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Sales Techniques for Better Interviews September 12, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Communication, job search.
Tags: ,

Yesterday I attended a networking meeting for local job seekers that featured a speaker who encouraged the audience to consider a job interview as a sales call, and apply the same techniques used by many successful salespeople (specifically the “Up-Front Contracts” methodology in the popular Sandler Selling System). This reminded me of something I wrote about in an earlier post (see Raising Visibility During a Job Search), when a facilitator at a different networking meeting pointed out that anyone who is looking for a job is absolutely working in sales.

Here are a few of the key messages from this week’s meeting:

1. In most cases the person being interviewed (interviewee) settles into one of two roles, depending on their natural style: either a passive receiver who waits for questions, or a stereotypical salesperson who uses every opportunity to promote themselves. Both are bad. The interviewee needs to take an active role to exert more control over the direction of the interview, but that doesn’t mean aggressively “selling.”

2. Successful salespeople understand that if you look or act like a salesperson, you’re likely to trigger a negative response from the buyer. Spend less time selling and more time gathering information and intelligence. Use the interview as an opportunity to ask questions to learn more about the company’s needs and the process they’re using to fill this position. Why were you invited for this interview? What was it about your background and skills that they found appealing?

3. No matter how much you might want this job, it’s important to avoid becoming emotionally attached to the outcome of the interview process. You have to be comfortable with the possibility (probability?) that the outcome will be a “no.”

4. In fact, the sooner you can learn whether it’s a “no,” the better. This is a tough one for me because I tend to think of “no news” as “good news.” “They haven’t said no yet, so I guess I’m still in the running.” It’s much more likely that they made up their mind before your interview ended, and if it’s a “no,” then it’s better to know and move on.

5. To avoid an open-ended “we’ll get back to you next week” message at the end of the interview, it’s suggested that the interviewee ask two questions: “Is it OK if I tell you that I’m not right for this position at the end of this meeting?” The second is: “Are you OK with telling me that I’m not right for this position at the end of this meeting?” This will reveal the process that’s being used to make the hiring decision. If their process requires some additional internal discussion or meetings with other candidates, put yourself in control of the notification process by asking “When can I contact you to learn the outcome?” instead of making yourself crazy waiting for a phone call.

6. Regarding interview logistics, an interviewee needs a known interval of uninterrupted and private time with the interviewer. That means holding all calls, turning off the phones, and ideally conducting the meeting in a conference room away from the distractions of the interviewer’s office. This may be difficult to manage as the interviewee, but you can at least suggest a change of schedule or venue if interruptions are becoming a problem.

7. Finally, another hard one: if you already know there are soft spots in your qualifications for this job, or concerns about your background that have been raised in the past, proactively raise these issues to communicate self-awareness, defuse a potential problem, and put yourself in control. Again, this is something I understand in principle but might have trouble following in practice. I agree that it’s important to be aware of and objectively assess your weaknesses, but I’m uncomfortable with volunteering this information. I think I would be more comfortable with asking the interviewer what concerns they have about my fitness for the job, and then responding accordingly, drawing from a set of prepared answers.

Good tips, and I look forward to trying these on my next interview. Not sure when that will be.



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