into an interview with an “I can do anything asked” and “I’ll take anything” approach. You earned the interview because the recruiter saw something specific in you; something that told them you are more than capable of doing this job. Know what that is by comparing branding to the job description. Focus on the major commonalities. Everything else is a nice-to-have… but won’t win you this job.
Your Knowledge of the Mission
Demonstrating that you are not just familiar with the mission of the organization, and knowing how your value will help accomplish that mission, puts you in the top 5% of all candidates. This is more than “do your homework.” This is making sure you fully understand not just what the company does, but why they do it and what difference it makes.
Your Knowledge of the Industry
At some point in the interview, the recruiter is going to test you. Do you really know the industry, like your resume and LinkedIn profile says you do? Do you know the major players and influencers? Are you familiar with the most popular industry terms, and even buzzwords? If there are software packages that are standard (Radian6 for social media, Salesforce for sales, etc.), are you familiar? If not… busted.
Where You’ll Be 5 Years From Now
Yes, everybody hates this question. Yes, it requires a ton of thought, and even some wild guesses. And you are probably wrong; after all, very few of our 5-year plans go exactly as planned. And that is okay. The employer doesn’t care what you plan, or how close to right you’ll be. They care… that you care. They want you to be thinking ahead, and they want to know where they fit in.
Relevant Stories That Make the Recruiter Believe
Every good interview – the kind that results in job offers – comes with very good stories. Don’t just say you are a good leader and mentor; frame it in a story. Don’t talk about how you made a difference; tell the tale. Anyone can say they are this or that without substantiation – which is exactly what most of your competition will do. You, on the other hand, know that storytellers make the best sellers.
Numbers, Percentages and Dollars
Just like everyone needs a good story, everyone needs to frame those stories with impact. And nothing shows impact like numbers, percentage signs and dollar signs. By what percentage did you exceed expectations? How many clients did you manage? What was the budget you operated under? These quantified statements show that you aren’t only a good storyteller, you understand the impact of your work from a business perspective.
“I Don’t Know, But…”
With a hat-tip to Matha White in Time, these words can make the difference between being seen as a smooth-talking know-it-all in over their heads and a person fully self-aware of their current capabilities. When asked a question you really don’t know the answer to, and rather than blurt out a 7-minute soliloquy that does nothing but prove that, simply utter these words, followed by how you would find the answer: “I don’t know, but…”
Questions That Make the Interviewer Think
True: “Ask good questions!” has become cliché advice. Just because it’s a cliché, however, doesn’t make it true. You will be judged on the quality of the questions you ask. So plan ahead, and form a list of 5 questions that will make the recruiter actually think about the answer. And don’t just wait until asked if you have any questions; make the interview a two-way conversation by injecting your questions at the first available opportunity.
That Your Sights Are Set on THIS Job
Yes, it’s difficult to tell every interviewer that THIS job is your version of a dream job. Often, that just isn’t true. But to say this – and really mean it – for at least an hour or two, you have to believe it. You have to tell yourself why this job at this company would work well for you. Look only at the positives; for now, leave all the negatives behind. Then be able to talk about those positives in an enthusiastic manner, so the recruiter knows that getting THIS job is your top priority.
That You Will Be Following Up
Finally, at the very end of your interview, you will set expectations for follow up. After all, if this job really is where your sites are set, wouldn’t you do everything possible to make sure you are in the running? If you even hint at that during the interview, and now don’t follow through… you’ll be labeled a good talker, but perhaps a poor employee. (For really good advice on the follow-up process, see Steve Levy’s post on “Promised Plus 1.”)
Want to kill in your next job interview? Look for the opportunity to work these tips into the conversation… and leap well ahead of your job seeking competition.