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Candidate Help & Advice

Get Hired: Make Yourself Shine In Your Interview

You're Hired photo from ShutterstockMake yourself shine 

Everyone wants to stand out in the crowd to get hired, but few people know what hiring managers are looking for and what it takes to shine in an interview. Hiring managers are looking for certain personality traits. If you have them great, if not you can learn them.

A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) study,’ Fool vs. Jerk: Whom Would You Hire?’ showed that when given the choice most people pick one person over another based on two things: competence and likeability. How much and exactly how do they matter?

The HBR study’s conclusion was that people prefer to work with others who are familiar and similar to them: their background, their beliefs, their interests, their personality, ways of thinking, and communication styles. The perception in the business setting is that a likeable, familiar, similar and competent person will be more likely to have projects which flow smoothly and quickly. Obviously, everybody wants to work with the “likeable star” and nobody wants to work with an “incompetent jerk.” Learning to show competence and likeability in an interview will help make you memorable as a desirable candidate and that will be first in line to get the job.

The challenge for candidates is learning how to show your abilities without sounding arrogant. And learn to make yourself memorable as a likable and competent person to your interviewer — improving  your skills as a communicator and as a listener will help.

 Four essential traits to shine and get hired

In order to excel at interviewing, job candidates need to balance what they know with being likeable. While being an expert helps for certain roles such as engineering and coding, employers would consistently prefer someone who is trainable and affable to the arrogant know it all. Every job candidate should try to brush up on interpersonal skills before an interview. Remember, employers are looking out for those who can be effective working with others as well as for expertise.

1. Strong communication skills

Successful job candidates, the ones who get hired, do two things better than anyone else: They send the “right” messages and deliver them in a powerful and compelling manner! A candidate first sends these messages with their resumes and reinforces them in their job interviews. You need to be prepared to answer this key question: ”Why should I hire you?” All other messages must support, defend and compliment this main message.  Most candidates don’t realize how crucial it is to develop their communication skills so they can answer this question succinctly.

If you want to interview and communicate with more effectiveness it could help to know more about what it takes to be a great conversationalist and a good listener. The good conversationalist tells a compelling story that’s of interest to his audience. He balances off his charm in conveying his strengths and abilities with his genuine interest in what matters to the other person. Striking the right measure of listening and conversing is an art in itself that requires practice. Getting good at it could make the difference in whether you get hired or not for a job.

2. Empathetic: Know and address issues that matter to your perspective boss

Empathy is an important character trait to exhibit in an interview because it’s the foundation for everything else you’ll do at work. An empathetic employee will show emotional intelligence in the workplace; This person will prioritize his boss’s needs, be consistent in meeting deadlines, go above and beyond the call of duty and will share assuming responsibility for some tasks which are less desirable. She will collaborate well with others and focus on solving problems with a positive attitude.  He shows emotional maturity by recognizing his boss’s pressures and finding ways to alleviate stress for her. In sum, the empathetic employee strives to align his  goals with those of his boss and focuses on contributing his expertise rather than flaunting it.

In the interview, empathy comes out by showing you’ve taken time to become an expert on that company and their core strengths and challenges. You can easily do this ahead of your interview with some basic research; Find the company page on LinkedIn Twitter and Facebook as well as on the company’s website to learn about their key issues and their mission. See who the key players are at the firm.  Learn about what’s considered ‘top talent’ at this specific firm. Then look beyond a company’s management profile, website and Facebook page and find people who actually work at this company (or who previously did) to learn more about what it’s like to work there and what you can expect as a new hire.

During your interview show your knowledge of the company and of the key challenges they face.  Also, use the interview to demonstrate that you could fit in the culture there and help solve their acute problems. Make sure you have good examples of when you’ve helped solve problems, were adaptable and collaborative in a similar setting. Show enthusiasm for their work and curiosity about what matters to your perspective boss.

3.  A Good Conversationalist

You could look at your interview as a sort of structured conversation. There’s a person asking questions, the interviewer and you, the person who’s expected to give good answers. Your goal in interviewing, like in any good conversation, is to build a connection to the other person. A great conversationalist has certain skills that could be beneficial in an interview and could help you forge this bond.

Good conversationalists and people who are good at interviewing share an important common trait.  They don’t simply talk to hear themselves. They use their speech so effectively that with every conversation they build a connection with the other person. In an interview the good conversationalist will be selective in terms of what she shares and how she shares information being careful to present only the most relevant information about her previous accomplishments that would interest her perspective boss. He focuses on what he could bring to the table that could help the hiring manager achieve her goals.

You can learn more about how to tell a great story from listening to Stanford Professor, Jennifer Aeker: The Power of Stories to Fuel Innovation. Aeker teaches students how to create a story to get people to buy into your idea. She says that a great story has the power to transform listeners; to take listeners on a journey that changes how they think, feel and act.

4.  Empathetic listener

During your interview you’ll need to be a good listener as well as a good storyteller. Allow time for a pause before you respond to a question. Never interrupt the interviewer and wait till he’s completely through with asking you a question before you try answering.

Ram Charan, business advisor to CEO’s, corporate boards and expert on leadership development and communication says,

listening is a central competence for success. At its core, listening is connecting. Your ability to understand the true spirit of a message as it is intended to be communicated, and demonstrate your understanding, is paramount in forming connections and leading effectively.

Make a habit of asking yourself after interactions whether you understood the essence of what was said to you, the person’s point of view, their context, and their emotion. Also ask yourself whether that person knows that they were heard and understood. Your ability to communicate and listen effectively will give you the tools to showcase your competence and likeability. The result could have a long-lasting impact for improving all your relationships–and in your interviews could be hearing these sought after words, You’re Hired!