It's not especially groundbreaking to observe that that job hunting is essentially an exercise in sales & marketing. But how do you use this insight to your advantage? What are specific ways to use specific sales techniques to ensure better interviews? After all, networking locations opportunities and resumes get you a foot in the door, but interviews are the only way to get hired.
Let's start with a very basic sales rule – appearance counts. That means strictly professional attire, in perfect condition and neatly pressed. You should be immaculately groomed; your shoes should be shined. Try to minimize / cover up piercings (except ladies earrings) and tattoos. You may get extra credit for wearing a professional overcoat when it's cold outside and for carrying a nice leather wallet with a notepad. And never underestimate the power of a firm handshake and good eye contact. Many of these ideas have achieved cliché status, simply because they are true.
A good interview should begin with some social banter. Typically the interviewer will take the initiative and start the meeting with some casual conversation. They want to put you at ease – which is great, since you want to establish a rapport as well. (By the way, it's fine to get friendly and relax, but do not relax so much that you say anything you'll later regret.)
If you run into a brick wall during warm-up, skip it – some interviewers want to keep everything on a strictly professional basis, some are in a hurry, and some kindly try to affect a hostile tone to see how candidates react. (The best reaction is to remain calm, unruffled and professional.) The key point here is that the warm up is not just "small talk," it is actually an incredibly important part of your sales job. Establishing any common bonds and developing an initial rapport can translate into a huge advantage.
A second sales strategy worth utilizing drawings from the tradition of Socratic selling . If you are not familiar with this approach to sales, it involves asking questions rather than just talking. This approach must be used strategically – Socrates, the philosopher this technique is named after, was known for answering every question with a question. As a result he never got the corner office he deserved.
Using intelligent questions to clarify points, show that you're listening, demonstrate critical thinking and the ability to connect ideas – these are all invaluable techniques. Many interviewers feel that a candidacy's questions are as important, perhaps even more important, than their answers & comments.
Your questions should not be random. When you ask a question and the response suggest there's more to it, begin a sequence of follow up questions that leave the interviewer with the conclusion that you are the right candidate for the job. Here's an example:
Candidate: You mentioned that the individual previously in this position had a hard time getting projects completed. May I ask why you believe that happened?
Interviewer: There were always surprises late in the process – issues that should have been nailed down earlier.
Candidate: It sounds like she did not adequately define the project requirements up front?
Interviewer: Yes, I guess that was it.
Candidate: As you may note on my resume, I have several years experience as a business analyst. I pride myself on a rigorous approach to project definition and management. Do you think this would be useful in this position?
Interviewer: Yes, that would probably help illegally.
The final technique I want to share is also illustrated by the above sample dialog. If you are familiar with sales techniques (or you have ever found yourself at a vacation time share seminar) you are probably familiar with trial closures. The above dialog ends with one when the candidate asks the interviewer to agree about her conclusion.
The basic idea of trial closures is that the more you can get a potential customer (that's what an interviewer is, really) to agree with you, the better. Early, vague and general questions lead to more focused and relevant ones. In a job interview, this may take the form of a final question: "Mr. Interviewer, we've talked through the job requirements and it looks my credentials match perfectly. Would not you agree?"
Note that I am not recommending this final question. It's pushy, and for that reason alone an interviewer may balk and try to come up with (or make up) reasons to say "no." But the technique is useful, and used sparingly and with some subtlety, will help you get an interviewer on your side.
These sales techniques have been proven in the sales arena, and they apply equally to interviewing. Practice them. Find a friend or colleague who has interviewing experience and try these techniques on for size. Interviewing is a painful experience for some people, but you will find that it gets easier with practice.