Why first interviews are like first dates

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imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: I’ve been looking for a new job for a few months now. I’ve completed phone screenings and first interviews with several companies. But I haven’t been asked back for second interviews. What can I do to improve my odds of getting asked back?

A: First interviews are like first dates — there needs to be a spark or connection. Anxiety, nervousness and excitement may cause butterflies to stir in your stomach, so concentrate on thoughts and images that have a calming effect.

For me, a wave of calmness rushes over me when I think about walking barefoot on a sunny beach. Your goal is to stay calm and make a great impression, which will set the stage for a second date. Focus on conveying your interest, energy, knowledge and credibility. Remember to hold your ego in check and concentrate on projecting an engaging, confident and genuine demeanor.

Think about some of the descriptions and adjectives you want the interviewer to write in their notes. Your performance should invoke words such as “professional, enthusiastic, dynamic, accomplished and friendly.”

Revisit the steps you are taking to prepare for your interviews. Some clients tell me, “I’m a good communicator so I ad lib and go with the flow during the interview.” Winging it is not a solid strategy, so commit to doing some homework.

Research the company, its leadership and recent press releases; the position you’re seeking; and its public record on diversity, corporate social responsibility and management practices. Use web sites including LinkedIn, Business.com, Zoominfo, HRC Employer Database and DiversityInc and ask for feedback from your personal network.

Focus on behavioral interviewing techniques when you’re preparing for an interview. The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the best predictor of future performance is past performance. A tired, old interview question may sound like, “What are your top three strengths?” and you tell them what they want to hear. A behavioral question would sound like, “How have you relied upon a top strength to complete a challenging project?”

You’ll want to identify the major skills, strengths and achievements outlined in your resume to prepare interviewing scripts. Use the SAR (Situation-Action-Response) formula, also referred to as STAR, to craft the scripts. There are a host of great books and web sites to help you prepare for behavioral interviews.

Remember to ask intelligent questions, wrap up and follow-up. Be ready to ask thoughtful questions during an interview, questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the industry. Tell them you want the job and ask if there is any additional data you can provide.

Then go old-school and mail a hand-written thank you note to the interviewer (or lead interviewer if a panel) to convey your appreciation and restate your interest in the position. Send the note as soon as you get home from each interview. Email is not a proper substitute for a written note. Think of it this way: Which has more impact on the interviewer, one of many daily emails or a thoughtful hand-written note? A small investment in some tasteful thank you notes or personalized note cards is a wise decision.

Try your best not to worry about what you can’t control. Don’t feed anxiety by trying to figure out what you may be asked in an interview. Instead, take a position of strength and ask yourself, “What am I prepared to talk about?” and be ready to defend the details in your resume.

Remember, companies are more selective and taking their time with their hiring regimen. The trend is to add a few more phone and in-person interviews into the recruiting and selection process. Be patient and prepared to consistently sell the accomplished pro behind your resume.

Researching Companies Online
Business & Employer Research
Sample Behavioral Interview Questions from Quintcareers

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