As a recruiter (and a “connector” personality), I’ve talked to thousands of people about their lives, backgrounds, resumes, experiences, and what they’re looking for in their work.
From these conversations, I can tell you one thing: people who showcase their passion, true self, and experiences get the job.
There are six key things you can do (even if you’re pursuing early-stage informational interviews) that will help your story, personality, and experience stand out. If you can successfully follow these steps to prepare, be aware, and be articulate, you’ll make an exceptional impression in any type of interview.
1. SHARE YOUR WHY’S AND HOW’S.
Walk your audience through your life, not just your resume. Share the “whys” and “hows” of your experiences, not just the “whats.”
This is important: If you’re interviewing, the interviewer is already impressed with your resume and will ask specifics if they want.
So share a layer deeper than the resume. What did you learn about yourself? What did you master during that specific chapter in life? How did you showcase your strengths in a challenging time? Bring that piece of chronological paper to life and paint the picture of who you are.
2. LISTEN WELL.
Be sure you’re actually answering the questions being asked. And answer fully (not just yes or no). Make it conversational, and be sure not to just chat away, leaving your listener in the dust…
Tangents can be good — if natural and executed well — and if they reveal a piece of key information. But tangents can also show a lack of focus or listening skills. Simply be aware.
Come prepared with quality, intelligent questions. Don’t only ask the same industry standard questions, like: “Please, can you tell me the timeline for this position?” “What characteristics are they looking for?” “What are the responsibilities of this position?”
These types of questions do not differentiate you, and make it seem like you haven’t read deeply into the role or organization.
Instead, show that you’ve done your homework. Wow the interviewer with your insight and intellect. Ask about the interviewer’s personal experience, interesting things s/he sees happening in the industry landscape, how the team lives out it’s values and culture statements, etc.
4. SHARE YOUR INTENTIONS.
Before a meeting or interview, identify your “Must Haves” — the things you want and need in a new position. (An example of my own must-haves: (1) a team of smart, ambitious, creative people, (2) an organization working on positive social change using a for-profit business model, and (3) a location where I feel alive.)
Articulate these intentions. If you’re speaking with connectors, share that you’re on a hunt to find a team that encompasses these elements. Provide examples, and make it as easy as possible for the connector to envision what you’re looking for.
In an interview, articulate why (or how) the company or team encompasses these “must haves.” Be sure to sell this piece. Imagine that there are 10 other candidates whose background and experience are closer to the needs of this organization, but you have the secret sauce – you have the right fit, the right passion alignment with the mission, and the right culture alignment with the team.
5. DON’T HIDE GAPS IN YOUR RESUME.
Did you leave your job to backpack through South America? Awesome! Did you need to quit your job to relocate closer to aging parents? Share that. By ignoring the gaps, hiring managers immediately assume you were unemployed involuntarily.
6. WATCH THE CLOCK.
It’s not rocket science to know that trailing on for 20 minutes is not a good impression. Know how much to share and how much not to share; the connector or interviewer has limited time to give. Be mindful!
Remember, interviewing is a two way street.
It’s a chance for both parties to evaluate and ask, “are we a fit?” Good preparation, awareness, and presence in the moment will pave the way to show your best self — and also get a feel for the role, organization, and team.
Use these six tips — share, listen, prepare, be intentional, be open, be mindful — as a guide to showing up fully in your next interview. And, of course, good luck!