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We hear a lot of advice on what to do during an interview, but the two most important parts of the interview process are how to prepare and how to close.
Your interview can only be as strong as your preparation, and your lasting impression only as strong as your close. That’s why your ability to obtain a job depends on how you walk in and out of the interview. Here are some tips for helping you sell yourself as the best possible job candidate:
Before the Interview
How you walk in depends on how well-prepared you are, so you’ll want to approach the preparation stage as if you were an expert consultant going to a first client meeting.
This means your initial responsibility is to understand the company, the job opportunity and the hiring manager. Well-informed people do better in most areas of life, and interviewing is no different. Being well-informed starts with research (preferably a top-down approach). Start by first researching at an industry level, then looking closer at the company itself and finally researching the position you’re applying for and even the hiring manager.
Your next step is to create a set of questions to fill in any blanks you might still have after your initial research. The purpose of these questions is to force you to take the time to think critically about the company and the job. Try breaking those questions down to strategic and tactical: strategic questions give you information on the company as a whole, while tactical questions tell you about the position.
Examples of Strategic Questions:
1. How is the company uniquely positioned within the industry, and what are the key differentiators?
2. What are the goals and objectives for the company in the upcoming years?
3. What is driving the company’s growth?
Examples of Tactical Questions:
1. How will success be measured in this position?
2. What future growth opportunities do you foresee for someone who is successful in this position?
3. What key attributes must I possess to be successful in this position?
After the Interview
As the interview is winding down, the interviewer will inevitably ask if you have any questions. Not having any is an unacceptable position to take and will most certainly ruin your chances of getting to the next step.
Instead, address the strategic and tactical questions you prepared.
Once you’ve covered those questions, your two main objectives when closing an interview are to reiterate your interests and to uncover and address any concerns the interviewer might have.
Examples of Closing Statements:
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with/call me today and answer all my questions about this opportunity. Based on our conversation, I am convinced this position represents the next logical step in my career. What type of concerns do you have about me as a candidate that would prevent you from moving me forward in this process?”
If the interviewer says “none” or doesn’t have any, then ask, “Great. Then what are the next steps in the process, and can we schedule those now while we are still together?”
If they do address concerns, then respond using the following steps:
1. Clarify and isolate the specific concerns and then do your best to address them individually.
2. Re-close by asking, “Do you still have that concern(s) now?” If the answer is no, then finish by asking about the next steps (see section above).
By focusing on these two aspects as you walk out the door, you’ll know exactly where you stand in the interviewer’s mind and, more importantly, you’ll also know where the job stands in your mind. A hard close as you walk out, combined with full preparation as you walk in, will result in you getting the most out of your interview—and hopefully getting hired.
Kyle Tothill is a Co-Founding Partner at eHire responsible for the management and oversight of the firm’s sales and business development recruiting practice. He serves as one of eHire’s resident experts in advanced Talent Acquisition and Assessment Methodologies as well as Advanced Recruiting Outsourcing Solutions.