Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Career Guidance: Interview and Job Hunting Tips

The Simple Key to Interview Success:

There is a simple key to success in interviewing that very few people utilize. It's the process of mirroring the personality of the person to whom you are speaking, a process that I refer to as "The Personality Matching Technique." It's based upon the proven fact that we like people who are like us. Therefore, if we perceive that the person we are talking to is like us, we will assume that they must be a wonderful person.

Any good salesperson is aware of this simple technique. Want evidence? The next time you get a call from a telemarketer, don't hang up. Instead, stick with them a few minutes just to hear their pitch. You will probably know pretty quickly if you are dealing with a "greenie" who is reading from a script or a seasoned professional. If it's a greenie, give them a polite "no thank you" and hang up. But stick with the pro through the entire call. Why? Because now we're going to have some fun.

In the beginning of the call, talk to them in a very quick and upbeat voice, possibly somewhat higher in pitch. If they are good, they will follow right along with you, matching your tempo and pitch. If not, they are still a greenie, operating in their own little world--end the call. But if they follow along, here is where the fun begins. Gradually slow down your rate of speaking and lower your voice in both volume and pitch. Guess what? The true pro will follow you all the way down. Surprised? Don't be. Just as a telemarketing pro is trained to do this (and at this point may not even be conscious of what they are doing), any good marketing person does the exact same thing. Whatever the industry, the most successful sales people are the ones that meet you (the customer) at your level.

In the same way, the best interviewees are the ones that have the ability to meet the interviewers at their level. You might be thinking--"Wait a minute, shouldn't that be the job of the interviewer?" No! The only interviewers who have actually been trained at interviewing (personnel/ human resources) are not the ones that hire. Even some of the best interviewers are totally unaware of this technique or are unwilling to apply it. So how does one do this "personality matching thing?" The most effective technique is to first match the voice and then match the physical characteristics of the interviewer. In matching the voice, the most important aspect is to match the rate of speaking (tempo), then match the pitch. In matching the physical characteristics, the most important is to match (or at least reflect) the facial expressions, then match the posture (sitting back or forward, etc.). Although you should not be trying to "mimic" (as a mime in action), you should attempt to closely match him or her.

To be effective with this technique, you need to first understand your own "personality range." For some of us, it is quite wide and variant. For others, it may be more narrow. As an example, I consider myself as having a very wide personality range--I am very comfortable both in matchingthe very flamboyant and the very subdued. Both are personality types that are at the extreme end of my personality range. Most people,however, operate in a somewhat narrower personality range. The key is to be able to identify your personal bounds of comfort.

So what do we do if the person we meet with is talking a mile a minute, which is outside of our personality range? Should we try to artificially match that person? Quite simply--no. To attempt to act like someone we're not would be "faking it" on our part. It's better known as being two-faced and in the business world it can be a real killer. Some people end up getting sucked into this trap in order to get the job ("They wanted to hire someone like _____, and so I acted like I was _____ to get the job..."), then go through a continual living hell as they are forced to fake it for the duration of the job. Don't do it. But you should be aware of what your personality range is and be willing to move fluidly within that range to accommodate the personality of the individual with whom you are meeting.

Personality matching does not mean perfect matching (it never is); it does mean that we should do our best to come as close as possible to matching the other person's personality within the bounds of our own personality range. Keep in mind that there is no "perfect personality" (or perfect anything on this earth, for that matter) since what is perfect to one will always be lacking in some way to another. Perfection is relative to the recipient. Remember that.

As a side note, think about someone who you truly dislike. In most cases, it's because the person is outside your personality range, usually in the upper extreme (too loud, too pushy, too cocky, too egotistical, too stuffy, etc.)--they are "too much" of something that we do not embrace in our own personality. Likewise, if you have a "too much" area in your own personality, you are best advised to bring it under strict control, not only in interviewing, but in your life in general. Extremes rarely enhance.

If you put to practice this one technique, you will likely increase your chances of success dramatically, and not just in interviewing. Personality matching is a technique that you can use in virtually all areas of human communications.

Job Hunting Tips:
Questions the Candidate May Ask in an Interview:

1. Why is this position available? (If result of a termination, ask why the person was terminated).
2. What are the most important characteristics you are looking for in a candidate to satisfy this position?
3. What exactly will I be doing? Would you break the position into specific functions? Would you indicate the relative importance of each function by priority?
4. What are some of the common characteristics of employees in this environment?
5. Would you please comment on your style of management and the reporting structure?
6. What is your policy and record regarding promotions from within versus parachuting to fill supervisory/management positions?
7. What other positions exist or are planned with which this position interacts?
8. What is your position regarding financial and other corporations? What is unique and different about this position?
9. Why would a well qualified person chose this position over similar ones in other corporations? What is unique and different about this position?
10. How will you measure my performance? How often?
11. Will my remuneration be tied to performance?
12. Based on the amount of time we have discussed the company, this opportunity and my suitability to it, I find myself interested in taking the next step. What is you assessment of my status for the position? When could we meet again?
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