Think what the interview is all about. Sorry, but it’s not about you. It’s about the interviewer’s perception regarding your fit into the organization’s culture combined with your ability to perform the job very well. No interviewer is looking for Mr. Average. So, what does the word perception include here? Primarily two issues: the image you create in the interviewer’s mind and the facts you bring as evidence based on the organization’s specific circumstances or problems it needs solutions to.
This subject is complex. It incorporates the interviewer’s personal biases, cultural perceptions, and personal likes and dislikes as well as age and gender and all the rest of the items covered in antidiscrimination laws vis-à-vis the organization’s culture. The candidate will get evaluated on appearance, looks, attire, passion, excitement, body language, smile, tone of voice, accent, and many other factors combined.
The interviewer knows that the candidate came to the interview to impress and sell himself to the potential buyer. That’s why the interviewer is selective and suspicious. It’s because of having to evaluate whether the candidate’s answers represent opinions or facts.
The first impression
When meeting an interviewer for the first time, the job seeker is creating an image. If the impression is a good one, it carries throughout the interview. If the impression is unfavorable, the candidate has to fight a probably losing battle—often without knowing it.
An interview most often starts with chit-chat or a warm-up period consisting of a few easy-talk sentences. Then, once the interviewer feels comfortable, he signals the beginning of the interview.
There are several common interview questions, and candidates must be prepared for them with the right answers. How many of you have had interviews that didn’t have a starting lead-in such as, Tell me about yourself, or a starting question such as, What are your strengths or accomplishments?
Preparation for the interview must include great answers to such basic questions. The candidate’s objective here has to be to engage the interviewer to the point that the interviewer becomes willing to tell the candidate the specific problems he’s looking for the right candidate to resolve. In answering, the candidate must select the right words, give pertinent answers, use positive phraseology, and not be long-winded. Lack of preparation for that opener or showing nervousness and lack of enthusiasm is a sign of weakness. The interviewer is also expecting the candidate to look in his eyes.
Nowadays, some companies are using what’s called situational, behavioral, or, sometimes, case-study-type questions. The thinking behind this concept is that if in the past one behaved a certain way, then this personality trait will likely be continued. Most of these types of questions start with such wording as, Tell me about a time when, or, What was your strongest, toughest, etc. [fill in the blank], or, Can you cite an example that . . . ? Many candidates are not properly prepared to answer such questions or in fact do not have a rich repertoire of such experiences. With some preparation and guidance, though, anyone can excel—even in the face of such difficult questions.