Shot of two young professionals having a discussion at a desk

There are two ways to approach a job interview.

With the first, you take a pretty passive stance. You control what you can on your side of things — dressing well, acting confident, trying to give good answers — but a lot of how the interview goes is left up to chance: Is the interviewer effective at asking good questions that allow you to talk about why you’re a great fit for the job? Is he or she feeling tired or fresh? Is the interview long or short? You get whatever kind of interview you happen to walk into.

With the second approach, you take charge of the interview. Rather than hoping you’ll land an eager, experienced interviewer, you make stuff happen for yourself. You talk about the things you need to talk about to make yourself look like the best candidate for the job, even if the interviewer doesn’t directly lead you there. Regardless of the quality of the interview you get, you’re able to offer a complete, persuasive picture of yourself.

How do you control a job interview like this? That’s what we’ll teach you today.

Maximize Your Matchups

In Thinking on Your Feet, Marian K. Woodall argues that there are two ways to control an interview:

Know what information you must communicate to paint a complete picture (plus additional information which will enhance that picture, if time and circumstances allow).

Use each question to include a portion of that information, regardless of how much information the question seeks.

Basically, you want to know what a potential employer is looking for in an ideal candidate, match those requirements up with your own experience and traits, and then share those matchups as much as possible during the interview.

Figuring out these matchups is something you should do in the days leading up to the interview. To do so, Woodall recommends creating two columns on a sheet of paper. On one side, list the skills, experiences, aptitudes, preferences, etc. the potential employer is looking for in a candidate. You can figure this out by reviewing and parsing the job description, researching the company, and simply using your powers of deduction. Consider not just the “hard” skills the position calls for, but the attitudes and interests the employer likely wants too. A job at a museum may not require that someone love art, but a passion for it will add value to the position; likewise, being a regular camper may not be mandatory to be hired at an outdoors store, but it can go a long way towards making a candidate more attractive. Finally, keep in mind that there are traits employers are prohibited from advertising for, but desire nonetheless. For example, a construction company may be looking for someone young and strong, while a library prefers someone who’s quiet and mature. List as many traits as possible that the potential employer may be seeking.

Now in the right-side column, write down any experiences, skills, interests, etc. you possess that match up with each trait or skill you listed on the left side. Making some of these matches will be easy; the employer’s looking for computer programming skills, and you’re adept at javascript and C++. Some may require a little more thought and imagination, though. If you think an employer is looking for someone older, and you’re in your twenties, write down the fact that you’re mature beyond your years due to the fact that you learned patience, responsibility, and organization in taking care of a sick parent while you were growing up. If you think the employer is looking for an energetic young buck, and you’re longer in the tooth, put down the fact that you work out 5X a week and do triathlons. If they’re looking for on-the-job experience, but you’ve just graduated, think of projects, community service, and other things you’ve done that demonstrate the same kind of skills and training.

Review your matchups several times before your interview, and then during, weave the information from the right side column into as many questions as you can. Oftentimes the questions the interviewers ask make this easy — your experience/skills are relevant, and all you have to do is emphasize and highlight the information that best parallels what they’re looking for. You don’t have to always make explicit parallels between the job’s requirements and your own traits, though you can when they ask something like, “What makes you the right person for this job?” “The job description says you’re looking for someone with experience with social media. In my last job, I grew the company’s Facebook page by 10,000 fans.” Or: “I can tell this job requires physical stamina. I still go to the gym 5 times a week and am entering my fifth triathlon this summer. I love physical challenges and enjoy being up and doing things all the time.”

Peppering your answers with the information from your matchup sheet is an easy way to guide an interview. But what if the interviewer simply isn’t asking questions that give you the opportunity to highlight your strengths?

You can control the questions you get by adjusting them to your advantage.


Source: The Art of Manliness

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