There are three basic objectives you must accomplish for you to be successful in an interview:
Objective 1: Recognize the importance of building rapport. If the interviewer “falls in love” (in a business sense) with you, then all aspects of the interview will be viewed more positively.
Objective 2: Accomplish the interviewer’s agenda. The interviewer’s agenda is to determine whether your skills, abilities, and personality fit the company’s needs and environment. In addition, do you have passion for the work and the company?
Objective 3: Accomplish the candidate’s agenda. Your agenda is to identify the major goals of the organization and to sell your abilities to accomplish them.
Achieving these three objectives is no small task, but there’s even more. It’s complicated by the personality, style and expectations of the interviewer, none of which you can ignore. The interviewer:
– Is in a favored position.
– Controls the interview.
– Is the buyer.
It is important to examine these conventions because they dictate, to some degree, your behavior in the interview. The interviewer clearly is in a favored position because she has something that you want — a job. As a candidate, you must be sure that you assist the interviewer to accomplish her agenda or you have no chance of being successful.
That the interviewer controls the interview is a time-honored convention. In virtually all interview training (and intuitively if there has been no training), the interviewer is taught that, once the rapport building portion of the interview is completed, she should take control of the interview. This allows her to determine whether your professional skills and abilities and personal characteristics are an outstanding fit within the culture of the organization. This is accomplished, in most cases, by the interviewer’s asking short, open-ended questions that seek long, complete answers. You must be aware of the control issue and understand that individual interviewers vary in their need for control. In any event, seeking a change in communication from question/answer to interactive dialogue is a critical issue that requires sensitivity and finesse.
The interviewer is the buyer (and you, the candidate, are the seller). Interviewing, from its early stages through the selection of the final few candidates, is a negatively oriented, screening out process. It’s like a multilayer sieve that refines flour to its finest state. The interviewer doesn’t want to spend time selling candidates on the merits of the company if there is no chance that they will make it to the later stages of the interview process. Consequently, the interviewer would rather spend time evaluating the fit issues and determining where candidates stand in the priority ranking of candidates. Candidates must understand this need as critical to the interviewer’s agenda and assist the interviewer to accomplish her goal. What is important to candidates is to do well enough in the interview to have the interviewer’s “buy” become a “sell” as she decides that you will proceed in the interviewing process or be offered a position.